Unity and Emotions in Teaching

October 2015

In Hobbes’ Leviathan, he describes the workings of the mind and in particular what philosophers of the time described as the passions, or what we today call emotions. Indeed Hobbes was an early adopter the word emotion, relating it directly to his idea that nature, and in particular humans, are merely matter in permanent motion. Thus emotions are motions which are all related to each other and in constant mutation. Together they constitute the parts of a whole.

I like to see the emotions as a spectrum and just as with the electromagnetic spectrum, it is impossible for it to exist with any single colour missing. Hobbes likewise explains that the whole is a person. He then extends this idea by recognising that the characteristics of man are reflected as a whole in a group. That man is the sum of his parts and qualities, and the group is likewise. The group constitutes a shared personality.

It's worth noting that within the individual, one particular emotion will typically sit dominant. Imagine it as a hat of a particular colour that individual wears. That dominant emotion leads the person.

These are the passions Hobbes defines. How many of the following can you tick off in your class?

  1. The hopeful student
  2. The despairing student
  3. The fearful student
  4. The courageous student
  5. The angry student
  6. The confident student
  7. The diffident student
  8. The indignant student
  9. The benevolent student
  10. The covetous student
  11. The ambitious student
  12. The cowardly student
  13. The magnanimous student
  14. The fortitudinous student
  15. The liberal student
  16. The parsimonious student [meaning refraining rather than frugal]
  17. The kind student
  18. The lustful student
  19. The luxurious student
  20. The loving student
  21. The jealous student
  22. The vengeful student
  23. The curious student
  24. The religious student [pious]
  25. The superstitious student
  26. The “truly” religious student [rapt]
  27. The terrified student
  28. The joyful student
  29. The glorious student
  30. The vainglorious student
  31. The vain student
  32. The dejected student
  33. The suddenly glorious/laughing student
  34. The suddenly dejected/weeping student
  35. The ashamed student
  36. The impudent student
  37. The pitying student
  38. The cruel student
  39. The emulating student
  40. The envious student

To extend this idea again; the group being analogous to an individual with malleable emotions, one dominant person and therefore emotion will tend to lead any group. Thus my view is that as teachers and leaders of a group, our job is to guide the class using those feelings most conducive to community and language learning, e.g. the red emotions.

We are in effect the magnetic north searching around for the true north — the truth and the way, and we do this together by interacting with language; searching around in the dark. Our job is like tuning into a radio frequency with words to harness emotions and stimulate learning.

The map is not the territory ~ Alfred Korzybski. True, but language serves to enrich your map and get you closer to reality.

And it’s a all really there... Substitute Feynman’s “light” for “emotions”