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Name: Matilde Aliffi

PhD: Philosophy

Thesis Title: Epistemic Rationality of Emotions: a new defence


Thesis Description

Emotions and epistemic rationality have been traditionally considered to be in opposition. In the last twenty years, the role of emotions in epistemology has been increasingly acknowledged, but there is no systematic argument for the rational assessability of emotions that is compatible with both cognitivist and non-cognitivist theories of emotions and fits with the epistemic rational assessability of mental states in general. This thesis aims to fill this gap.

Using empirically informed philosophical methodology, I offer a novel account of the rational assessability of emotions that fits with the rational assessability of other mental states and that could in principle be accepted by cognitivist and some prominent non-cognitivist theories of emotions. The possibility to epistemically rationally assess emotions opens up a fresh set of questions that regards the nature of the evaluations involved in the emotions, the epistemic norms that apply to them and the extent to which we are epistemically responsible for our emotions. This thesis aims to address these questions, ultimately showing that emotions and epistemic rationality are more intertwined than we previously thought. 

I am particularly interested in the philosophy of emotions, epistemology, rationality and responsibility.

Supervisors and Institution(s)

Professor Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham

Dr Iain Law, University of Birmingham


Current positions

  • Since November 2018, I am research assistant for project PERFECT, a project led by Professor Lisa Bortolotti and funded by the European Research Council on the Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts (PERFECT). I manage the Imperfect Cognition research blog, co-organise project PERFECT events, and carry on research for project PERFECT.
  • Since September 2015, I am PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, with a project on the rationality of emotions funded by the Midlands 3 Cities (AHRC). Submission date expected: March 2019.


Previous positions

  • Oct. 2018: M3C funded Visiting researcher at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, Geneva (CH).
  • Oct. 2015 - Jun. 2018: Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Birmingham (UK). Modules taught: Problems of Philosophy and Ethics.
  • Jan. - Jun. 2018: Postgraduate Mentor, University of Birmingham (UK). I mentored undergraduate students from the College of Arts and Law to develop their research project on happiness as part of the 2018 University of Birmingham Vice Chancellor’s challenge.
  • Jan. – July 2016: Teacher at Bordesley Green Girls School and Sixth Form, Birmingham (UK). I designed and delivered 20 lectures on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion. I marked formative work.



  • 2014-2015 Master in Cognitive Science and Language, Universitat de Barcelona (ES). Dissertation title: Emotional contagion by music. Why Deny it? Supervisor: Dr David Pineda. 
  • 2013-2014 Master in Analytic Philosophy, Universitat de Barcelona (ES). Supervisor: Dr. David Pineda
  • 2009-2013 Bachelor in Philosophy, Universita degli Studi di Milano (IT). Supervisor: Dr Gianfranco Mormino. GPA: 110/110 cum laude.
  • 2008-2011: License of Music Theory and Musical Dictation. Conservatory G. Verdi Examiner: Mr Alberto Odone.



  • 2016 – 2018: AHRC Midlands 3 Cities doctoral scholarship. The scholarship is awarded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. 
  • 2018: Winning team at the 2018 Postgraduate Enterprise Supper School Pitching Competition
  • 2018: AHRC M3C Student Development Fund placement bursary for a one-month placement at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (CH) 
  • 2017: Three AHRC M3C Student Development Fund bursaries for conference travel. 
  • 2016: Second prize for the best team developing a research project at the 2016 Summer School of Affective Science Emotions, Fiction and Virtual Worlds.
  • 2014: First prize Premio Extraordinario de master 2013-2014 issued by the Universitat de Barcelona, for being the best student completing the master’s degree in Analytic Philosophy.
  • 2014-2015: Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte (MEC) collaboration grant, collaboration with the Library of Philosophy, Geography and History, Universitat de Barcelona (ES).



Submitted papers

  1. The diachronic penetrability of the emotion triggering system (submitted to Synthese)
  2. Are emotions epistemically rationally assessable? (Submitted to Philosophical Studies)
  3. Is the content of the emotion identical with the content of the causal evaluation? (Submitted to Erkenntnis)
  4. Do emotions require a causal evaluation? (Submitted to the Monist)
  5. Emotions and epistemic responsibility (Submitted to Dialectica)


  • Le ombre dell’anima. Pensare le emozioni negative. Christine Tappolet, Fabrice Teroni e Anita konzelmann Ziv (a cura di). Book review. RIFAJ (2015). 6:1
  • GRSelona 2: Gender, Race and Sexuality. Issues in Metaphysics, RIFAJ 5:2 (2014). Co-author: Martina Rosola.
  • Scuola Estiva di Logica, conference report RIFAJ 4:2 (2013)
  • Graham Priest- Logica, book review, RIFAJ (2013)




  • 25/10/2018 Emotions and epistemic responsibility, Thumos research seminars, University of Geneva, CH
  • 11/9/2018 Emotions and epistemic responsibility, Conference of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology 2018, University of Rijeka, HR.
  • 10/9/2018 Can loneliness be epistemically innocent? Epistemic innocence symposium, Conference of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology 2018, Co-authored presentation, University of Rijeka, HR.
  • 4/7/2018 Emotions and epistemic rationality, British Postgraduate Philosophy Association conference 2018, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 12/6/2018 A defence of the epistemic rational assessability of emotions, M3C Seminar Series, University of Nottingham, UK.
  • 2/12/2016 Do ambivalent emotions involve a contradiction? Open Minds XII: Student Philosophy Conference, University of Manchester, UK.
  • 10/11/2016 What is the relation between the content of the emotion and the content of the appraisal? VIII Conference of the Spanish Society of Analytic Philosophy (SEFA), Pistoia, IT.
  • 15/6/2016 Do emotions require evaluations? A reply to the challenge from emotional contagion, III Conference of the European Philosophical Society, University of Athens, GR.
  • 14/7/2016 Project presentation: reducing biases against minority groups using virtual reality, International summer school of affective science, Geneva CH. Project presented with Heather Carlson, Giada Dirupo, Katharina Ohmberger, Anouk Tuijnman.
  • 30/5/2015 Recalcitrant emotions: is the automatic appraisal mechanism informationally encapsulated? 2015 OZSW Graduate Conference, Nijmegen, NL.
  • 20/3/2014 Is Searle successful in deriving an “ought” from an “is”? 11th International Student Conference in Philosophy, Zagreb, HR.


Poster Presentations

  • 7/3/2017 Do ambivalent emotions involve a contradiction? Spring School of Social Cognition, Emotion and Joint Action, Rühr-Universität Bochum, DE.
  • 24/5/2016 Do emotions require appraisals? 7th Conference of Experimental Philosophy, University of Reading, UK.


Departmental presentations

  • 24/1/2018 A defence of the epistemic rational assessability of emotions, PRG seminar, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 26/10/2016 Do emotions require appraisals? A reply to the challenge from emotional contagion, PGR seminar, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 26/10/2015 Emotional contagion by music: why deny it? PGR seminar, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 18/3/2015 On the epistemological significance of cognitive penetrability, GRG seminar, Universitat de Barcelona, co-authored with David Alejandro Rey Sanpedro.




  • 30/1/2019 I participated at the 'Radical Sabbatical: Meet the Researchers' event, and I gave a 10 minutes engaging presentation on emotions and responsibility to a group of artists in residence in Birmingham.
  • 24/4/2018 Emotions and epistemic responsibility, M3C Research Festival, Maple House, Birmingham, UK.
  • 25/5/2017 M3C Research Festival 2017, The epistemic rational assessability of emotions, University of Nottingham, UK.
  • 24/5/2017 PhD discussant, Feeling Reasons, The role of emotions in reasoning, University of Edinburgh, UK.
  • 15/6/2017 Research Poster Conference 2017, The rational assessability of emotions, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 27/5/2016 3 Minute Thesis Competition, University of Birmingham, UK.


Blog posts

  • 4/8/2016 Art and Emotion: an interview with Derek Matravers, Imperfect Cognitions
  • 1/9/2016 The 7th international summer school of affective sciences, Imperfect Cognitions
  • 28/7/2016 Are emotions rational? An interview with Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, Imperfect Cognitions



Conference organisation

  • 10-11/1/2019 Philosophy in Progress II: Postgraduate conference. University of Nottingham, M3C funded. Co-organised with Marcus Lee, Alice Monypenny, Helen Ryland, Simon Thunder and Joseph Adams.
  • 27/11/2018 Mental Health and Wellbeing Postgraduate Workshop. University of Nottingham. M3C funded. Co-organised with Ayesha Taylor-Camara, Hannah Cooper, Lorna Kirby, Annika Bailey, Richard Gianville, Peter Haysom and Gray Emily
  • 10-11/1/2018 Philosophy in Progress: Postgraduate conference. University of Nottingham. Funded by M3C and Analysis. Co-organised with Caterina Moruzzi, Caterina Moruzzi, Simon Thunder, Marcus Lee, Thomas Crawley, Joseph Adam, Matilde Aliffi, Michael Roberts, and Kash Sunghuttee.
  • 29/5/2016 First Interdisciplinary Graduate Workshop on Fear: Aesthetic, Philosophical and Economic Perspectives, University of Birmingham. Funded by the University of Birmingham. Co-organised with Fabrizio di Maio, Jovia Salifu, Rachel New.
  • 26/6/2014 Workshop on Metaphysics. Università Roma Tre. Co-organised with Pietro Angelo Casati, Mattia Cozzi, Matteo Grasso, Mariaflavia Cascelli. Funded by the Società Italiana di Filosofia Analitica.


Referee activity

Topoi, Journal of Philosophy of Emotion, Humana Mente



2012-2015 Editor for RIFAJ (Rivista Italiana di Filosofia Analitica Junior), an Italian peer-reviewed journal of analytic philosophy for graduate students.



  • Imperfect Cognitions
  • European Society for Philosophy and Psychology
  • University of Birmingham Women* in Philosophy


  • 2018 Digital Learning Advisor. University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 2016-2018 Freelance Translator. I worked as a freelance translator (Spanish to Italian) for Book on a Three.
  • 2012-2013 Freelance Journalist for Stampo Antimafioso,
  • 2011-2013 Journalist and Blogger for Ecoinformazioni,


  • Imperfect Cognitions Research Network
  • Women in Philosophy (University of Birmingham)
  • European Society for Philosophy and Psychology
  • Society for the Philosophy of Emotions (SPE)
  • Reviewer for the SPE journal


Professional Twitter accounts managed:

  • PERFECT @EpistInnocence
  • PhilosophyInProgress @PIP2019
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing Postgraduate Workshop @mental_workshop








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