Calendar | Conference

Feeling - Emotion - Mood. Phenomenological and pedagogical perspectives

Berlin, 1 - 3 April 2019

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Feelings, emotions and moods are omnipresent in processes and practices of learning, education, teaching, Bildung and socialization. Across all approaches and disciplines, curiosity, enthusiasm, surprise or anger, desperation, wrath, disappointment, fear, envy, shame, jealousy or outrage as well as love, compassion and thankfulness are central moments of experiences of learning and Bildung in engagement with the self, with others and the world. Since the late 1990s, ‘forgotten connections’ between emotion and education are rediscovered in the course of the so-called emotional turn in philosophy (Nussbaum 2001, Dämmerling und Landweer 2007), in neuro-sciences (Damasio 2007), in history (Plamper 2012), in sociology (Senge und Schützeichel 2013), in anthropology (Frevert und Wulff 2014) as well as in pedagogy (Reichenbach und Maxwell 2007, Schäfer/Thompson 2009, Seichter 2007, Huber und Krause 2018). Phenomenology and phenomenological research in education has made important contributions to a qualitative, concise and substantial description and specification of feelings, emotions and moods since its beginning more than 100 years ago. Well-known examples are Scheler’s study of the “grammar of emotions”, Copei’s work on “fruitful moments in the process of Bildung”, Sartre’s study of nausea, Heidegger’s and Bollnow’s analysis of moods from the angle of existential phenomenolgy, Plessner’s study of laughing and crying, as well as Buck’s work on “negative experiences” or Meyer-Drawe’s studies of the relation of emotions and corporeality.


In contrast to the phenomenological approach, feelings, emotions and moods were mainly considered as adversary of reason, rationality and discourse throughout the 20th century. As a result of the logocentric dualism, they were mostly ignored. Especially in pedagogical contexts, they were considered a disturbance of Bildung and education, which were oriented towards rationality and competence. Here as well, they were overlooked in the best case. Yet more often, they were put into service of an alleged higher reason, rationality or power of judgement and were disciplined and suppressed. With this perspective, neither their inner logic, nor their fundamental relevance for Bildung, learning, education and teaching was recognized.


Yet, philosophy and pedagogy can equally look back on a long tradition respecting the relevance of feelings. For the “elders” in philosophy (Aristotle, Plato, Seneca, Spinoza, Nietzsche) and pedagogy, feelings, emotions and moods were always seen as obvious requirements and important elements of a relation to oneself, to others and to the world. This notion can be found in the pedagogy of the 18th and 19th century, for example in the works of Rousseau (amour de soi, amour propre, pitié), Pestalozzi (pedagogical love), Schiller (aesthetic education) and Herbart (pedagogical tact).


Feelings, emotions and moods are difficult to access, especially because of their volatility, subjectivity and their unpredictability but also because of their overpowering and affective character as well as their persistence. They are structured implicitly and a discursive specification of feelings, emotions and moods is only possible in an ex-post rationalization. The conceptual and categorical distinction between these phenomena, their epistemological status, their genesis and the methods, methodology and aims of researching them still is unclear. The relation of emotion, cognition and body or corporality as well as the culturality and situativity or universality (Ekman 2004) is also still controversially discussed. Phenomenological approaches of researching feelings, emotions and moods can introduce important distinctions and contributions to these questions.


Phenomenological analyses are able to avoid and dismiss the Eurocentric dualism of body and mind or of passion and cognition (1), they highlight the corporal and social dimensions (2) and they are able to distinguish between intentional correlatives of feelings and emotions (3) and the specific relations to others and to the world in certain moods (4). They are also able to focus on the process-, act- and experience-character of emotions (5) as well as on passivity and vulnerability in their experience (6).

Against this background, phenomenological research on education has opened a perspective on Bildung of emotions and Bildung through emotions (Stenger 2012), that takes a stance against a logic of optimization, regulation and normalization. By this, the dualism between a spaceless inner world of emotions and the visible behavior, that means between an inner mind and a visible body, can be overcome in a productive way. This dualism is especially dominant in biological, medical and psychological models. On the other hand, a phenomenological theory of intentionality can introduce important differentiations. On this basis, a phenomenological pedagogy of emotions is able to identify feelings, emotions and mood as a significant and essential basis and process of Bildung, learning and education in teaching. In addition, the characteristics and quality of experiencing emotions can be described and analyzed and can be made fruitful for pedagogical processes. Bildung through emotions can be extended by Bildung of emotions – understood as a cultivation and exercise of feelings, emotions and moods in their respective specificity.