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Love and Knowledge: Recovering the Heart of Learning Through Contemplation

by Arthur Zajonc - 2006

The role of contemplative practice in adult education has a long history if one includes traditional monastic education in Asia and the West. Its use in American higher education is, however, more recent and more limited. Nonetheless, on the basis of evidence from surveys and conferences, a significant community of teachers exists at all levels of higher education, from community colleges to research universities, who are using a wide range of contemplative practices as part of their classroom pedagogy. In addition to existing well-developed pedagogical and curricular methods that school critical reasoning, critical reading and writing, and quantitative analysis, this article argues that we also require a pedagogy that attends to the development of reflective, contemplative, affective, and ethical capacities in our students. The significance of these is at least as great as the development of critical capacities in students. The rationale for the inclusion of contemplative modalities is articulated within this context. On the basis of considerable experience in teaching at Amherst College, I present an "epistemology of love," which emphasizes a form of inquiry that supports close engagement and leads to student transformation and insight. This approach to knowing is implemented in the Amherst College first-year course, Eros and Insight. It includes a specific sequence of contemplative exercises that are practiced by students and integrated with more conventional course content drawn from the arts and sciences. Our experience shows that students deeply appreciate the shift from conventional coursework to a more experiential, transformative, and reflective pedagogy.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 9, 2006, p. 1742-1759
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12678, Date Accessed: 9/22/2021 9:54:35 PM

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About the Author
  • Arthur Zajonc
    Amherst College
    E-mail Author
    ARTHUR ZAJONC is professor of physics at Amherst College, where he has taught since 1978. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan, followed by a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Boulder, Colorado. He has been visiting professor and research scientist at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, the University of Rochester, and the University of Hannover. He has been Fulbright professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. His research has included studies in electron–atom collisions, radiative transfer, parity violation in atoms, the experimental foundations of quantum physics, and the relationship between sciences and the humanities. He has written extensively on Goethe’s science. He is author of Catching the Light, coauthor of The Quantum Challenge, and coeditor of Goethe’s Way of Science. Zajonc has served as a scientific coordinator for the Mind and Life dialogues with H. H. the Dalai Lama. The 1997 and 2003 dialogues have lead to the books The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues With the Dalai Lama and Investigating the Mind. He is also director of the Academic Program of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.
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