Universities teach courses in ethics, but do they teach students how to be ethical in practice? Lisa Kretz’s Ethics, Emotion, Education, and Empowerment explores the ways that philosophical ethics are currently taught and argues that dominant approaches fail to adequately support ethical action, in part because emotions are all too often ignored or repressed in university classrooms. In isolation, abstract theoretical content fails to motivate. The ability to reason through an ethical dilemma does not, by itself, of necessity impact ethical action. Empowered action requires intentional emotional engagement. Kretz argues that part of the reason affective pedagogy fails to get sufficient uptake is due to the operations of oppression. There is a long history of the reason-emotion dualism undermining recognition of the necessary and valuable epistemic roles emotions play in moral life, and serving as a political tactic to undermine the experience of oppressed groups. This impoverishes ethical pedagogy because it is to the detriment of their ability to teach ethics in a comprehensive way and strips the potential of supporting students to enact their own reflectively held ethical beliefs and values. Using the example of the environmental crisis, Kretz makes a case for supporting students as engaged activists aware of their capacity to ethically change the world.
Lisa Kretz is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Evansville.
Chapter 1: How Philosophical Ethics Are Taught in the Dominant Western Tradition
Chapter 2: Theory-Action Gap
Chapter 3: Ethics and Emotion
Chapter 4: Case Study: Hope and the Environment
Chapter 5: How to Teach Being Ethical
Appendix: Teaching Aids, Assignment Examples
"The environmental crisis is also a crisis of hope. Through insightful, compassionate arguments, Lisa Kretz details myriad ways to strengthen our capacities for ethical action and in so doing, empower ourselves to change the world for the better. Rich in both theory and practical examples, this book is a must read for educators seeking to remedy the hopelessness, disengagement, boredom, and apathy so many students experience in response to environmental issues, authoritarian pedagogies, and the daunting ethical problems we face. A timely book for recognizing the crucial importance of emotion in our moral lives and for re-imagining how we collectively construct a more just and sustainable world."
"Ethics, Emotion, Education, and Empowerment delivers an important and accessible feminist perspective on teaching ethics. Lisa Kretz questions the priorities of North American classrooms, challenging the emotion-cognition duality that dominates Western philosophical disciplines and arguing for the centrality of emotion in learning and moral reasoning. This work also represents a commitment to linking theory and practice, including concrete examples of exercises and tools that instructors across disciplines can use to enrich their teaching. Through a focus on environmental ethics, this work illustrates how affectively aware strategies can encourage engagement with difficult problems while holding onto hope in the classroom."
Lisa Kretz's book fills a gap in the literature by drawing on multiple disciplines and resources to illustrate how we can empower students to have an impact in the world in ways that reflect their considered beliefs and values. The arguments presented here are both convincing and inspiring. I would highly recommend it to all new and experienced philosophy educators.