Lecture 6 - Rousseau on State of Nature and Education

author: Iván Szelényi, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: June 24, 2012,   recorded: September 2009,   views: 2633
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

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The general will--dangerous if taken too far--operates in many elements of our social and civic life. Immunizations that are compulsory for living in dorms serve the common good--the general will--regardless of individual will. The general will operates in society when individuals develop not only amour de soi, selfish love, but also amour propre, love of self in relation to others. Rousseau distinguished between bourgeois individuals who have amour de soi and citizens who exemplify amour propre. In addition to being a political and social thinker, Rousseau is an early and influential education theorist. In his book Émile, Rousseau argues that individuals are born good but are corrupted by society. He advocates "negative education" which aims at reducing mental errors that students may pick up in society. Negative education, Rousseau argues, is accomplished by focusing on educating students on how to think rather than training them in what to think.

Reading assignment:

Rousseau, Émile, or On Education

- Book 3, pp. 165-208
- Book 4, pp. 211-267
- Book 5, pp. 376-406

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