Rousseau: Emile (Summary)

Emile or On Education, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, exposes the philosophy of education of the Genevan thinker. As the Social Contract, Emile was immediately banned by the authorities because it criticizes Rousseau’s rejection of traditional conceptions of religion. This book describes the dialogue between the tutor and Emile, from birth to adulthood.

Rousseau, Anthropology and Education:

Philosophy of Education has its roots in Rousseau’s anthropology (or philosophy of subjectivity), presented in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Men: human beings are inherently good. Thus, the role of education is to cultivate that goodness as a natural tendency. However, Rousseau does not advocate a return to the state of nature, but rather an improvement of vital statistics. We should not strive to be of noble savages because they have no social ties, while others require the civil and social skills. In this sense, if the self-esteem, equivalent to selfishness, must be annihilated in children is to develop in them the love of self, as a trend contrary to the self-esteem.

Education, women and sexuality:

The character of Sophie allows Rousseau to present how the boys should be educated. Their education should be paid to the theoretical ideas and their physical development. According to Rousseau, men are with women than desire, the women have both the desire and need of men, which requires submission of women to men. However, Rousseau advocates a feminist view insofar as it is for women smarter and more talented in the practical field as man.

Rousseau and the profession of faith of the Savoyard Vicar:

The profession of faith of the Savoyard Vicar is part of the fourth book of Emile and presents the religious part of education. In the story of the vicar, Rousseau posits the existence of an inner light as a source of truth. Thus, the knowledge of God lies in the observation of the natural order. Therefore, Christianity is not the only true religion, since, according to Rousseau, any religion that identifies God as the creator and preaches virtue and morality, is true.


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