In his classic, The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis (Author of the Narnia series of childrens stories) takes us back to Plato and Aristotle, who believed that the purpose of education was to train children in “ordinate affections” (regulated feelings) – that is, to train and mentor them to love the good and recogise the bad for what it is.
Lewis reminds us that although these values are universal, they do not develop automatically in children, but must be passed on to children in the ‘right way’. This ‘right way’ is moral imagination, moral example and magnanimity.
According to Plato and Aristotle, those who lack regulated feelings (ordinate affections) lack the specifically human element, “the middle element” (trunk or chest) that unites intellectual (or academic) man with visceral (animal) man, and such personalities may be called “men without chests” (Lewis’ term).
When we study what C.S.Lewis writes about the ‘set of objective values’ (timeless values) described by Plato, Aristotle the Chinese Tao and other wisdom traditions, we can begin to understand how frail human nature really is and how easily we can ‘neglect the middle’ and become mere slaves of habits. Alanus ab Insulis, who studied in Paris and Chartres and was a master of both platonic and aristotelian teaching, has reminded us that the chest is the seat of magnanimity. This sentiment is perhaps the crowning of ordinate emotions (affections).
In the writings of Cunfucius we find similar teachings.
‘It is upon the Trunk (chest) that a gentleman works.’
Analects of Confucius I.2
‘He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.’
Confucius, Analects II.16
What C.S.Lewis has called ‘Men without Chests’, the internationally known psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman, Ph.
His groundbreaking book, that for many critics redefined “success in life”, was first published in Great Britain in 1996 and is one of a string of books emphasising the increasing relevance of the practical wisdom of Aristotle. The author’s preface is called ‘Aristotle’s Challenge’ and sets the aristotelian tone of what Goleman later breaks down into his ‘5 components of emotional intelligence’.
His 5 components of emotional intelligence are:
Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill.
F.M.Alexander, a recognised genius and the founder of what is now called the Alexander Technique, concluded after nearly 60 years of psycho-physical training with people of all kinds, that probably the most vital question of our time was whether man would succeed in practicing techniques for changing human reaction.
What Alexander and the philosopher and educationalist John Dewey called “emotional gusts”, need to become the healthy and ordered feelings (‘meta-feeling’) that make us human.