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Rousseau on Education, Freedom, and Judgment

By Denise Schaeffer

Publication Year: 2014

In Rousseau on Education, Freedom, and Judgment, Denise Schaeffer challenges the common view of Rousseau as primarily concerned with conditioning citizens’ passions in order to promote republican virtue and unreflective patriotism. Schaeffer argues that, to the contrary, Rousseau’s central concern is the problem of judgment and how to foster it on both the individual and political level in order to create the conditions for genuine self-rule. Offering a detailed commentary on Rousseau’s major work on education, Emile, and a wide-ranging analysis of the relationship between Emile and several of Rousseau’s other works, Schaeffer explores Rousseau’s understanding of what good judgment is, how it is learned, and why it is central to the achievement and preservation of human freedom. The model of Rousseauian citizenship that emerges from Schaeffer’s analysis is more dynamic and self-critical than is often recognized. This book demonstrates the importance of Rousseau’s contribution to our understanding of the faculty of judgment, and, more broadly, invites a critical reevaluation of Rousseau’s understanding of education, citizenship, and both individual and collective freedom.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. vi-vii

The National Endowment for the Humanities provided support for this project in its earliest stages, which helped me to get the project off the ground. The College of the Holy Cross generously provided research leaves that gave me time to think, write, and revise. Portions of some of the chapters were originally published elsewhere. Most of chapter 3 appeared as “The Utility of...

Abreviations of Rousseau’s Works

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p. viii-viii

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pp. 1-15

The idea of democracy presupposes that human beings are capable of exercising judgment, since it requires citizens who are capable of making judgments about a shared public world. The question of how to foster this capacity in individuals is thus a fundamental question for political philosophy. Yet the process by which the ability to exercise good judgment is acquired and nurtured...

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1. Judgment and the Standard of Nature

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pp. 16-35

Whatever else good judgment means for Rousseau, it is certainly grounded in his understanding of nature, which provides a standard against which civil society is to be judged. To what degree, and in what sense (i.e., whether substantively or as a formal standard of wholeness), nature remains relevant to human beings living in society is the subject of much scholarly debate; but...

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2. Learning to Move: The Body, the Senses, and the Foundations of Judgment

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pp. 36-62

The first three books of Emile are generally understood to constitute Emile’s “negative” (93; 4:323) education, that is, an education designed to preserve his natural wholeness while forestalling the development of prejudices and passions (especially amour-propre) by warding off all social influences. Rousseau states that this first, negative education “consists not at all in teaching...

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3. Books and Experience in the Education of Judgment

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pp. 63-84

I have argued that the issue of learning (growing, changing) while staying in place, or combining integrity and change, is a fundamental challenge of Emile’s education—and, more broadly for Rousseau, the fundamental challenge of what it means to be truly human, insofar as human beings are understood to possess both an original nature and the quality of perfectibility. This issue is...

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4. Judgment and Pity

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pp. 85-106

The first half of Emile’s education is concerned primarily with bodies in motion. First, the practical child-rearing advice of book I focuses on freeing the infant’s limbs from swaddling blankets, shoes, and other unnaturally debilitating constraints. In book II, Emile learns to run and to sharpen his senses. The scientific inquiries undertaken in book III are launched by the question...

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5. Piety and Authority

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pp. 107-133

We began with a political problem: while Rousseau’s political theory holds out the promise of genuine democratic freedom, the means by which he proposes to secure this freedom seems to undermine that very freedom at its core. In his discussion of religion in book IV of Emile, this problem resurfaces in a new register. On the one hand, Rousseau purports to offer the Savoyard Vicar’s...

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6. Judgment, Love, and Illusion

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pp. 134-157

On the surface, Rousseau’s discussion of love in book V of Emile seems focused principally on the cultivation of virtue and has little to do with the cultivation of judgment. Rousseau’s earlier rhetoric about the importance of Emile’s thinking his own thoughts disappears, replaced by a concern with directing his pupil toward a healthy sociability and preventing sexual debauchery. “I shall...

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7. Judgment and the Possibility of Partial Detachment

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pp. 158-173

Immediately after finishing Emile, Rousseau began working on a sequel, Emile et Sophie, ou Les Solitaires, which remained incomplete at the time of his death in 1778. The work consists of two letters from Emile to his absent tutor. In the first, Emile describes the events that led to the dissolution of his marriage to Sophie and laments the psychic pain that he has experienced as a result. In the...

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8. Judgment and Citizenship

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pp. 174-196

I have argued that the ultimate purpose of Rousseau’s educational project as it unfolds in Emile is the cultivation of good judgment, the cornerstone of which he sees as the ability to discern the illusions that cloud our view of human relationships without becoming either thoroughly seduced or thoroughly disillusioned. As we have seen, Emile advocates a large dose of manipulation and...


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pp. 197-216


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pp. 217-232

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271062631
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271062099
Print-ISBN-10: 0271062096

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014