Emotion, reason, and awareness

Resource type
Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
In a western tradition of philosophy, beginning in Ancient Greece and continuing into a dominant role in Anglo-American thinking, emotions have generally been relegated to a role subservient to reason—a role further reinforced by a scientific view of emotion as unthinking responses shaped through evolution to situations in life. Against this view, other resistant discourses have developed that attempt to reshape this hierarchy. This study challenges this traditional view of the emotions using critical analyses of the reason/emotion dualism that come from two different theoretical positions—that of human development theory and a feminist analysis of emotions as sites of political power. Using ideas from Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, another view of emotions is proposed that places them at the centre of language and meaning-making within patterns of living. In this central position, emotions become the most common and compelling site of inner, private experience engaging with outer public language, and a prime example of the engagement of private experience in conceptual understanding. Because of this central position, an emotional education must address both the inner and outer aspects of experience. The latter requires that students are fully engaged in the language of emotion, primarily through open and accepting relationships with mentors ready to respond to the feelings of the student. The inner aspect requires that individuals themselves learn to pay open attention to their own inarticulate inner experience. Two practices for developing awareness of the pre-conceptual aspect of experience are examined: mindfulness meditation coming from Buddhist tradition, and a practice called Focusing developed by Gendlin. The kind of relationship between inner experience and conceptualization developed by these practices provides access to new possibilities for expression of emotion and ways of incorporating emotion in understanding. Benefits to individuals and the possibility of positive social change that would occur from emotional education are examined. Suggestions for further study are made regarding how emotional understanding can become a positive part of every student’s experience in school.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Bai, Heesoon
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etd6337_DNelson.pdf 777.33 KB