Developing the Habits to Learn: Logos, Thumos, and Eros

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiment is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.” – C. S. Lewis

Learning is a developed habit. Often, the university is viewed as a place that imparts an education aimed at the mind alone, or logos, reason. Developing a student’s ability to think clearly is the stated goal. But a person who thinks rightly (logos), and does not have a right spirit within them (thumos), or develop a virtuous appetite (eros), is not a whole person. A learned person, a whole person, is thus one who has learned to use reason, desire what is good, which can only be moderated by a right spirit. This is a tall order, especially if university education is conceived as only occurring in the classroom.

The university ought to be aimed at educating the whole person. To accomplish educating the whole person––irrigating deserts as it were––universities need to move towards a more holistic approach. At many universities, the “academic side of the house” and the “student services side of the house” are seen as two different entities. Often, these two sides of the house do not even profess the same mission for the university or its students.

Logos, thumos, and eros—or, the head, the stomach, and the chest—all need to be educated. In order to accomplish this at the university, all sides of the house need to be directed toward the same task.

How is this done? Universities need to commit to engaging students and leading them toward what is good, true, and beautiful both in and out of the classroom. Places need to be developed within the residence halls for students to comfortably gather and discuss the life of the mind and its relation to the life of the appetite and the spirit. Faculty need to be accessible inside and outside of the classroom in order to guide students not only towards rational discovery of knowledge, but also in those aspects of their lives that are of a more everyday nature. Student services need to work towards being a support arm of the greater goal of the university and the faculty whose job it is to instruct.

Inside and outside of the classroom, those involved at any level with university education ought to inculcate students with ideas of goodness, truth, and beauty in the hopes that holistically, and together, our students will become wise, honorable, and cultivated. Reason (logos), spirit (thumos), and appetite (eros) need to be guided, trained, and educated so that a whole person matriculates from the university ready to face the world knowing their callings and ready to engage their faith in the world.

At Concordia University Irvine (CUI), we have accomplished this well and hope to do more in the future. We have five theme-based living learning communities that each have a Faculty-in-Residence or Mentor-in-Residence living in the halls with students. These faculty and mentors guide the daily conversation in their halls to engage students with logos, thumos, and the eros so that they develop as a whole people. Inside and outside of the classroom, CUI is committed to developing wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens towards lives of learning, service, and leadership.

As C. S. Lewis claimed in The Abolition of Man, “The only right defense against false sentiment is to inculcate just sentiments.” Just sentiments are only inculcated when students are educated as whole people. The benefits received from the educational opportunities inherent to the university are more effective when they occur in classroom, in the residential halls, around the dinner table, and in the places and people students encounter in everyday life. This is how the habit to learn is developed and fostered in students: by engaging logos, thumos, and eros in every aspect of student life and education.

Scott Keith is Associate Dean of Residential Education and Housing Services at Concordia University Irvine

  • Michael_Karounos

    P.S. You mean epithumia not Eros