Thomas Szanto – The lecture and the seminar

The Lecture: May 27th, 17h


The Seminar: May 28th, 12h


The Lecture: The Politics of Ressentiment: From Value-Illusion to False Solidarity Ressentiment is a complex affective mechanism, stemming from a repression of a range of hostile emotions such as envy, malice, contempt or hatred. It is characterized by an impotence or feeling of powerlessness to take reactive or retaliatory measures against the perpetrators of (alleged) harms. Ressentiment is political emotion par excellence. Indeed, social and political scientists widely agree that there is an intimate link between Ressentiment and populism, especially on the radical right spectrum (cf. Salmela & Scheve 2017). However, ever since the concept was introduced by Nietzsche (1887) and first systematically elaborated by Scheler (1919), central issues concerning the nature and political function Ressentiment are little understood. In the face of these desiderata, drawing mainly on Scheler’s analysis and on recent phenomenological and analytic discussions on collective emotions, I shall propose a novel explanation of the biased affective mechanisms at play and, in particular, of the collaborative, self-deceptive dynamics involved in Ressentiment. I will start by elaborating the differences between Ressentiment and resentment, in and argue that Ressentiment has an unspecified object and affective focus (‘the establishment’, ‘foreigners’, etc.). Using Scheler’s notions of “evaluative deception” (Werttäuschung) and “illusion of evaluative feeling” (Illusion des Wertfühlens), I will then show how in Ressentiment actually desirable values that cannot be attained are presented to oneself and one’s fellows as non-desirable, worthless or even reprehensible. Ressentiment, thus, discloses (subjectively) false values to the emoters and represents an inappropriate relation between the emotion and its focus. Finally, I argue that, in collaborative and political contexts, the self-deceptive mechanisms are reinforced, leading to what might be called a ‘collaborative spiralling’ of value-illusions and a ‘false solidarity’ with one’s ingroup.


The Seminar: “Can Hatred ever be Appropriate?” In the face of longstanding philosophical debates on the nature of hatred and an ever-growing interest in the underlying social-psychological function of group-directed or genocidal hatred, the peculiar affective intentionality of hatred is still very little understood. By drawing on resources from classical phenomenology, recent social-scientific research and analytic philosophy of emotions, I shall argue that the affective intentionality of hatred is distinctive in three interrelated ways: (1) it has an overgeneralizing, indeterminate affective focus, which typically leads to a form of collectivization of the target; (2) short of a determinate affective focus, haters derive the indeed extreme affective powers of the attitude not in reaction to any specific features or actions of the targets or from some phenomenological properties of the attitude but, rather, from the commitment to the attitude itself; (3) finally, in sharing this commitment to hate with others, hatred involves a certain negative social dialectics, robustly reinforces itself and becomes entrenched as a shared habitus. Drawing on this analysis, as well as on D’Arms and Jacobson’s (2000) seminar paper on the fittingness of emotions, in this seminar, we shall discuss whether hatred can ever be an appropriate sentiment. More specifically, the guiding question I wish to address is whether hatred can be ‘fitting’, such that its object has the evaluative features that the sentiment pertains to affectively present to respective emoters.

Thomas Szanto is currently a Senior Researcher in Philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen. His publications include the monograph Bewusstsein Intentionalität und Mentale Repräsentation: Husserl und die Analytische Philosophie des Geistes (de Gruyter 2012), the co-edited volume The Phenomenology of Sociality: Discovering the ‘We’ (Routledge 2015) and the forthcoming The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Emotions (Routledge 2020). His articles, at the intersection of phenomenology, social cognition, social ontology and the philosophy of emotions, appeared in numerous philosophy and psychology journals.