What Good is Love?
The role of emotions in mental life is the subject of longstanding controversy, spanning the history of ethics, moral psychology, and educational theory. This paper defends an account of love’s cognitive power. My starting point is Plato’s dialogue, the Symposium, in which we find the surprising claim that love aims at engendering moral virtue. I argue that this understanding affords love a crucial place in educational curricula, as engaging the emotions can motivate both cognitive achievement and moral development. I first outline the state of the challenge between dominant rival theories regarding emotions in learning. Next, I demonstrate how Platonic virtue ethics offers the most tenable prospect for an education of reason and emotion. Third, I sketch three practical ways educators might constructively engage emotions in the classroom. I conclude that love’s virtue is its peerless power to motivate the creative and lateral thinking which leads to moral development.