Join us – Friday, 7 October 2022, 6.30 – 7.45 pm, Sainsbury Wing of The National Gallery

(booking essential)

What is ‘euphoria’ and, perhaps more intriguingly, what is it for? On one account it is a sense of perfect harmony, individuality, and purity, accompanied by a feeling of extreme wellbeing that connects us to the heavenly realm. On another, it’s an exquisite dissimulation of the self.

But what does this really mean and how might the paintings in the National Gallery help us understand it and its relevance to our lives today? And how are artists representing euphoria in contemporary work? 

Philosopher, journalist and the author of over 20 books Julian Baggini is joined by Joachim Aufderheide, Reader in Philosophy, King’s College London; Vanessa Brassey, co-director of the Centre for Philosophy and Art; Siobhán Jolley, the Ahmanson Fellow in Religion and Art at the National Gallery; and artist Sikelela Owen to debate these questions.

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‘The United States of Euphoria’ a primer for the series on Art & Emotion at The National Gallery

Information on previous events and films is here


Joachim Aufderheide is a Reader in the Philosophy Department at King’s College London. He specialises in ancient Greek philosophy, but has a serious side-interest in Buddhist philosophy. Two questions in particular have held his attention: What role does pleasure play in a good life? And what contribution does contemplation make to a life lived well? He has published on Plato’s and Aristotle’s answers to these questions, but also enjoys tracing them through the history of philosophy. 

Dr Julian Baggini is the author, co-author or editor of over 20 books including ‘The Godless Gospel’, ‘How The World Thinks’, ‘The Virtues of the Table’ and ‘The Ego Trick’ (all Granta), ‘The Edge of Reason’ (Yale University Press) and, most recently, ‘The Great Guide: What David Hume Can Teach Us about Being Human and Living Well’ (Princeton University Press). He has been Academic Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent.

Vanessa Brassey is co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Art at Kings College London. The Centre is a major multi-disciplinary initiative whose aim is to bring together academics, artists, curators and gallerists to explore the connections between philosophy, theory and the visual arts. As well as an academic philosopher, she is a figurative painter whose work explores emotion and perception. 

Siobhán Jolley is the Ahmanson Fellow in Religion and Art at the National Gallery. She completed her PhD at the University of Manchester in 2021. Her broad research interests include the work of female artists, the reception of biblical women and the New Testament, and feminist approaches. She has taught at the University of Manchester, Liverpool Hope University and Cliff College in Religions and Theology and Art History and Cultural Practices. 

Sikelela Owen is an artist who lives and works in London. Her work is made up predominately of loose figure paintings, drawings, and prints of friends, family, and people of interest. She holds a PG Diploma from the Royal Academy Schools and her work was featured in the 2015 Thames and Hudson publication ‘100 Painters of Tomorrow’. Owen has exhibited nationally and internationally, was an Abbey Fellow at the British School at Rome in 2019 and she has worked with the charity Hospital Rooms.

Information on previous events and films is here