Hung, Ruyu. “Toward an Affective Pedagogy of Human Rights Education”

Hung, Ruyu. “Toward an Affective Pedagogy of Human Rights Education.” Journal of Pedagogy, vol. 5, no. 1, 2014., pp. 48-64doi:

To remember:

  • Affective Pedagogy of Human Rights Education (or APHRE) [:] emphasizes affectivity, feelings, bodily perception, and aesthetic experience (49).
  • this excessively rationalistic approach becomes rote learning and impoverishes the meaning of education. Hence a non-rationalistic, non-intellectual learning approach is crucial for gaining rich, deep meaning during the process of learning about and for human rights (49).
  • In this paper, non-intellectual approach is understood in terms of affectivity. The intellectual approach emphasizes the abstract mental faculty, but affective pedagogy values affectivity, sensitivity, emotion, sentiment, and perception in learning (49).
  • By “affective education” is meant that part of the educational process that concerns itself with attitudes, feelings, beliefs and emotions of students. …. Related to this view of the affective dimension of education are two further points: that it often involves both the provision of support and guidance for students and that the affective and cognitive dimensions of education are interrelated. Students’ feelings about themselves as learners and about their academic subjects can be at least as influential as their actual ability. (Lang, 1998, p. 5) (50).
  • students’ feelings and understanding could be evoked not only through acquiring human rights related knowledge, but also through seeing the sorrowful faces of those whose rights have been violated, listening to their sobbing, touching their trembling bodies. Such scenes and voices should be valued as important sources (50).
  • This is related to my second reason for proposing affective human rights education: Some things involved in human rights stories may be unspeakable and ineffable …Being sympathetic and compassionate necessitates arousing the sensitive, sentimental, and affective dimensions of human lives (50).
  • The language of poetry, music, painting, cinematography, and the fine arts, better conveys the emotions and feelings than reasoning or persuasion. Artistic works and aesthetic experiences play a crucial role in learning about and for human rights (50).
  • Philosophers Richard Rorty, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Monroe Beardsley, who have made outstanding contributions in the understanding of sentiment, bodily perception, and affectivity, are inspirational in the formation of an affective pedagogy of human rights education (50).
  • Richard Rorty – Sentiment
    • What Rorty’s philosophy brings to human rights education is the replacement of rationality by sentiment …Rorty’s well known thought is termed neo-pragmatism, which incorporates contingency, anti-representationism, and anti-foundationism. His works range over an unusually broad terrain. Among these, one concept is most helpful for forming APHRE: sentiment— a powerful tool for rejecting the rationalist view of human rights. (51).
    • According to Rorty (1993), to justify human rights, traditional rationalist philosophers appeal to universal humanity and transcendental morality. Yet in Rorty’s view, there is no such thing as ahistorical, transcultural, and certain truth. All the so-called truths, mistaken for definite, absolute, and everlasting truth, are indeed shaped in culture and described through language—another cultural production. Culture and language are time-bound and space-bound and thus are relative and contingent legacies of human civilizations, rather than certain a priori realities (51).
    • In Rorty’s mind, the most important basis for establishing a human rights culture is abandoning the Enlightenment’s foundational presuppositions of humanity through rationality. Rejecting Enlightenment morality and rationality as the justification for human rights, Rorty (1993) proposes “sentiment” as the substitute … ‘to rely on the suggestions of sentiment rather than on the commands of reason is to think of powerful people gradually ceasing articles 5 2 journal of pedagogy 1/2014 to oppress others, or ceasing to countenance the oppression of others…’ (1993, p. 130) (52).
    • Drawing on Eduardo Rabossi, human rights culture depicts “a new, welcome fact of the post-Holocaust world…. [Philosophers] should stop trying to get behind or beneath this fact, stop trying to detect and defend its so-called ‘philosophical presuppositions’” (Rorty, 1993, pp. 115-116) (52).
    • Recognition of sentiment could cause people in conflict to reconsider each other as “reasonable” and as “people like us” (Rorty, 1997, pp. 145-146). Reconsidering enemies as “people like us,” who are both rational and sentimental, is more promising for attaining universal human rights (52).
    • In brief, Rorty argues that rationality often results in violation, rather than promotion, of human rights because rationality has often been used as a criterion to discriminate between superiority and inferiority or humanity and non-humanity. Implicit in rationality is the assumption that “superior” humans are entitled to control, master, exploit, and even enslave the “inferior peoples,” seen as non-human. This insight illuminates, for instance, the relatively recent abuse of immigrant workers in Taiwan. In human rights discourses, replacing rationality with sentiment could help to reconceive relationships among different people and open a new, promising space for inclusion of differences (52).
  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty – Body
    • Greatly inspired by phenomenology’s founder of Edmund Husserl, the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty developed the phenomenological philosophy of perception or body. Phenomenology is defined as the study of essence: the essence of perception or the essence of consciousness. Phenomenology studies experience as it is lived: “[P]henomenology is … also a philosophy which puts essence back into existence, and does not expect to arrive at an understanding of man and the world from any starting point other than of their ‘facticity’” (Merelau-Ponty, 1962, p. vii). A method of philosophical research, phenomenology describes lived experiences and critiques basing philosophy only on concepts and idealities. The phenomenological understanding of human beings cannot be separated from people, but must be among people within the life-world; in other words, human beings must be treated and understood as living subjects rather than as abstract things (53).
    • Merleau-Ponty argues that the perceiving mind is an incarnated mind since the mind is rooted in the body and its world. Neither mechanism nor rationalism can provide a full explanation of human existence. Human existence, in his view, is an unfinished, living process anchored upon the body within the world (54).
    • Every Incarnate subject is like an open notebook in which we do not yet know what will be written. Or it is like a new language; we do not know what works it will accomplish but only that, once it has appeared, it cannot fail to say little or much, to have a history and a meaning. (1964, p. 6) (54).
    • It is the perceptual and perceptible body that connects the individual and the world in dynamic interactions. The body is the source of inner experience through which individuals analogically understand and interpret other people (Merleau-Ponty, 1962). As Merleau-Ponty says, “[Inner experience] teaches me the significance and intention of perceived gestures. … The actions of others are … always understood through my own; the ‘one’ or the ‘we’ through the ‘I’” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p. 348). The living body makes possible the non-verbal understanding of others’ feelings, emotions, and thoughts (54).
    • The living body is full of pedagogical meanings because it is the ground for me to learn about and to have a world. The body “is our point of view on the world, the place where the spirit takes on a certain physical and historical situation” (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 5). The body lives ineffable meanings through gestures, facial expressions, movements, and the senses. The body reserves abundant meanings within. Thus, the body is the place where learning starts, where meaning blossoms (54).
    • the human body senses and perceives others’ emotions and feelings by their facial expressions, gestures, positions, postures, sounds, and smells. Thus sensory experiences should weigh more heavily in the learning process, but currently, traditional classroom learning relies heavily on the intellect (54).
    • In order to awaken and sensitize learners’ bodies, teachers should employ various materials and tools to evoke and optimize sensory responses. Max van Manen (1990) has suggested several methods of investigating lived experience, including description in protocol writing, personal life stories through interviews, experiential anecdotes through observation, biographies, diaries, journals, and objects of art (visual, tactile, auditory, and kinetic). Brought into the classroom, these methods broaden and multiply students’ experiences (54).
    • the totality of artistic works, whether text or image, can portray and convey the unspeakable meanings and emotions. If learners are encouraged to dedicate their perceptions, senses, and whole bodies to sensory materials, they can gain richer, deeper meanings and feelings (54).
  • Monroe Beardesly – Aesthetic Experience
    • Beardsley provides criteria for evaluating whether learners have genuine aesthetic experiences and whether the materials sensitize and sentimentalize learners to a satisfactory degree (55).
    • Although many thinkers, for instance Osborne (1970) and Stolnitz (1969), discussed aesthetic experience, Beardsley’s view is generally considered the epitome of aesthetic philosophy and theory of aesthetic experience (55).
    • According to Beardsley, an aesthetic experience must meet the first requirement and at least three of the others.
      • Object directness. A willingly accepted guidance over the succession of one’s mental states by phenomenally objective properties (qualities and relations) of a perceptual or intentional field on which attention is fixed with a feeling that things are working or have worked themselves out fittingly
      • Felt freedom. A sense of release from the dominance of some antecedent concerns about past and future, a relaxation and sense of harmony with what is presented or semantically invoked by it or implicitly promised by it, so that what comes has the air of having been freely chosen.
      • Detached affect. A sense that the objects on which interest is concentrated are set a little at a distance emotionally—a certain detachment of affect, so that even when we are confronted with dark and terrible things, and feel them sharply, they do not oppress but make us aware of our power to rise above them.
      • Active discovery. A sense of actively exercising constructive powers of the mind, of being challenged by a variety of potentially conflicting stimuli to try to make them cohere; a keyed-up state amounting to exhilaration in seeing connections between percepts and between meaning, a sense (which may be illusionary) of intelligibility.
      • Wholeness. A sense of integration as a person, of being restored to wholeness from distracting and disruptive influences (but by inclusive synthesis as well as by exclusion), and a corresponding contentment, even through disturbing feeling, that involves self-acceptance and self expansion. (Beardsley, 1991) (56).

To consume:

  • Lang, P. (1998). Towards an understanding of effective education in a European context. In P. Lang, Y. Katz, & I. Menezes (Eds.) Affective education: a comparative view (pp. 3-18), London: Cassell.
  • Rorty, R. (1989). Contingency, irony and solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rorty, R. (1993). Human rights, rationality, and sentimentality. In S. Shute, & S. Hurley (Eds.) On human rights: The Oxford amnesty lectures 1993. (pp. 111-134). New York: BasicBooks.
  • Rorty, R. (1997). Justice as a larger loyalty, Ethical Perspectives 4 (2), pp. 139-152.
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (1964). The primary of perception. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
  • Beardsley, M. C. (1991). Aesthetic experience. In R. A. Smith, & A. Simpson (Eds.) Aesthetics and arts education (pp. 72-84). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois.
  • Bannan, J. F. (1967). The philosophy of Merleau-Ponty. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
  • Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany: The State University of New York.
  • Osborne, H. (1970). The art of appreciation. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Stolnitz, J. (1969). The aesthetic attitude. In J. Hospers (Ed.) Introductory readings in aesthetics (pp. 17-27). New York: Free Press.

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