Sunday, 4 November 2012


Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote a two part treatise on Education. The first (and often assumed the only) volume of this work is Emile.

Emile is raised in a garden by a tutor who retards his moral development in favour of physical development. Emile at age 12 is totally ignorant of the right/wrong, true/false, good/bad distictions key to the TJEd's Core phase.

The garden is an image of nature and the tutor is an image of Man's understanding. What Rousseau is saying by educating Emile in this way is that he should have knowledge of natural laws (Might is right) before any human laws are imposed on him.

Rousseau was a careful student of Locke, who proposed that the free market should replace the battlefield of natural laws. Instead of might is right, we should have political and economic contracts which govern our behaviour. The State is the only entity who possesses the right to kill (the death penalty). Rousseau agrees with all of this, but argues that there are two other types of contracts that should exist: social and loving.

Social contracts are cultural customs, ettiquette, etc. Love, Rousseau says, is the most important type of contract and it should be dealt with last. This is reflected in the Emile, where Emile is kept wholly ignorant from the differences of the sexes for as long as possible.

Economic contracts sometimes conflict with political ones, as social contracts sometimes do with loving contracts. Rousseau's central question is how do we educate for all four of these contracts, given that sometimes they conflict?

A key observation of Rousseau's is that humans fear losing the 'sentiment of existence' more than anything else. This is why we fear death. This sentiment is satisfied by love. Because of this and because Rousseau asserts that political and economic education has been covered satisfactorily by Locke, he will focus on education for love and social contracts.

Rousseau describes two types of love. Amour de soi is the ability to evaluate yourself by your own standards. Often this is translated as self-esteem. This is entirely desirable and it is cultivated in Emile by his tutor. Amour propre is the other type of love described by Rousseau. Rousseau defines it as defining your worth in relation to others and is totally undesirable. He means to eliminate this from Emile.

The picture of love painted by Rousseau is very similar to the Greek story of love. According to Rousseau, every human is incomplete. It is impossible to complete yourself so must seek another to complete you. You need amour de soi to do this. Completion has two effects: attaining the 'good', which is the objective truth and experiencing sentient, passionate love.

By being brought up in political and economic surroundings we surrender our natural freedom, which causes us to lose the knowledge of what is truly good for us. Rousseau knows that finding the truth about what is really good for us is vexingly difficult. He does know for certain that domestic education is the best education to preserve love.

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