Proprioception of Thinking and Emotional Intelligence are Central to Doing Philosophy with Children


Maria daVenza Tillmanns
University of California, San Diego
Philosophy with children often focuses on abstract reasoning skills, but as David Bohm points out the “entire process of mind” consists of our abstract thought as well as our “tacit, concrete process of thought.” Philosophy with children should address the “entire process of mind.” Our tacit, concrete process of thought refers to the process of thought that involves our actions such as the process of thought that goes into riding a bicycle. Bohm contends that we need to develop an awareness or proprioception of thinking as well. When Socrates enters into dialogue with his interlocutors, he shows the limitations of purely abstract thought by leading them to admit that they really “don’t know.” But, of course, they know. We know what bravery is or what love is, even though we can never “explain” these concepts in abstract terms. Life has taught us through experience what these concepts mean and we have developed an understanding of them. We can recognize when a person acts bravely. This is where I see the link between our tacit, concrete process of thought and emotional intelligence. We need emotional intelligence to learn how to be brave, to learn how to love, and be just in the way we act in the world. Knowing what justice is abstractly does not make us act justly. We have to develop awareness of our actions in order to develop the skills necessary to act the part. This is also where emotional intelligence comes in. In the bulletin of the play Romeo and Juliet, director Barry Edelstein wrote the following: “To perform Romeo and Juliet, actors need a series of skills… they must have the emotional and psychological awareness and openness of uncommon depth; they must listen with acuteness, they must possess an imagination of real suppleness and subtlety…” An abstract portrayal would not bring these characters to life. We can surely agree – abstractly – that racism is destructive, but still act racist, without being even slightly aware of it. My contention is that while our abstract sense of racism has evolved, our tacit, concrete knowledge has not, which explains that racism is for the most part still rampant, even though we know abstractly that it is wrong. So how do we educate and develop the awareness of the tacit, concrete knowledge that informs our actions, and develop the emotional intelligence to give a depth of understanding to what we know and believe abstractly.
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