Ronald W. Hepburn on wonder and the education of emotions and subjectivity

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In this paper I consider Ronald Hepburn’s writings on education. Though Hepburn did not try to articulate a general philosophy or theory of education, he – like his contemporary Scottish philosophers: John Macmurray and Alasdair MacIntyre – did provide an account of how engagement with the arts can educate emotions.1 According to Hepburn, emotions are at least partly cognitive statesand so educable. The arts (and especially literature) can educate the emotions in various ways: by enlarging experience beyond the trite emotion clichés of everyday life; by enhancing self-knowledge and emotional freedom, by revivifying and revitalising emotional experience, and by improving our understanding and relations with other people. In the paper I also consider Gordon Reddiford’s objection that Hepburn erred in suggesting that aesthetic criteria could settle scientific questions. I argue this objection does not convince as Hepburn only defended the thesis that it is vital that educators teach students that the sciences do not represent the only path to knowledge of reality. Hepburn believed that the arts and journey’s in nature (both lived and literary) can also disclose reality in educationally valuable ways. To help illustrate the educative power of journeying, I refer to the journey that the character Kennunder takes in Neil Gunn’s novel Highland River. Contrary to Reddiford, I conclude that for Hepburn not all education is education of subjectivity. Instead, I draw upon Hepburn’s reflections on wonder to show that it is more likely that he thought it important to educate for both objectivity (through the sciences)and subjectivity (through the humanities and appreciation of art and nature).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-138
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Scottish Thought
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2018


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