Consternation and exams, learning and disdain

Spinoza writes:

..if it (sic: wonder) is aroused in an object we fear, it is called consternation, because wonder at an evil keeps a man suspended in considering it that he cannot think of other things by which he could avoid that evil. (p. 97)

I envision that a teacher will want to provide students with opportunities to gain adequate ideas about the affect of consternation. I have encountered many students are affected by it; they have expressed consternation about exams, which, for many of them, are “singular” things which they fear and can’t but think of strategies for avoiding that “exam consternation”, and this blinds them towards learning what they need to learn. Instead their consternation can cause them to learn the content they believe they need to know for the exam “by rote”, rather than internalising it and “genuinely” learning it. Or it can mean that they reject any opportunity to learn it in any form at all because their consternation means that they don’t want to think about it at all.

Learning and Disdain

The teacher needs to avoid presenting students with objects of learning which invite “disdain”; this is when the learner’s mind is “touched so little that the things presence moves the mind to imagining more to imagining more what is not in it than what is” (pp. 105, Def. V). In other words, the content of the object of learning provokes thoughts about other things, allowing the mind to drift.

This said, a teacher needs to be aware that when his/her students may be feeling “disdain”, and consider the reasons why it may be happening.

Journey into Joy

When have you had the “imagination” of “disdain”? Why did you have this imagination? What do you think of Spinoza’s definition of it, i.e. do you think he’s right in saying it’s not really a “feeling” but an “inadequate idea”?