Counter-acting the affects

False Ideas are not Necessarily removed by telling the truth

Nothing positive which a false idea has is removed by the presence of the true insofar as it is true. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 117, P1)

For example, when we look at the sun, we imagine it to be about two hundred feet away from us. In this we are deceived so long as we are ignorant of its true distance; but when its distance is known, the error is removed, not the imagination, that is, the idea of the sun, which explains its nature only so far as the body is affected by it. And so, although we come to know the true distance, we shall nevertheless imagine it as near us. (Spinoza, 1994a, p. 118)

It happens, of course, when we wrongly fear some evil, that the fear disappears on our hearing news of the truth. But on the other hand, it also happens, when we fear an evil which is certain to come, that the fear vanishes on our hearing false news. So imaginations do not disappear through the presence of the true insofar as it is true, but because there occur others, stronger than them, which exclude the present existence of the things we imagine, as we showed in IIP17. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 118, P1 Schol)

This is especially true with regards to teaching to the test. The teacher knows the right method for students to learn is to learn to work it out for themselves, but the fear of the students of failing is a powerful affect, and the teacher finds that it is easier to neutralise this affect by “spoon feeding”, a false idea of learning. The student learns to copy and imitate, not to think.

External Causes are much more Powerful than an Individual

The teacher is expected to be God, to have control over how children learn, what they learn and how they are expected to achieve in exams and their work generally. Spinoza teaches us that the power of external causes is much more powerful than the individual. The teacher has limited power over learners. External causes are much more powerful.

For given a man, there is something else, say A, more powerful. And given A, there is something else again, say B, more powerful than A, and so on, to infinity. (pp. 118, Schol)

The Passions are More Powerful than Individuals

The force and growth of any passion, and its perseverance in existing, are defined by the power of an external cause compared with our own (by P5). And so (by P3) it can surpass the power of a man, and so on, q.e.d. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 120, P6 Dem)

A repeated idea in Spinoza is that the passions can overwhelm us. This is particularly true in school. The concept of school is invested with numerous affects: historical, geographical, pedagogical, psychological etc. In particular, there is the “you-must-do-well affect” which is passed through schools on many levels, imparted in the way teachers/students talk to each other, a school’s results, the displays on the walls, prize for the “top” students etc. This affect is tremendously powerful, far more powerful than individuals; it is a collective social affect. This means that when you feel you’re not doing well, it is almost impossible not to feel some variant of Spinozist sadness: anger, hatred, depression etc.

Journey into Joy

What are the really powerful affects in school settings? Some thoughts: “I-Must-Do-Well affect”; “I’m-Better-Than-You Affect”; “I’m/You’re-Stupid Affect”.

Negative Feelings Are Contagious

Following on from this point, we can see how Spinoza is arguing that the affects are “contagious” in the sense that if we believe that someone is criticising us, that “criticising-affect” is very easily passed on to us; we internalise that feeling quickly because that “critical affect” is already powerfully present in many other bodies: other teachers, students, the school, the society, the media etc.

We feel sadness, and then pass on that sadness to someone else in another context. For example, the student who has been criticised in class by a teacher may well go home and be angry with his/her parents/siblings etc., but not show that sadness to the teacher him/herself.

Journey into Joy

When have you been criticised and then felt sad/angry/insecure? What did you do with that “affect”? Where do you think that “criticising-affect” came from?

What are the most contagious affects in school settings and in your career?

Affects can be counter-acted by More Powerful Ones

P7: An affect cannot be restrained or taken away except by an affect opposite to, and stronger than, the affect to be restrained. (Spinoza, 1994a, p. 120)

This is a very important lesson for teachers and explains why (some) teachers so commonly shout. A noisy class enters the classroom and the teacher shouts for them to be quiet. An everyday occurrence which endorses this maxim. The affect of the “noisy class”, which as a body is riven with all the different passions of its members, joy, sadness, fear, boredom, distraction etc.; the teacher restrains and removes these multiple affects by providing the jolting, jarring affect of the “shout”, which carries with it all the connotations of authority, control and fear/lack of control. It involves the whole body of the teacher, the breath issuing through the throat, the blood rushing to the teacher’s head, the tensing of the body, the striving for order, for obedience. The affect of the shout is an “event”, a necessary performance of “becoming-teacher”. It works by surprise value. When it loses this, and students become habituated to the teacher always shouting, they more often than not ignore the teacher and the shout loses its power to restrain.

This is true of other teacher threats such as: the threat of detentions, of sending a student out of the room, of reporting them to another teacher, their parent/guardian etc.

Affects Can Be Counter-Acted By Reason

P59: To every action to which we are determined from an affect which is a passion, we can be determined by reason, without that affect. (p. 147)

I used to take criticism very badly. For example, I would have my teaching observed by a senior manager and would get very angry and upset if he/she was critical. The “You’re-Not-Good-Enough” affect would overwhelm me, drowning my sense of what I was doing. But recently, Spinoza’s philosophy has helped me use reason to deal better with criticism. I have been criticised, like most people, quite a bit in my life: my talents as a writer, teacher and organiser have been called into question by various sources. I have been better able to deal with them because I have gained a more adequate idea of a few things: the importance of what I am doing, the overall context of the society I am living in, the sorts of people, affects and ideas I dealing with, who I am as a person and what I want from my life. This is not to say I have not felt angry and sad about being heavily criticised – I have! – but I also realise that these feelings are almost inevitable – they’re encoded in my being – but this said, I have realised what gives me joy and determined that I wish to persist with these things because I believe them to be “noble”: I want to communicate with people my enthusiasm for learning and work with people to discover ways in which we might make our lives joyful. This overall sense of purpose has overridden my feelings of inadequacy generated by the criticism and rejection. This is what I take Spinoza to mean as “reason”.


Despair and learning

Next, if the doubt involved in these affects is removed, hope becomes confidence and fear, despair – namely, a joy or sadness which has arisen from the image of the thing we feared or hoped for. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 81, P18 Schol. 2)

Despondency is thinking less highly of oneself than is just, out of sadness (pp. 108, D XXIX)

Despair is a sadness born of the idea of a future or past thing, concerning which the cause of doubting has been removed. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. XV)

Students’ Experience of Despair

I think a strange passivity comes over despairing children. It is usually preceded by moments of extreme anger, hope and fear; once a student has realised that there is nothing to be done, that there is no hope that they will benefit from being in school, no hope that they might learn anything which they perceive to be worthwhile, they can “give up”. The fight goes. This is a strange form of death I think. It makes me wonder just how many students are in states of “despair”. Such students may well be perfectly well-behaved but ultimately totally disengaged. I think the system sends a great many signals to students that they are not going to make it in the form of bad exam results, in the inattentive and uncaring looks from parents/teachers/students etc., in the inaccessibility of the work that they have been given to do.

My diagram is attempting to give an adequate idea of the ways in which the system produces despairing learners. In my view, often “despairing cultures” – cultures which feel abandoned economically and culturally from the “mainstream” – produce initially “despairing learners” in the form of young children who are frightened by a system which they have inadequate resources (economic, cultural, psychological) to deal with the issues that the school throws at them. This despair turns to despondency when they realise that they will never succeed in the school system; the resources that they have been given become “redundant” – totally useless and meaningless – and they feel alienated. They are despondent because their estimation of themselves is completely unjust; they have not gleaned a fair assessment of their abilities.

A Teacher’s Experience of Despair

In some ways, despair is a nicer emotion to feel than fear. I can think in my career when I have felt very fearful about the fact that I was teaching classes quite badly, I would, in my mind, give up the “hope” that I could actually help them learn anything meaningful, and, as a result, I stopped feeling the “inconstant sadness” about a “doubtful outcome”, and would instead just feel that there was no doubt that they were learning nothing in my charge. Despair took hold of me. It was a curiously restful emotion to feel; there was no longer any point in “trying” to help students learn; my task became purely to “control” my pupils, keep them busy, keep them quiet. I think my students recognised the affect of despair in me, and liked me all the more for it; I had stopped making demands on them, I had stopped checking that they’ve done their homework, I’d stopped marking their work in detail beyond doing what was absolutely necessary to keep my managers off my back, I’d entered a rather Zen-like state of professional despair. I had no expectations any more. I think my students recognised this affect in me because I think many teachers are in states of “despair”; while they might pay lip service to extracting the best results they can from their students, they have secretly made their peace with the fact that their students are learning very little in their lessons. The hope and joy has gone.

Ironically, these states of despair have had the effect of making me feel despondent in a Spinozist sense – thinking less highly of myself than was just. This realisation that I was better at my job than I had previously thought I was frequently had the effect of lifting me out of the despair, and bringing new hope that I might be able to help my students.


This diagram shows the affective cycle that I underwent as a teacher when trying to deal with classes whose results and learning I felt I could not adequately “mould”, or “control”, or “nurture”. It starts with fear or hope depending upon your state of mind, and then moves to despair, which creates a calm despondency that then nurtures hope, which eventually leads back to fear. In the current climate, the constant issues to deal are “results” and “status”, which produce this affective cycle.

Learning, joy and desire: hope, confidence and fear

Learning, Joy and Desire

P53: When the mind consider itself and its power of acting, it rejoices, and does so the more, the more distinctly it imagines itself and its power of acting…Cor.: This joy is more and more encouraged the more the man imagines himself to be praised by others. (p. 98)

Spinoza is a wonderful philosopher for a teacher to explore in depth because he reveals the complexities of the role joy plays in learning. First, it is important to understand that joy can be both a concept – an affect which increases the learner’s power of action — and a “passion” – an affect which means the learner is “acted upon”. Joy can nurture an “illusory” state of mind as we see in P53 in that the mind can “imagine” its own “power of acting”; in other words, the mind not have an adequate idea of its own powers of action, and be deceived that it is “acting” when it is not. Nevertheless, the mind will feel joy. This has important implications for the pedagogue because it means that Spinoza is not saying that teachers should nurture “joy” willy-nilly, but should create the conditions whereby “adequate ideas” can be conceived and this will mean that joy will be nurtured necessarily. As Spinoza says in P53, if a man “imagines himself to be praised by others” he will be “more and more encouraged” to feel joy, but this affect will be a “passion”; he will be “being acted upon” and may not have any adequate ideas whatsoever. Teachers need to be mindful of this; while praising their students may well inculcate joy, this may not be nurturing adequate learning at all, but rather trapping students in the first realm of knowledge, which is “imagination”, rather than encouraging them to use reason.

It is only when the learner “reasons” that he/she will cease to be a victim of the passion of joy, and will conceive of it as a “power of the mind”. In P58, Spinoza writes:

Apart from the joy and desire which are passions, there are other affects of joy and desire which are related to us insofar as we act. Dem.: When the mind conceives itself and its power of acting, it rejoices (by P53). But the mind necessarily considers itself when it conceives a true, or adequate, idea (by IIP43). But the mind conceives some adequate ideas (by IIP40S2). There, it also rejoices insofar as it conceives adequate ideas, that is (P1), insofar as it acts. (p. 102)

So, a teacher could help their students feel joy in their learning but this may well be a “fool’s paradise” because they are simply “imagining” their own powers of action. For example, a teacher may well praise their students and make them feel happy, but actually they are not learning anything of substance; they are not conceiving adequate ideas. To learn properly, leaners need to be cognitively challenged. They need to know things that they did not know before. This means that they will necessarily find what they are studying difficult; they will need to strive to learn more about it, and be “tenacious” in their pursuit of the knowledge, striving from the dictate of reason to preserve their being by conceiving that the object of learning is intrinsically worth studying “in itself”, that it is an “expression of God’s power”. The conception of evolving adequate ideas about the object of learning will necessarily mean an increase in their powers of action within that realm of knowledge and therefore bring a degree of joy. As Vygotsky argues, it is only when learners are cognitively challenged that they conceive of new concepts. (S. Lutz, W. Huittz, 2004)

For Spinoza though, the only affects which are increase the mind’s power of action are joy and desire; this is because “by sadness we understand the fact that the mind’s power of acting is diminished or restrained (by P11 and P11S)” (pp. 102, P59 Dem). This is significant because it suggests that if there is a significant affect of sadness in a classroom, it will be difficult for students to conceive of adequate ideas and therefore learn in a significant fashion.

From this, we can construct the ways in which a teacher can assist with helping their students conceive of adequate ideas.

This diagram illustrates what an adequate idea of learning might look like. At the bottom, the learner feels the desire to be challenged and to use his/her reason and tenacity to conceive of an adequate idea of what he/she is learning, and this will necessarily lead to an increase in their powers of acting. But I would like to argue that “joy” needs to present in some shape or form in order for the learner to be able to be tenacious and to take the “object of learning” seriously. I don’t think there is a significant chance of the learner tackling a difficult topic if he/she does not feel in some sense that their “power”.

Joyful Learning

P56: There are as many species of joy, sadness, and desire, and consequently of each affect composed of these (like vacillation of mind) or derived from them (like love, hate, hope, fear etc.), as there are species of objects by which we are affected. (p. 100)

Spinoza does not have a “one-size-fits-all” view of the affects. As we see in P56, there are a multitude, possibly infinity, of species of joy, sadness and desire. This is important for the teacher to realise because he/she should not be looking for definite “indicators” or benchmarks of the affects. I don’t think they can be quantified and measured in this way; it’s more of a question of the teacher using their powers of “reason” to gain an “adequate idea” of the species of affect that are informing a learner’s approach.

Love is a joy, accompanied by the idea of an external cause (pp. 105, DVI)

The teacher should consider the ways in which they might make their object of learning a joyful object so that they might inculcate the affect of love within their students towards that object. The most significant way they could do this is by helping their students conceive a love of learning itself. That is help their students love the processes of learning. There is a great deal of evidence that shows when learners become aware of the way they learn, they become more effective learners. A Spinozist pedagogy would take things a step further and would explicitly nurture a love of the learning processes by helping learners conceive of adequate ideas of the way they learn.

Journey into Joy

How do you learn? When have you most enjoyed learning? Are there common learning processes

Learning and Devotion

Devotion is a love of one whom we wonder at (pp. 106, D. X)

A Spinozist pedagogue would try and steer a learner away from the affect of “devotion” because as was pointed out before, “wonder” is an “imagination” of a thing we don’t have an adequate idea of. As has been argued, a central tenet of a Spinozist pedagogy would be to help the learner see the “holism” of knowledge.

Journey into Joy

What things or people are you devoted to in the Spinozist sense? Why do you think you feel this way?

Learning, Self-Love and over-estimation

Overestimation is thinking more highly of someone than is just, out of love. (pp. 107, D. XXI)

There are a number of points to consider about Spinoza’s conception of “over-estimation” in the educational context. I am particularly interested in the ways in which institutions, acting as “bodies” in their rights, can “over-estimate” themselves. So, for example, schools which attain high rankings in the school league tables may well “over-estimate” themselves, thinking more highly of themselves than is just. To explain, the results of the students may well be due to a host of other factors other than the school’s input – the educational, social, economic background of the students for example – and yet the school will take “credit” for the school’s “great results”, and thus “over-estimating” itself. I have seen this happen from personal experience; schools, as a collective body, pat themselves on the back for their “great results” and actually do not address key issues that need to be addressed.

Equally, the hierarchical structures of educational institutions can lead to people over-estimating others. The classic example of this is a student falling in love with teacher and chronically over-estimating that teacher’s powers. Teachers are in a position where the affect of over-estimation is constantly at play because of the power imbalance between students and teachers.

There is also the “over-estimation” of oneself within the educational context. I think this is very important to consider. Spinoza defines “self-love” or “self-esteem as:

joy arising from considering ourselves. And since this is renewed as a man considers his virtues, or his power of acting, it also happens that everyone is anxious to tell his own deeds, and show off his powers, both of body and of mind and that men, for this reason, are troublesome to one another. From this it follows, again, that men are by nature envious (see P24S and P32S), or are glad of their equals’ weakness and saddened by their equals’ virtue. (pp. 98-99).

Taking this into account, we can see why educational institutions can become breeding grounds for the affects of self-love and envy. Both students and teachers are constantly being given chances to “consider” their own “virtues” in that they are being given feedback on their work, grades based on their work, and opportunities to consider how well they have performed in a whole host of subjects and situations, both formal and informal. In this sense, we can see how schools are almost “machines” for generating chances to feel “self-love” and “envy”: the very mechanism of the institution produces constant opportunities for teachers and students to reflect upon their own virtues or achievements. But a Spinozist pedagogy would have to point out that these forms of self-love and envy will necessarily produce inadequate conceptions of ourselves. This is because our sense of identity as autonomous agents will be false. For example, if a student attains a high mark in an exam, he/she may well over-estimate him/herself, considering his/her virtues as really rather wonderful, and will feel that it was him/herself alone that produced that result. But, as we have seen, a Spinozist universe is one of an infinite series of causes and effects; there are no autonomous agents, and therefore the jubilant “top-grade” student is the victim of the affect of self-love, suckered into imagining him/herself as wonderful when he/she is not.

Pride is thinking more highly of oneself than is just, out love of oneself… love of oneself, or self-esteem, insofar as it so affects a man that he thinks more highly of himself than is just. (pp. 108, D XXVIII)


Journey into Joy  

When have you felt these types of self-love, self-esteem or pride within educational settings? Think about times when you have “achieved” good results etc.; what are your thoughts upon your achievements having absorbed Spinoza’s philosophy? Did you have an “adequate idea” of yourself?

In what ways do the configurations and structures of education produce these affects? Why do you think that they do this?


Learning, Loving and Favour

Favor is a love toward someone who has benefited another. (pp. 107, D. XIX)

The affect of favour plays an important role in educational institutions because there are so many opportunities for people to benefit one another. The affect of favour comes more into play, the more pressurised and “high-stakes” the atmosphere is. So, for example, if a teacher may well feel favour towards the headteacher if he/she gives him a pay rise, and may feel a form of love towards him/her. This is a very crude example, but, in my experience, favour happens in more subtle ways. Many teachers can resent a headteacher who has such power over him/her for reasons we will explore later, but may well feel favour towards a colleague who has significantly helped them with planning lessons, a difficult class or marking. The affect of favour happens gradually over time, with colleagues benefitting each other in little but consistent ways. Such institutional situations can generate genuine feelings of love. Similarly, students can feel this affect towards teachers, because they have seen that the teacher has “gone the extra mile” to help them.

But a Spinozist pedagogue would point out that it was the institutional “set-up” which produce the breeding ground for these types of favour. Ideally, a teacher would aim to create the conditions where “nobility” rather than “favour” was nurtured.

Journey into Joy  

When have you felt “favour” towards someone within the educational context? What about outside the educational context?

Teaching and Favour

The stereotype of the teacher who has his/her favourites is still prevalent in our culture today, both in actual and virtual forms. I have seen a number of teachers who clearly have their “favourites”: they have an inadequate idea overall of their pupils’ powers of action because they believe mistakenly that some students are “better” than others. This is because they like students who “benefit” them.

Journey into Joy


When have you come across teachers who have their favourites? And students? Why does favouritism happen? What are the knock-on effects of favouritism? See Learning and Envy.

Compassion, Loving and learning

Compassion is love, insofar as it so affects a man that he is glad at another’s good fortune, and saddened by his ill fortune. (1994a, pp. 108, D. XXIV)

Compassion can be a powerful tool for learning. For example, some of the most effective lessons that I have taught have been when students feel compassion towards characters they have been reading about, such as in Of Mice and Men when the main protagonist Lennie dies. The compassion that the students have towards the idea of Lennie, an entirely fictional character, means that they feel strongly connected to the book, and from this passion, they gain a sense of the joyful nature of reading. However, it is important for the teacher to build upon the affect by getting students to conceive of adequate ideas about why they might be feeling this way. Ultimately, gaining an adequate idea of this affect might mean that students begin to learn how they’ve had their emotions manipulated by the writer, who, you could argue, has deliberated engineered his writing so that readers will feel this affect. The writer Kazuo Ishiguru says that he plans all of his novels by working out what sort of feeling he wants his readers to have at the end of his story.

Journey into Joy

When have you felt compassion in an educational context?

When might compassion be a suitable affect to explore in education?

Teaching and Loving

I think it important for a teacher to model the reasons why he/she loves learning. See Conceiving Adequate Ideas About Love and Learning.

Hopeful Learning

hope is nothing but an inconstant joy which has arisen from the image of a future or past thing whose outcome we doubt; (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 81, P18 Schol. 2)

Hope is an inconstant joy, born of the idea of a future or past thing whose outcome we to some extent doubt.  (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. XII)

Is hope an effective affect to nurture in education? I’m not so sure. As Spinoza points out, it is closely allied with fear; once a teacher nurtures hope, they also bring fear. It is definitely an affect which attaches itself to “performance oriented” learning (see my commentary on Spinoza’s Appendix to I). Once a teacher stokes up the “hope” that a student might achieve well in a piece of work, they also create the fear that they may not. Too easily in my experience, the “hope” of doing well replaces any intrinsic love of learning. The affect of “hope” hijacks the learner displacing any “adequate ideas” they have had about the topic they were studying. This said, when “hope” is focused upon the learning, a student’s powers of action could be increased. For example, a learner might “hope” to find the correct answer (as opposed to hoping for a good grade) and this may motivate them to problem-solve in a productive way. In English, this might mean a learner hoping to make sense of a difficult passage they don’t understand. This said, if hope is the only affect at play, it may not be enough for a learner to adequate overcome “cognitive dissonance”; they may well be easily defeated in their quest to adequately understand a long description by a writer like Thomas Hardy. The affect of “tenacity” will be more significant in helping them problem solve.

Journey into Joy

When have teachers invoked the affect of “hope” in you and to what effect? For example, presenting you with the hope of doing well in a test? Do you think it’s a useful affect for a teacher to deploy in classroom settings?

Confident Learning

Next, if the doubt involved in these affects is removed, hope becomes confidence (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 81, P18 Schol. 2)

Confidence is a joy born of the idea of a future or past thing, concerning which the cause of doubting has been removed. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. XIV)

I have noticed time and again how easily my confidence in myself has been destroyed by the negative aspect of despair. It’s only from reading Spinoza that I’ve realised how closely related confidence and despair are, and this has really helped me better understand why I’ve had my confidence so easily shattered. Let me explain. Within the school system, there is a constant striving for certainty in so many ways. In the current climate of constant government pressure to attain high results, schools, as bodies in themselves, want to find the “sure-fire” way to success, to attaining the best results from students, and in this quest they reach for the latest initiative that offers “certainty”. This affect is passed on to the teacher who searches for “certain” methods that will ensure that they are an “effective” teacher; this methods can bring “confidence” in the Spinozist sense of the word. “Doubt” has been removed from the equation; this is the “way” of doing things. I saw this with the Literacy Strategies in the early 2000s.

This was a government directive which instructed teachers to “deliver” hundreds of detailed learning objectives at Key Stages 1-3 (5-14 year olds). These learning objectives were supplied in thick folders – and later online. Teachers of literacy (largely English and Primary school teachers) were asked to teach to one or two of these “Literacy” objectives every lesson. There were objectives for each year group. It was complicated to figure out how to teach to these objectives because their wording was often academic and inaccessible for both students and teachers. Nevertheless, the affect of “certainty” entered the school system: there was no doubting about what to do. Research and my own experience shows that this stopped teachers thinking for themselves; they became confident because all “doubting” about what and how to teach had been removed. The instructions about how to teach the Literacy Strategy were also very detailed. The Literacy Strategy was abandoned in the late Noughties and early 2010 partly because of a change of government, but also because there was a dawning realisation that it was not working on behalf of the profession and policy-makers. Instead, a new “certainty” entered the system; this was that everything in the Literacy Strategy was ineffective.

The new government issued a new National Curriculum which, although shorter, was just as prescriptive in some ways in its insistence upon the teaching of pre-20th century literature and grammatical terminology as the way to improve standards of literacy. I would argue that this context has shaped the affects that produce the teacher in that the teacher is on an endless, Sisyphean process whereby they achieve a “false” confidence that a particular teaching method or topic must be taught and this affect informs their teaching persona for a while, but then they lose confidence because it becomes clear that their confidence was misplaced. I’ve found countless times that this cycle of confidence, doubt and despair has “produced” me at various stages in my teaching career. For example, I feel sure that a particular method is the way to teach a text for an exam and I work hard upon doing it this way only to suffer at the end of the course a set of “bad” class results because my students have performed badly in an exam. The confidence that I felt is utterly shattered and I despair that I will ever get it right. Or I will feel confident that I have assessed students’ coursework correctly only to learn that my marks are questioned by a colleague – or worse a senior manager – and that I was “wrong”. Often, I will have been judged to have been “over-inflating” my own students’ marks and be told that my students’ work is “sub-standard”, thus implying that my teaching of them has been poor. This has often had the effect of destroying my confidence: my conception of my own intellectual and pedagogical abilities is severely altered, making me think that I don’t really know what I’m doing.


Finally, gladness is a joy which has arisen from the image of a past thing whose outcome we doubted. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 81, P18 Schol. 2)

Gladness is a joy, accompanied by the idea of a past thing which has turned out better than we had hoped. (pp. 107, D. XVI)

Gladness and The Learner

Often many learners will under-estimate their abilities, doubt that things will go well, in order to feel the affect of gladness when they do.

Journey into Joy

When have you felt glad that things have turned out better than you have hoped? What effect has this affect had upon you? Have you begun to doubt yourself so that you might feel this affect again?

Gladness and the Teacher

Teaching provides many opportunities to feel gladness. This is because there are many “outcomes” which teachers doubt will turn out well. For example, a teacher may seriously doubt that a class will behave with them, and then when they do, he/she feels very glad. This has been a repeated affect during my career. I’ve had a particularly “bad” class – my students have not paid attention, have not got on with the work etc. – and have dreaded teaching the class the next day, but then it turns out that they do get on with the work and appear to learn something. The gladness I’ve felt in such circumstances has been particularly gratifying.

The other times when I’ve felt glad is when it’s been a CPD or “snow day”. During the winter months, the snow has randomly descended upon the school’s portion of earth and the school, not being able to cope with the blocked roads, the broken water pipes etc. – has shut. What I had expected to be a long, hard day teaching turns out to be totally “free”. The gladness I’ve felt is extreme. I suppose I am unusual in that I have always enjoyed pursuing my writing in my free time rather than watching TV all day. The gladness I’ve felt is the time to write things like what I am currently writing at my own leisure.

With CPD, I’ve felt glad to have a training day rather than teaching, even though such training days have been quite boring. I’ve often found that I feel very tired on such days, wanting to nod off as a trainer delivers yet another PowerPoint lecture on how and what to teach. Perhaps my sleepiness has been due to the fact that I feel more relaxed.

I have found that this “affect” of gladness has informed my current job as Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths. The job is very different from teaching in that while there is a certain amount of teaching involved, it is sporadic, and I have found that I have had many more days “free” than before. I said to one friend that I’m treating the job like an extended CPD and snow day. The job has given me more freedom and time to pursue my own writing projects.

I do school visits where I observe student teachers teach. It’s then that I miss the classroom – to a degree – I miss the interaction with students, talking to them about what they are thinking, feeling and learning. But I don’t miss the relentless “lesson after lesson” affect that I used to feel at the beginning of many days. It is very draining being a teacher because it requires so much energy. And during my teaching career, I was usually teaching at least four or five lessons a day, one lesson after another. There was no chance for reflection, for thinking about what I was doing, or what my students were learning. No real chance to think. I am very glad that I now have that chance. It wasn’t something that I expected. I always expected to teach in a secondary school until I retired. The lecturing job was unexpected, and it is this “unexpectedness” that has generated the affect of gladness in me I think. Frequently, my mind reflects upon how glad I am to be doing the job I am.

Joy and sadness: a chart

This is a word processed version of the same chart:

Joy Joy ——————–Sadness


Love is a joy, accompanied by the idea of an external cause (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 105, DVI)   Hate is a sadness, accompanied by the idea of an external cause (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, DVII)
Inclination is a joy accompany by the idea of a thing which the accidental cause of joy (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. VIII) Aversion is a sadness accompanied by the idea of something which the accidental cause of sadness (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. IX)
Mockery is a joy born of the fact that we imagine something we disdain in a thing we hate (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. XI)
Hope is an inconstant joy, born of the idea of a future or past thing whose outcome we to some extent doubt.  (pp. 106, D. XII) Fear is an inconstant sadness, born of the idea of a future or past thing whose outcome we to some extent doubt. (pp. 106, D. XIII)
Confidence is a joy born of the idea of a future or past thing, concerning which the cause of doubting has been removed. (Spinoza, 1994a, pp. 106, D. XIV) Despair is a sadness born of the idea of a future or past thing, concerning which the cause of doubting has been removed. (pp. 106, D. XV)
Gladness is a joy, accompanied by the idea of a past thing which has turned out better than we had hoped. (pp. 107, D. XVI) Envy is a hate insofar as it so affects a man that he is saddened by another’s happiness and, conversely, glad at his ill fortune. (pp. 107, D. XXIII) Remorse is a sadness, accompanied by the idea of a past thing which has turned out worse than we had hoped (pp. 107, D. XVII)
Pity is a sadness, accompanied by the idea of an evil which has happened to another whom we imagine to be like us. Compassion is…the habitual disposition of this affect. (pp. 107, D. XVIII)
Self-esteem is a joy born of the fact that a man considers himself and power of acting. (pp. 108, D. XXV) See also Pride. Humility is a sadness born of the fact that a man considers his own lack of power, or weakness. (pp. 108, D. XXVI)
  Repentance is a sadness accompanied by the idea of some deed we believe ourselves


Despondency is thinking less highly of oneself than is just, out of sadness (pp. 108, D XXIX)

Love of esteem is a joy accompanied by the idea of some action of ours which we imagine that others praise. (pp. 108, D XXX) Shame is a sadness, accompanied by the idea of some action which we imagine that others blame. (pp. 108, D XXXI)
Joy which arises from the absence of the thing we hate (P47S) (pp. 110, D XXXII) Longing is really a sadness which is opposed to that joy which arises from the absence of a thing we hate (P47S) (pp. 110, D XXXII)
Cheerfulness = species of joy

(p. 105)

Melancholy = species of sadness (p. 105)
Pleasure = species of joy (p. 105) Pain = species of sadness (p. 105)