25 SES 01, Children’s Rights, Emotions and Well-Being
Human dignity has become a buzzword in many socio-political debates (Schmidt-Jortzig, 2008). Educational programs aim at fostering human dignity by encouraging adolescents to form moral concepts in the sense of human dignity and of a democratic character (Brumlik, 2009). Such approaches rarely focus on the issue of emotions, although emotions underlie the respect for human dignity and shape the personality just as well as moral concepts do. Furthermore, the ability to cope with one’s own emotions is important for mental and emotional health. Children have a right to health (according to the CRC), and therefore should have a right to learn to deal with their emotions. Considering studies which show that every tenth person is “emotionally blind” – meaning the individuals’ difficulties of perceiving emotional qualities (Grabe & Scheidt, 2009) – it is surprising how little attention is given to the role of emotions in today’s discourse on education.
In understanding human behavior relevant to topics of human dignity, it seems crucial to refer to the role of emotions, because emotions produce dispositions to react in a certain way (Roberts, 2009). Or to refer to Kesselring (2009): Ethics is not exclusively about the morality of particular courses of action, it is also about the way we behave towards our own feelings. Humans have to learn to deal with their emotions. Problematic development in this respect may have undesirable consequences for the possibility to establish respect for human dignity. Heinrich Himmler (Fromm, 1974/2011) and Adolf Hitler (Miller, 2013) are often referred to as prototypes of such limited emotional development. In recent history, other examples are discussed: Marks (2010) explains the killing spree of Emsdetten as the assassin’s desperate attempt to cope with his strong sense of shame. Furthermore, emotions can have a powerful effect when many people share them simultaneously – what is called collective emotions (cf. Ciompi & Endert, 2011; Moïsi, 2009) – and can foster or restrain the respect for human dignity. If emotions are picked out as a central topic, one is often focusing on moral emotions such as shame, guilt, jealousy or anger. Marks (2010, 2011) points out the sense of shame as central feeling which underlies the respect for human dignity. However, Marks does not explain why shame is so crucial (compared to other emotional qualities).
Therefore, in this paper a wider range of emotions which seem important for the respect for or violation of human dignity are put into account. First, the notions of human dignity and of emotion will be discussed. Second, the emotional basis of human dignity is critically reflected. The central question is: which emotional qualities are relevant for the respect for human dignity? Topic of interest is the emotional basis of respect for human dignity as a respectful attitude as well as the emotional basis of violation of human dignity as a serious humiliation. The paper concludes with an outlook on the relevance of the presented analysis for the education of emotions.
Brumlik, M. (2009). "Leitkultur": Würde des Menschen. Erziehung und Wissenschaft, 2. Ciompi, L., & Endert, E. (2011). Gefühle machen Geschichte. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Fromm, E. (1974/2011). Anatomie der menschlichen Destruktivität. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt. Grabe, H. J., & Scheidt, C. E. (2009). Einführung: Das Alexithymiekonstrukt und seine psychometrische Erfassung. In H. J. Grabe & M. Rufer (Eds.), Alexithymie: Eine Störung der Affektregulation. Bern: Hans Huber. Kesselring, T. (2009). Handbuch Ethik für Pädagogen. Grundlagen und Praxis. Darmstadt: WBG. Marks, S. (2010). Die Würde des Menschen. Oder: der blinde Fleck in unserer Gesellschaft. München: Gütersloher Verlagshaus. Marks, S. (2011). Scham - die tabuisierte Emotion. Ostfildern: Patmos. Miller, A. (2013). Die Kindheit Adolf Hitlers. Vom Verborgenen zum Manifesten Grauen Retrieved 09.01.2013, from http://www.alice-miller.com/bucher_de.php?page=2a Moïsi, D. (2009). Kampf der Emotionen. München: DVA. Roberts, R. C. (2009). Was eine Emotion ist: eine Skizze. In S. A. H. Döring (Ed.), Philosophie der Gefühle (pp. 169-201). Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. Schmidt-Jortzig, E. (2008). Zeitschrift für Evangelische Ethik, 52, 50-56.
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