05 junio 2007

¿Pueden las emociones educarse?

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John Armstrong: I guess what we're asking here is: what is an emotion really, and that would give us an insight into how tractable is it to education, what kinds of processes might possibly educate an emotion. I see emotions as quite deeply embedded in and have their roots in a lot of stuff that's not easy for us to change, but that emotions are also, to some extent, coloured by and shaped by our beliefs, our expectations, and other demands, and our personality to do with say, getting on with other people. We've got a powerful desire to say, fit in or to please someone, and that can shape the character of our emotions, or often what we can get away with. I think, regard emotions to some extent like an appetite; that is, as you're feeding it, it gets stronger and stronger. So certain emotions, if we experience ourselves as getting away with them, if they work, then you get more into them. So if you're the sort of person who has a blazing temper and actually other people scurry away and do what you want when you flare up, that's going to nourish your blazing temper. But if you live in a society where it's considered shocking for a certain kind of person to shout in certain situations, then other emotions like shame, and so on, start to eat into that kind of blazing temper. Now that doesn't make it easy, but it does suggest that modification of emotional experience certainly is something that's possible.

Now education I think, points to something a little bit more optimistic. It suggests that there's a cognitive development; that by getting a bit cleverer about something, something good's going to happen to our emotions. I think there's a bit of truth here: that we see emotions as tracking events in the world. As you come to understand more about the world, that has an impact upon your emotions. So, for example, a 7-year-old might be afraid that a dragon is going to come into that bedroom at night. But as they learn more about the world, they realise that a dragon will not get into the middle of Melbourne, you know, too much would have to happen first; it would be spotted as it came in across Port Phillip Bay and the alarm bells would go off, so it's not going to suddenly turn up in an urban environment. That's a very sort of straightforward example in which we can see as someone learns more about the world, it just helps a bit to change their emotion. So, it's not that fear will be removed from this person's life, but they won't have fear of dragons, and their emotions will take on a slightly different colouring, their emotional field will be perhaps less deeply grounded in imagination, less driven by imagination, more driven by say, cognitive curiosity.

So these are the sorts of issues that give us some reason for holding on to the thought that emotions can be educated, but they don't suggest that emotions are, as it were, massively tractable, that you can just kind of chop and change them, like taking a few courses in how to be calm or something like that. Unfortunately.
Masters of emotion, ABC The philosophers Zone.

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