What it means to take the heart seriously in economics education

[This essay I wrote invited to participate by the initiative on economic pluralism, and their criteria decision process for masters progammes]


[Here is the link to my personal proposal in this process: Bringing back the heart to its place in the center which needless to say brought about controversy]



Everything starts with an integral conception of the human being, radically different from the conventional-Cartesian view that the human being is a brain encapsulated by the skin. An integral conception of the human being naturally acknowledges that we are much more than thoughts, be these rational, or irrational for that matter. I would say historically, at some point in our intellectual evolution, we realized feelings and emotions were weaknesses, for example because someone could believe in a lie simply as a result of an unhealthy emotional process (many other examples, you know what I mean). Historically too, at some point in our intellectual evolution many of us realized that our religious beliefs had plenty of dogma, sometimes manipulation, and even lies. So we decided we wanted a rigorous way to look for truth. This became science and the scientific method.


But when we did that, deciding it was rigorous reasoning that we would trust, we thought it was possible to set aside our emotions and feelings. It is not. This became simply an illusion. Feelings and emotions are always there no matter what, even if our will is to set them apart and even if we exert maximum discipline to apply serious thinking. For example, at times you can feel the negative judgment towards other people in a super serious scientific debate. Needless to say, when we make up our minds about a certain issue, it is almost surely an emotional phenomenon first that triggers or bases our opinion, which is followed by a rational process to find and elaborate a full justification, whatever that means for each one of us.


Of course there is much more to say, this is 1%.


However, if you’re seriously enough committed to truth, at least I believe you will realize that modern science is widely just another type of religion, just smarter. It cannot scape dogma and preconceived unquestioned assumptions. For example, the cultural notion that reality is a physical phenomenon fully describable by facts and logic. It is not, why should it be? (The universe is not even linear so why should we expect reality to be describable by linear thinking?) Crucially, the notion that whatever the observer observes is separated from the observer. It is not. Therefore, there can never be a fully impartial nor an objective description of reality (much less the social reality), because it will always have something to do with the observer.


So, yes I’m talking about something very radical. But it is also very simple. I will tell how I see it, and of course others (like yourself) could extensively enrich my view. This is just a first step. Everything starts by recognizing the human being is also made up of feeling and emotions. Simply acknowledging that is already a start. Then at least questioning who the human being really is. Is it a brain, with feelings and emotions, encapsulated by the skin? At least question that, because at this point what we have is a cultural belief, not a truth. Perhaps, we are our heart at the very centre of our being, and the brain and our thoughts are just like our body: tools we can use at the service of what we really want, and ways to perceive the world. Perhaps we are a bigger mystery than that (for example, we can still question: are we a heart with brain and body and emotions, yet still encapsulated by the skin?). The point is we can’t deny our humanness, so at least we need to question the concept of our very being.


In education, where does this start? In the relationship among students and faculty. All of them full human beings, who can never fully hide the extent of their humanness. Who need not be ashamed by having emotions, nor by deciding their views and political opinions according to what they feel. In other words, permitting what already happens anyways. Making it visible. One example, that someone be permitted to say “I do not want that hydro-electrical power plant to be build, not because of data and logical arguments, but first simply because that’s how I feel” (please see When will we stop the destruction of nature? to go deeper about this point). The moment we start practicing this, and it is safe to feel however way you feel (meaning you’re not discriminated against for expressing how you feel), we start cultivating a space of trust where naturally honesty, sincerity arise. Otherwise, whatever lack of authenticity we may have we will carry it forward in our science, theory and practice, unavoidably.


(Notably, the word education essentially means leading from the inside out, as opposed to standard education, which is the contrary process. See my essay about holistic education and cultural deconstruction to go deeper on this point.)


Eventually of course, this should transform also the way we produce science and new knowledge (while perhaps deconstructing the knowledge we are so sure we already have). Again, what I’m saying here is simply 1% of what there is to be said. But I would say we need not worry about that so much. Simply changing the education environment will suffice. The rest will follow.


Last but not least. I am aware what I am proposing is too radical to become a standard for economic teaching. I know very well the many reasons (emotional reasons actually) why many intellectuals will rapidly discard what I attempt to express. If you are seriously enough committed to truth, you will see there is no truth that is not essentially emotional. So thank you for your commitment to your own truth.


At least three other essays I wrote will interest you:



Some comments about comments I received from my original proposal:


  1. “On the other hand, conventional economics doesn´t work precisely because feelings and emotions (ideology) predominate in it over any other rational consideration. We have to make explicit the role they play in any human decision (including research) in order to narrow their influence.” Right, so it’d be better that rational considerations, which are superior, would predominate. Then everything would be fine, right? We do have to make feelings and emotions explicit, I agree, but because there is no choice, and certainly not in order to narrow their influence. (Keeping them implicit is an illusion). Can you feel that sense of superiority, of self-righteousness, how similar it is to supremacist ideas? Shutting down part of who we are anyways.

  2. “If we decide what is true or what is false based on feelings and emotions, how can we call that science?” You see how the word ‘science’ here is used as the ultimate truth, religiously untouchable, like the bible or something like that. I want to say I respect your religious beliefs, just note they are still religious beliefs, and there truly are as many religions as there are people, so you can’t impose your truth on others.



I started writing this essay with my son. Here is how it begun.


My 6 years old son wants to sit down and be with me while I work on this (thanks my boy!). I dream it is be possible to include our children in everything we do, and at the same time it’s so hard. At the same time I wish I could work alone to be able to focus. It is much more effort to focus on my work if my wonderful boy is with me, or so it seems. I intuit there are unexpected doors waiting to be open when we work in oneness, that is, including everything around, including whatever is going on right here right now. Including our children.


Forgiveness towards every child for each time they have been set aside by adults.


Our adult world is so serious, so important. Isn’t obvious how we serious intellectuals set aside our own inner child? Can’t we see it is always there? I know it is in there asking for attention perhaps doing silly things, making noise…


Surely that is exactly why long time ago we did set aside all feelings and emotions (that is, our inner child). We did it because we saw it is silly, it is not logical. But do I need to tell you that child we are neglecting is nothing but ourselves? Or you think you really know who you really are? Because you’re not an identity, you’re not that story about yourself you tell yourself over and over. And, I do need to tell you, once you really listen to that child, you will realize it is completely logical too, just a different logic than the one you expect. That’s the kind of thing you need to see for yourself.