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Prof. Torralba: "Willpower can be educated from childhood".

In a colloquium exclusively for Omnes collaborators, Professor Torralba stressed that the key to a good education of the will is to make the "heart the motor of the will".

David Fernández Alonso-March 3, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
education of the will

On the afternoon of Tuesday, February 2, a colloquium organized by Omnes with Professor Jose Maria Torralba took place. This is the Omnes Dialogues, a series of talks with authors or relevant figures, offered exclusively for collaborators, those people who financially support the Omnes project (you can learn more about this event at how to join here).

Jose Maria Torralba is professor of ethics and director of the Core Curriculum Institute at the University of Navarra. The dialogue was entitled "Freedom and desire in the education of the will"and was based on an article by the author himself published in Omnes, entitled "Will as engine and will as heart".

A very fashionable theme

The dialogue began with the intervention of the moderator, Rafael Miner, editor of Omnes, who introduced the professor and introduced the subject, "as old as philosophy, although it has become very fashionable in recent years. In fact, he added, Oxford University is working on a program of virtuous leadership. In other parts of Europe they are interested in and are working on character education from an Aristotelian perspective, from the virtues.

The objectives proposed by Professor Torralba, once he was given the floor by the moderator, were mainly two: on the one hand, to reflect on some features of the human capacity to desire that we call will; and on the other hand, to situate ourselves to be in a position to educate it better: in ourselves and in others, for those who are dedicated to education.

Desire and freedom

Professor Torralba went on to identify some initial concepts, of which it is worth mentioning, on the one hand, that identity is defined by desire, which is why so much is at stake in the education of the will. On the other hand, this task has to be carried out from within oneself. It could be said that it is about self-education, where the protagonist is oneself, and freedom plays a fundamental role.

To illustrate a classic error in this task, the fact that willpower is decisive, he used an experiment with young children, the Marshmallow Test. This experiment consists of several children being offered a candy, and being told that if they wait a few minutes and hold on without eating it, they will be given an additional candy. In fact, the reading to be made from this example is that children act according to what they have learned in their family, school or environment.

Two dimensions of will

Finally, he explained the different dimensions of the will: the will as "motor" and the will as "heart. He wanted to emphasize that perhaps the tradition from which we come, whether cultural or religious, has placed greater emphasis on the first dimension, on the will as motor, when a balance between the two is important.

"The distinction serves to explain that the problem of spiritual voluntarism consists in reducing the function of the will to being a motor, that is, to the capacity to carry out correct actions. On the other hand, the risk of understanding the will only as heart would be to end up in some kind of spiritual quietism, as if there were no need to make an effort to achieve the good and to grow morally. 

A successful life

Professor Torralba concluded with a proposal and a key. The proposal, to reach a successful life. And the key, to integrate the two dimensions, where "a good education of the will is one that makes the heart the motor".

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