Sentimental education: a challenge and an opportunity for philosophy


How important are feelings in our day to day? Our actions are the result of them to a large extent: we face each situation in one way or another depending on whether we feel happier, sadder, etc.

To give feelings their rightful place, sentimental education is necessary to help us identify what we feel and its consequences, and to use the tools to manage them without violence .

We tend to think that there are positive and negative feelings, although, in reality, each feeling can be both depending on how we manage it; its effects will therefore be more or less harmful.

For example, violent situations can be the result of intense feelings of joy as well as sadness or anger.

Violence and fear

The unpredictability of violence makes us fearful, one of the most predominant feelings. We are afraid of uncertainty, of what is different, of failure, of loneliness… A fear that is often managed violently.

Despite this, even fear can be transformed into an opportunity to face each situation . It is about not identifying enemies but looking for allies in the process.

Learn to feel?

It is urgent to make a deep reflection on our sentimental capacity and educate in it with the aim of having enough skills to manage it . Education has a fundamental role in this work.

Thus, from the contexts of formal education and in dialogue with non-formal and informal education, we must create spaces to reflect on what we feel; to give clues about what each feeling implies and about the different ways in which they can be regulated. The objective should be to broaden the horizon of possibilities when facing what we feel in order not to fall into violent attitudes.

The role of philosophy

Philosophy can play an important role in the cultivation of sentimental education. As an activity, philosophy is a practice that prompts the question.

Philosophy presupposes analysis and argumentation, and promotes dialogic, participatory, and interactive pedagogies. Pedagogies that encourage philosophical dialogue to investigate what concerns the human being from a critical, ethical and creative perspective.

Therefore, from the activity of philosophizing our critical thinking about our feelings can be stimulated in order to discern the reasons why we feel what we feel and how we feel with its consequences.

Philosophizing: being creative and ethical

In addition, our creative thinking can be cultivated to go beyond the usual ways in which we usually manage our feelings and imagine other possible alternatives.

The practice of philosophizing leads us to be curious and fantasize. It takes us out of our comfort zone and encourages us to come up with other ways to deal with hate, love, sadness or joy.

Finally, with the activity of philosophizing, our ethical thinking can be fed and, with this, empathy can be deepened as a fundamental skill of our sentimental capacity.

To philosophize is to empathize

Empathy is one of the skills that we most need to cultivate in today’s societies. It goes hand in hand with active listening, nonviolent communication, and cooperation.

Being an empathic person means working on our sentimental capacity to be careful and to put ourselves in the shoes of others, seeking osmosis between our horizons and those of others.

Empathy can be promoted with the activity of philosophizing through its continuous questions, its dialogues and its tendency towards admiration and wonder.

A challenge and an opportunity

For these reasons, the practice of philosophy is essential for sentimental education. At the same time, sentimental education is a challenge for philosophy.

Philosophy contributes to the formation of more critical, ethical and creative subjects with their feelings, something especially necessary in our society.

Author Bio: Sonia Paris Albert is Director of the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace at the Universitat Jaume I