Rousseau and Desire 9781442685376

Rousseau and Desire is the first examination of the eighteenth-century philosopher's conceptualization of desire in

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Rousseau and Desire

Table of contents :
Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity
PART ONE. From the Standard of Natural Independence to the Challenges of Bourgeois Capitalism
1. Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality
2. An Alternative to Economic Man: The Limitation of Desire in Rousseau’s Emile
3. Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society
PART TWO. Desire and the Problem of Others in Modernity
4. Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau
5. Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau
6. Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence
PART THREE. Sex, Kids, Love, and the City
7. ‘The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men’: Rousseau on Desire and the Child
8. Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity, and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Rousseau and Desire



© University of Toronto Press Incorporated 2009 Toronto Buffalo London Printed in Canada ISBN 978-1-4426-4041-2

Printed on acid-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Rousseau and desire / edited by Mark Blackell, John Duncan, and Simon Kow. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4426-4041-2 1. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1712–1778. 2. Desire (Philosophy). 3. Self (Philosophy). 4. Civilization, Modern – Philosophy. I. Blackell, Mark, 1967– II. Kow, Simon, 1974– III. Duncan, John, 1960– B2137.R69 2009



University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP).




Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity 3 mark blackell, john duncan, and simon kow PART ONE: FROM THE STANDARD OF NATURAL INDEPENDENCE TO THE CHALLENGES OF BOURGEOIS CAPITALISM 1 Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality 17 john duncan 2 An Alternative to Economic Man: The Limitation of Desire in Rousseau’s Emile 46 grace roosevelt 3 Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society 62 simon kow PART TWO: DESIRE AND THE PROBLEM OF OTHERS IN MODERNITY 4 Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau 85 vasiliki grigoropoulou



5 Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau katrin froese


6 Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence 117 mark blackell PART THREE: SEX, KIDS, LOVE, AND THE CITY 7 ‘The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men’: Rousseau on Desire and the Child 141 brian duff 8 Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity, and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 165 mira morgenstern Bibliography







We would like to thank the following for their generous support in the development of this book: The University of King’s College; the Liberal Studies and Political Science Departments, the Faculty of Social Science, and the Office of the Vice-President Academic, Vancouver Island University; and Trinity College and the Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto.

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Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity mark blackell, john duncan, and simon kow

Eloquently written and passionately argued, Rousseau’s work explores, among other things, the depths of the modern self. In his personal life and autobiographical reflections, as well as in his political philosophy and literary writing, Rousseau was attuned to the roles that desire plays in the formation of the self and in social and political reality. Rousseau’s wide and continuing appeal to scholars and laypersons alike is in large measure due to the fact that he can be read as expressing deep concerns about aspects of modern life, while also providing profound criticism of the Enlightenment and of modern society more generally. In his Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau criticizes commercial society as requiring a selfhood rooted in an other-regarding desire for status he calls amourpropre, which both displaces the simple natural desires of caring for oneself, or amour de soi-même, and proliferates artificial desires. While this influential criticism is not exclusive to modern society, Rousseau clearly has the modern, bourgeois societies of Europe in mind. Indeed, his assessment of the proliferation of desires amounts to a profound criticism of modern societies and their concomitant forms of subjectivity. This criticism pervades his work beyond the Discourse on Inequality and it remains a key part of his legacy as we continue to encounter in our societies the very dynamics he identified well over two hundred years ago. Engagement with Rousseau’s treatment of modernity in the works of such writers as Jacques Derrida, Allan Bloom, Charles Taylor, and Julia Kristeva reflect his deep relevance for contemporary thought. The problem of modernity, according to Rousseau, is in many ways a problem of desire in the modern self, and as many of the contributors to this volume argue, the modern self, for Rousseau, is symptomatically divided by desire. The divisions and degenerations of the modern


Mark Blackell, John Duncan, and Simon Kow

self are made possible by a malleable desire and yet, at the same time, Rousseau makes reference to forms of authentic desire that provide an Archimedean point from which to criticize modernity. Thus desire in the modern self is a site of conflict, marked by both pitfall and promise. But what exactly is desire for Rousseau? How is it that desire can be at the root of the inequality and deep suffering of the modern self, and yet also be part of the solution to the ills of modernity? The essays in this volume stem from a cluster of questions about the nature of desire in Rousseau’s assessment of modernity, the complexity of which results in a variety of responses. Part of the complexity derives from the virtual inseparability of Rousseau’s description and critique. As interpreters of his work, we face the question of his descriptive conceptualization of the various forms of desire, but when Rousseau describes the modern endless proliferation of desires for recognition that can never be finally satisfied, he does so from the critical standpoint of the simple desire of the unreclaimable natural human in all of us. In this famous contrast, modern desire is described, but as a symptom of a normatively problematic modernity, the undesirable side of modernity, as it were. If the modern self desires natural justice, must it not desire what is no longer modern? With respect to our problematic modernity, we encounter Rousseau’s life-long meditation on justice, evident in his political philosophy but also in his literary and autobiographical work, which suggests possibilities of political, but also of personal, transcendence. It is no easy task to tease out, properly distinguish, and order all the elements that ought to cohere in Rousseau’s comprehensive descriptive and normative thought; and because this thought attempts to stand against its own time, neither is it an easy task to distinguish its enlightened critique from its critique of the Enlightenment, nor the relationships between itself as critique and discourses of subjugation from patriarchy to ethnocentrism. In the end, description in a variety of forms is intertwined with critique in a variety of forms. The various strands that constitute this intertwining – the intertwining of subjugation and critique, Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment, personal and political, modern and other-than-modern, fact and norm, nature and corruption – lead in various ways to a proliferation of divisions and desires in the modern self and polity. For Rousseau, desire is always centre stage – at times the hero, at others the villain – apparently divided against itself, but also carrying the promise of integration through some potential unification of self-love and the desire for community. If desire is always centre stage in Rousseau, offstage there are further

Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity


interpretive complexities which have led to a remarkable multiplicity of approaches in the scholarly literature on Rousseau. On the one hand, there are important contextual influences to which Rousseau was subject, such as early modern or Enlightenment discussions of philosophical mechanism, of the divided nature of human consciousness, of desire as essentially related to the operations of commercial society, and of the republican ideal of civic virtue operating as what we might call the social bond, to name some of the more prominent themes dealt with in this volume. To distinguish and understand the various roles such influences had in Rousseau’s work requires an archaeological attention to apparently unconnected details. On the other hand, Rousseau himself influenced the traditions that subsequently shaped our own interpretive lenses, such that there are both differences and similarities between his writing and our own. For example, we must be careful not to impose nineteenth- and twentieth-century accounts of subconscious desire on Rousseau, even if he may have influenced the nineteenthcentury concern with dynamic unconscious processes. If we are to reveal Rousseau’s texts on their own terms, a careful selective bracketing of influences is required, and we are obliged to leave behind interpretive tendencies that treat Rousseau as providing uncomplicated solutions to the ills of modern social and political existence. By a variety of means, each with a unique focus, and resulting in a variety of conclusions, the authors of Rousseau and Desire bring the diversity that currently reigns throughout Rousseau studies to the question of desire in this volume. From perspectives of intellectual history, history of philosophy, political theory, phenomenology, feminism, etc., we follow the various strands of desire in Rousseau’s works and provide not so much a survey of modernity as an in-depth examination of crucial issues lurking below its surface. Philosophical, psychological, and political strands of desire in historical context are dealt with, as well as more intimate strands especially in Rousseau’s later works, such as educational and familial strands. We emphasize in particular his attempts to resolve the problem of unfulfilled desire, and its deep social and political ramifications, revealing the fundamental interdisciplinarity of Rousseau’s work. In his more overtly political works, Rousseau indicates radical and revolutionary promise, but in his more literary and autobiographical works, promise seems to be supplanted by melancholy. This melancholy appears to be not only part of the fabric of Rousseau’s character but also, according to Rousseau himself, part of the fabric of modern social and political life. The earlier, more explicitly


Mark Blackell, John Duncan, and Simon Kow

political works are suffused with the problems of modernity as well as desire’s ambiguous expression and transcendence of those problems. When read in conjunction with the explicitly political texts, the later accounts of desire, in his educational, literary, and autobiographical works, point toward a reconnection of self and world through desire. Whether Rousseau actually thought this reconnection would come about is doubtful, but no one before him, and few since his time, have framed the question of desire in modernity with such passion and complexity. However one decides to orient oneself to the ambiguous nature of desire in modernity, our concern with it is indelibly shaped by Rousseau’s meditations. Despite the continued interest in Rousseau as an interdisciplinary thinker avant la lettre, little scholarly work directly addresses Rousseau on desire and modernity. Margaret Ogrodnick’s Instinct and Intimacy: Political Philosophy and Autobiography in Rousseau explores, from a psychoanalytic perspective, instincts and their relationship to modernity in Rousseau. The nature of desire in Rousseau, which may or may not be equated with instinct, is thrown open to debate in Rousseau and Desire. While many of the chapters attempt to bridge Rousseau’s autobiographical, literary, and political work in ways similar to Ogrodnick and others, there is no agreement here that Rousseau manages to unite self and other, or the realms of individual and political desire in modernity. Most of the explicit attempts to address desire in Rousseau tend to address primarily aesthetic and literary questions. For example, Michael Sheringham’s French Autobiography: Devices and Desires: Rousseau to Perec deals primarily with autobiographical writing in several authors, Rousseau being only the first. Michael O’Dea’s Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Music, Illusion, and Desire focuses on Rousseau’s early articles on music for the Encyclopedia, not his oeuvre generally, and deals chiefly with his aesthetic theory. Christopher Kelly’s Rousseau as Author: Consecrating One’s Life to the Truth discusses authorial responsibility and truth in Rousseau and does not focus on desire in particular. Thomas M. Kavanagh’s Writing the Truth: Authority and Desire in Rousseau, however, is significant in its attempt to unify Rousseau’s literary, autobiographical, and political work through a dialectic between submission and allegiance to authority. Like Ogrodnick, Kavanagh draws on psychoanalytic ideas to show how the paradoxical thinker Rousseau sustains tensions between individual desire and community, autonomy and the writing of truth. Rousseau and Desire continues the discussion around desire and its role in modernity, sometimes also drawing on contemporary literary theory

Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity


and psychoanalytically informed sources, but also locating the historically specific contexts in political theory, philosophy, science, and political economy, from which Rousseau’s account of desire emerges. In Part One, From the Standard of Natural Independence to the Challenges of Bourgeois Capitalism, we begin with the Discourse on Inequality, one of Rousseau’s first great works, in philosophical context. Rousseau’s standard of natural independence and the problem of desire multiplication are first elicited from the Discourse, and then complicated by the challenges of bourgeois capitalism as they are critically theorized in Rousseau’s later Emile. Finally, Rousseau’s assessment of bourgeois capitalism is critically assessed through a reading of Bernard Mandeville, from whom Rousseau both borrowed and rejected a great deal. In the first chapter, ‘Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality,’ John Duncan contextualizes Rousseau’s account of desire, drawing on seventeenthand eighteenth-century factors such as scientific and philosophical mechanism, Newtonian cosmology, and empiricist genetic epistemology and philosophical anthropology from Hobbes to Condillac. Duncan argues that, for Rousseau, the causes of historical transformation are not essential to the naturally independent human mechanism, but rather are external, accidental, and contingent, at least at first. Initiated by causes that exceed the self and the community, the inflammation or multiplication of desire is, at least in one sense, an expansion of desires that are internal to the human mechanism, raising the question of the relationship between the natural human and the artificial desires of social men and women. Duncan’s response is that the radical multiplication of desires does not alter the essential core of the human being. Duncan’s argument serves both to counter tendencies to interpret Rousseau in terms of later philosophical developments such as historicism, romanticism, and critical theory, and to highlight the influences of the general empiricist context on Rousseau’s account of human desire. Duncan’s analysis then presents us with a problem: how are we to understand the role of desire in our political attempts to address the problem of the multiplication of desires, given its accidental and mechanistic logic? As such, his essay not only reveals important links with Rousseau’s intellectual context, but also points to later chapters in the volume. In the second chapter, ‘An Alternative to Economic Man: The Limita-


Mark Blackell, John Duncan, and Simon Kow

tion of Desire in Rousseau’s Emile,’ Grace Roosevelt continues to reconstruct Rousseau’s defence of independence and criticism of its loss, but also both extends the reconstruction beyond the Discourse on Inequality to the later Emile, and moves it squarely into the field of political economy to elicit Rousseau’s critique of bourgeois capitalism as it is developed through his educational project. Rousseauian education, i.e., the refashioning of the self and the balancing of human desires, is regarded as a solution to the social and moral ills associated with the ceaseless striving of modern men and women. Rousseau’s vision of human happiness is thus posited as an alternative to the underlying assumptions of the free market. The seemingly private activity of educating the individual is, in Rousseau’s thought, a challenge and a possibility for individuals entangled in the logic of mass consumption and production. In the third chapter, ‘Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society,’ Simon Kow complicates both the intellectual context of the Discourse on Inequality, and Rousseau’s critique of bourgeois capitalism, as they were addressed in the first and second chapters respectively. Kow critically examines how Rousseau, especially in the Discourse on Inequality, was influenced by, and departed from, a notorious but influential account of the principles of commercial society. Kow elicits the influences of Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees from Rousseau’s historical account of desire. While Mandeville provides an ironic endorsement of commercial civilization, based on the manifold desires of modern men and women, Rousseau employs a Mandevillean conception of desire in modernity to condemn commercial society. According to Kow, this contrast forcefully brings out the romantic and nostalgic elements of Rousseau’s appropriation and radical critique of Mandevillean ideas. Contextualizing Rousseau in this case makes his thought appear less nuanced and more extreme in its evaluative judgments than Mandeville’s, giving us pause for reflection. Kow asks us to consider whether Rousseau’s moralistic critique of modern society is not grounded on a desire for, in Mandeville’s words, ‘a vain Eutopia seated in the brain.’ Kow makes a convincing case for the Mandevillean influence on Rousseau. However, whether or not a Mandevillean critique of Rousseau is as compelling as a Rousseauian critique of bourgeois capitalism is another issue – one that will surely divide readers. In Part Two, Desire and the Problem of Others in Modernity, we turn to the problem of other moderns, not quite the esoteric ‘problem of other

Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity


minds’ debated by philosophers from Descartes to Hegel and beyond, but rather the problem of assessing the genuine possibilities of interaction with others in personal, social, and political modernity. Rousseau begins with a standard of independence he draws from original solitary natural human beings – i.e., human beings that most closely reveal human nature not yet covered over by corrupted manners. But if human beings are naturally or essentially solitary, what genuine possibilities of interaction could they have? We begin with a reconstruction of Rousseau’s theory of sentiments within which, it is argued, are the grounds for a fundamental openness to others. However, an alternative case can be made, to which we move next, in which Rousseau is shown to be unable to overcome his continual and radical appeal to natural independence. Another possible view is offered: perhaps the bivalence of isolation and alterity in Rousseau is in part what makes him characteristically modern. In the fourth chapter, ‘Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau,’ Vasiliki Grigoropoulou situates Rousseau’s thought on desire in relation to Locke’s philosophical account of desire. Unlike Duncan’s emphasis on the fundamental independence in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, an independence that has been, but ought not to have been, fractured by chance and the artificial multiplication of desire, Grigoropoulou’s contextualization points us toward a Lockean division of the self and the Rousseauian possibility of its unity. Rousseau follows Locke, not the ancient philosophers, in the view that desire is a centrally important, uneasy, and vigorous aspect of the human constitution. For Rousseau, a new kind of sensitive ego balances active and passive voices to overcome Lockean divisions. As an ‘active receptacle,’ the heart’s interior voice bridges the passive and active selves and makes active yet passive, or social yet solitary, judgment possible. Grigoropoulou’s detailed reconstruction of Rousseau’s view amounts to a compelling case for fundamental openness to other moderns. In contrast to Grigoropoulou’s optimism for a Rousseauian openness, Katrin Froese, in chapter 5, ‘Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau,’ explores the ambiguous account of desire in relation to the ‘other’ to reveal Rousseau’s inability to transcend Western and patriarchal conceptions of desire. Froese’s phenomenological reading of Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality and Emile reveals a conception of desire as involving an opening onto the other that appears to be primordial, and yet at other places in Rousseau’s work this opening is presented as merely a stepping-stone toward the goal of a radical independence. The


Mark Blackell, John Duncan, and Simon Kow

problem with Rousseau’s account, from Froese’s perspective, is that he cannot escape the logic of substitution entrenched in Western thought on desire. Despite its promise, Rousseau’s philosophy of desire does not ultimately celebrate desire as an open contiguity with the other, preferring instead to see desire as an opening that is a requirement for an ultimate re-closing of the self through replacement of an original fullness. Rousseau’s thought points us to the limits of his own account. In ‘Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence,’ the sixth chapter of the volume and the last of Part Two, Mark Blackell examines desire in relation to Rousseau’s conception of the general will and Benjamin Constant’s reconsideration of this conception. Like Kow, Blackell is interested in tempering the view of Rousseau as a pure critic of all things modern, but the focus in this chapter is on the legacy of Rousseau’s political thought vis-à-vis liberal democratic theory. Turning to the Social Contract, Blackell argues that the general will must be considered a form of desire, namely each citizen’s desire for the public good. Yet, when one looks at the moments in Rousseau’s writing where he is concerned with the political institutionalization of the general will, a gap opens up between the individual and collective interests that must be bridged. It is at this point that instilled desire operates as the middle, bridging term in this implicit equation. This account of an identificatory bond is deeply ambivalent, however. Rousseau writes of virtue both as the inner-directed voice of nature and as an outer-directed, autonomous, and intersubjective principle, a bivalence echoed in Grigoropoulou’s reconstruction of Rousseau’s theory of sentiments in which the inner and the outer are integrated and grounded, on the one hand, but also echoed in Froese’s critical appraisal of Rousseau’s inability to overcome a deep inner yearning despite openings to the other, on the other hand. In the light of the French Revolution and Napoleon, Benjamin Constant developed this idea of the ambivalence of political desire and made it an explicit part of modern democratic subjectivity and representation. Blackell’s chapter presents us with the modern problem of political attachment in the face of ambivalence that arises with institutionalization of the democratic will, and it suggests that we need to read Rousseau as lying at the origins of the formulation of this problem and not simply as the pure critic of the ills of liberal, representative democracy. Blackell’s concern with the problem of political institutionalization in Rousseau then points us toward the final two chapters of this collection.

Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity


Having worked through Rousseau’s independentist standard, its relation to bourgeois capitalism, and its anthropological, ethical, and political possibilities and limitations in general, we turn, in Part Three, to sex and children, on the one hand, and love and the city, on the other. The problem of how to institute the Rousseauian ideal of natural independence reaches beyond his political theory to his literary, educational, and personal writings. Our final two chapters examine the complex interplay in Rousseau between political and personal desire, between intergenerational hope and melancholy, and between love and the city. To what extent can an authentic politics be founded through one’s offspring? In chapter 7, ‘“The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men”: Rousseau on Desire and the Child,’ Brian Duff examines the importance placed on the pleasure of reproduction in Rousseau’s life and literary works. Duff shows through careful readings of Julie, Emile, and the Confessions that Rousseau’s account of the transformation of the individual into a happy and virtuous republican citizen requires the active expression of reproductive desires. Procreation is central to Rousseau’s political thought because it provides a vehicle to escape the corruption of modern society, a sort of personal and yet political form of reparation. And yet, in both his personal and other writings, Rousseau eventually sees the impossibility of this reparative task around reproduction. The problem is that procreation requires an example of virtue that few, including Rousseau in his own self-assessment, are able to provide. Individuals seeking forms of transformation are ultimately haunted by procreation: the child constitutes a promise that the flaws of the parents will be laid bare for all to see. In the final chapter, ‘Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity, and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,’ Mira Morgenstern points out that the challenge to the unity of self and other, and self and family, may be theorized in terms of ‘the city.’ She closely examines Julie and Emile to show how the city figures in Rousseau’s philosophy of desire, not simply as a place of moral degeneration, but also as a vital element in the development of an authentic politics. The city ultimately presents Rousseau’s characters with the demand that they practice a ‘dialectical irony’ that will allow them to negotiate the tensions between amour-propre and amour de soi-même and achieve a refounding of an authentic politics, given the challenges of modernity and its unceasing presentation of the uncanny other. Emile’s failure to live up to his personal and political charge is a challenge to modern city dwellers to keep self and community alive in dynamic interaction.


Mark Blackell, John Duncan, and Simon Kow

Amid the inevitably urban institutions that steer us, desiring human beings attempt to flourish both with and against modernity, by loving others, and by reproducing themselves and shaping the future through the children they bear and rear. However, because Rousseau’s critique of the ills of modernity was and remains compelling, those ills are not likely to be overcome anytime soon. We have to acknowledge that we may have as much difficulty as did Rousseau and his autobiographically inspired paternal characters in reproducing the critique in children who might then bear the promise of overcoming the object of the critique – i.e., the ills of modernity. We inevitably reproduce nothing but our flawed selves, or we back away from the shame of this and do not reproduce at all – ‘I cannot bear to bring a child into this world.’ We are unable to overcome our present ills through our children; rather, we reproduce the former through the latter. Furthermore, Rousseau’s characters are unable to love one another in the end. Each is unable to open himself or herself to the other fully. But if Emile and Sophie, the very pair that was supposed to refound genuine community, cannot find each other, how will we moderns find the other moderns we need to establish another modernity together – a modernity that overcomes its ills? Are we unable to do so? Do we find only antagonistic and imprisoning others everywhere? Rousseau, the critic, certainly finds himself, in his autobiographical and fictional selves, unable to reproduce and overcome himself. His critique is unable to find lives that would lead to the end of the ills to which it objects. But this points to the general problem of the essays in Part Two, in which it is asked whether or not Rousseau has theoretical resources sufficient to reach out to others, such as future others (children) and diverse others (in the city). Grigoropoulou argues that Rousseau does have the required resources, in his theory of sentiments. For Grigoropoulou, the solution to the ills of modernity is at least in part Rousseauian. Froese disagrees, and argues that despite some promise, Rousseau’s project ultimately falls prey to presuppositions that short-circuit the opening to others. In that Rousseau himself stood within and against so much that is modern, this divergence of scholarly views is not unexpected. In the end, we may need to consider that the bivalence of self and other is a typically modern ambivalence. Rousseau may not have seen the problem explicitly, but his trenchant analysis traced the contours of the problem – a problem that, as in Blackell’s analysis, Constant could make explicit. The reciprocity of self and other in love, in reproduction, in community, and in politics is a modern project in so far as it is a modern impossibility.

Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity


Ultimately, the problem must then be traced back to where we began – back to Rousseau’s independentist ground and its confrontation with the challenges of bourgeois capitalism, as discussed in Part One. The standard of natural independence, both of and against bourgeois capitalism, grounds the general problem of Part Two, which in turn grounds the particular problems of Part Three, for the question is precisely how we shall reach others if we build all value into ourselves in opposition to a world of corrupted others. In general, how shall we – each of us today – participate individually and maintain the independence of our voices within social and political formations driven by massive and diverse apparatuses of economy, administration, and information? How shall we reach out to other individuals personally, and how can we understand ourselves as effective political agents within these apparatuses? From liberal individualism and alienation theory to the philosophies of authenticity and difference, these problems have dogged moderns, who have seen themselves as nothing but desiring beings, having lost faith in the medieval and ancient hierarchies of the psyche according to which souls are led the way homeward by the divine. With respect to the promise as well as the limitations of desire, more than any other author, Rousseau returned again and again, and from many different perspectives, to the thing itself – to desire – and meditated on its implications for modern human beings. We follow his lead, not uncritically, in this volume.

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PART ONE From the Standard of Natural Independence to the Challenges of Bourgeois Capitalism

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1 Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality john duncan

In a brief discussion in the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men (1755), Rousseau advances the view that human beings are distinguished from other animals by free agency. Although it would be appealing to use this discussion to interpret the major argument of the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau himself blocks such an interpretation. Perfectibility – not free agency – drives the text’s major argument, which, advanced via an account of the logic of historical transformation, is that the basic moral and political standard of human existence is nothing other than natural individual independence. Rousseau begins with the three stages that constitute the major epoch of natural custom, the essential feature of which is independence. He then moves to the three stages of the major epoch of artificial custom, the essential feature of which is the loss of independence through the progress of inequality. Transformation beyond each one of the stages of natural custom begins in externality, in matters of chance, whereas transformation throughout the stages of artificial custom is rooted in the mechanism of desire multiplication. In the Discourse on Inequality, with respect to the discursive contexts of mechanism and empiricism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and given Rousseau’s explicit conceptual replacement of free agency with perfectibility, it is clear that chance and the mechanism of desire multiplication are the forces essential to the logic of historical transformation by which Rousseau argues that the fundamental standard of human existence is natural independence.1 Between Free Will and Mechanism In the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau briefly advances the view that human beings are distinguished from other animals by the ‘quality’ of


John Duncan

a ‘free agent.’2 Maurice Cranston, one of the best Rousseau scholars of recent times, both reads this discussion of free agency as a defence of freedom of the will,3 and argues that it is an expression of Rousseau’s fundamental position in the Discourse on Inequality and beyond. Natural man is free ... [H]e has free will. This is ... crucial ... for Rousseau. Hobbes and most of the Encyclopédistes were determinists, believing that man was a ‘machine,’ albeit more complicated than any other machine in nature, but subject to the same laws of cause and effect. ... [M]etaphysical freedom, or freedom of the will, as a defining characteristic of man as such is possessed by men in all conditions, whether of nature or of society.4

Indeed, mechanism did run through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and it is worth situating the Discourse on Inequality with respect to it. Although mechanism neither remained unchanged nor enveloped every author during the period – nor need we say that it completely enveloped any single author – it was of central importance in accounts of a wide variety of features of human beings and the world. Perhaps most famously, in the eighteenth century La Mettrie in his Man a Machine (1748) argued for a mechanistic understanding of the human being in a universe consisting of one basic substance: ‘Let us then conclude boldly that man is a machine, and that in the whole universe there is but a single substance differently modified.’5 Already in the seventeenth century, Hobbes opened his Leviathan (1651) with an explicitly mechanistic analogy: ‘what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body?’6 He went on to argue that human actions are driven by the deterministic physiological processes of ‘appetite’ and ‘aversion’ to which the will was essentially reduced.7 Although it is true that Descartes, in his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), argued that the human will was as free as God’s will, and although this conception did influence authors important to Rousseau, even in the Meditations we find Descartes working seriously with an account of the human being as a physiological mechanism,8 and in The World (1664) he developed a natural cosmology consisting of an indefinitely extended plenum of materials subject to a few basic mechanistic rules and within which whirlpools constituted solar systems.9 These accounts of the human being and the world were at the centre of the

Perfectibility, Chance, and Desire Multiplication


new mechanistic philosophy and science that revolutionized the seventeenth century.10 Conceiving of the world and the human being as deeply mechanistic entailed the displacement of alternative explanatory strategies, such as those that involved essentially animistic, magical, theological, teleological, or idealistic forces or realities, none of which seemed directly relevant any longer with respect to a wide range of natural and human phenomena. To understand the movements of bodies – celestial, terrestrial, or our own – one did well to conceive of them mechanistically. By the time Rousseau was writing the Discourse on Inequality, however, Newtonian physics and Lockean empiricism, which constituted perhaps the most significant paradigm of eighteenth-century enlightenment discourse, had largely replaced the direct influences of seventeenth century mechanism. Clearly important changes came with the publication and impact of Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687) and Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Even an eighteenth-century author like La Mettrie, who remained strongly influenced by the mechanism of the seventeenth century and so maintained that the human being was ‘but an animal, or a collection of springs which wind each other up,’11 recognized that Descartes had been held back by historical limitations in ways that Locke and Newton had not.12 Many philosophers and scientists went further as they turned away from the lingering metaphysical prejudices of the seventeenth century toward both a Newtonian science of worldly measurement, and a Lockean empirical philosophy in which ideas were measured against experience. One useful way to understand this turn is to treat seventeenth-century mechanistic explanation as a discursive standard that, by means of its own rigour, came to reject some of its own metaphysical prejudices, and arrived at a much less metaphysical, and much more measured, more epistemological version of itself. Application of the rigorous standard of mechanical explanation provided accurate accounts of motion and bodies, but if the sources of motion were ‘gravitational,’ or if the nexus of qualities in bodies were ‘substances,’ and if it could not be shown that these involved a plenum of matter or a collection of springs respectively, it had to be admitted that gravity and substance were ‘I know not what.’13 As Voltaire would write in his Elements of the Philosophy of Newton (1738) – motioning beyond the limits of exterior and interior experience – ‘All that surrounds you, all that lies within you, is an enigma whose key it is not given to man to discover.’14


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Thus despite important changes, the discourse of mechanism, or more accurately its standard, continued to hold sway in the eighteenth century. Indeed, it was within the context of this influential standard that the interventions of authors such as Malebranche and Hume, dealing critically with the issue of causal necessity, had their greatest purchase.15 Perhaps we may say that where the standard of mechanistic explanation held sway, many theorists invoked it while some probed its limits. In interesting respects, the limit to what was open to the standard of mechanistic explanation passed over into what was unknown, perhaps even unknowable, by the natural light of reason – an adumbration of the theology, mysticism, scepticism, and transcendentalism that encircled the long eighteenth century.16 It is commonly said that Rousseau’s work is somewhat enigmatic or very stylistic, and that it exceeds the work of the encyclopédistes and philosophes by anticipating elements of romanticism, historicism, or critical theory, for example – traditions said to have exceeded mechanism. If we examine Cranston’s reading of Rousseau’s brief discussion of free agency, it appears to be consistent with the relevant views professed by Rousseau’s famous Savoyard Vicar in Emile, or On Education (1762), and those views are widely taken to represent Rousseau’s own. However, in the Discourse on Inequality, immediately after the two paragraphs in which Rousseau discusses free agency, he completely shifts ground. He admits that ‘the difficulties surrounding all these questions’ about free agency might ‘leave some room for dispute.’ Surprisingly, instead of attempting to address the ‘difficulties,’ which he never specifies – not even minimally – he drops free agency altogether and replaces it with ‘perfectibility’ as the distinguishing feature of human beings. But if the difficulties surrounding all these questions should leave some room for dispute on this difference between man and animal, there is another very specific quality that distinguishes them and about which there can be no dispute: the faculty of self-perfection (la faculté de se perfectionner), a faculty which, with the aid of circumstances, successively develops all the others, and resides among us as much in the species as in the individual.17

Thus with respect to the major argument of the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau’s expressed position is that the human being, both individually and socially, is a perfectible being, and not necessarily a free agent. Whatever he means by the ‘quality’ of a ‘free agent,’ it is clear that we may not use his circumscribed discussion of it as a key with which to interpret the Discourse on Inequality as a whole.

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Although it is appealing to read Rousseau’s brief account of free agency in the Discourse on Inequality as a defence of free agency, against mechanism, if we heed both the shift from free agency to perfectibility in the text, and the widespread influence of mechanism during the period, we may be reoriented to the text in an interesting way. Even Cranston admits ‘it is true that Rousseau himself invokes the metaphor of a machine in describing living creatures.’ Perhaps Rousseau goes further when he discusses ‘the human machine (la machine humaine)’ in the passage to which Cranston refers.18 Since Rousseau’s conception of the human being as a perfectible being explicitly puts free agency out of play, and since he uses the very language of the contemporary and pervasive discourse of mechanism, we are obliged to remain open to the possibility that in the Discourse on Inequality at least some form of mechanism is not excluded. The romantic and other anticipations attributed to Rousseau might have blinded some readers to the inscription of significant aspects of his work within the mechanistic discursive parameters that entangled many of his colleagues. Set against this broad intellectual horizon, the Discourse on Inequality is neither necessarily against mechanism, nor necessarily for free agency. Glaucus – Platonic God of Universal Nature and Historical Custom Rousseau accomplishes two tasks in the Discourse on Inequality, each of which may be understood as constituting one of the major parts of an elaborate conjectural experiment. First, in the tradition of Hobbes, Locke, and others, he imaginatively reconstructs the conditions of prehistorical, purely natural human existence. The result – a non-social dispersion of independent, robust, and largely satisfied animalistic human individuals – constitutes the initial conditions of the experiment. Second, Rousseau removes the providential and miraculous hand of God – his ‘beneficent hand (main bienfaisante)’ – from the initial conditions and lets those conditions transform according to their own logic, sketching the stages and transformations of human historical existence.19 Religion ... does not forbid us to form conjectures, drawn solely from the nature of man and the Beings surrounding him, about what the human Race might have become if it had remained abandoned to itself (s’il fût resté abandonné à lui-même). That is what I am asked, and what I propose to examine in this Discourse.20

Thus Rousseau’s experiment constitutes the attempt to reconstruct


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both the original nature of humans and the logic of human historical transformation. The initial conditions are established largely in part 1 of the text, the logic of transformation largely in part 2. All of this invites comparisons with historicist authors such as Hegel, to name the most obvious one, but we must be careful not to make such comparisons hastily. As an initial approximation, we need to note that for Rousseau human beings are constituted by two general features: 1) an unchanging core – i.e., human nature – that is naked at the beginning of human history, and 2) a changing surface that disguises the unchanging core as a function of the changes in various historical pathways. This distinction is crucial. Rather than postulate a fully ‘spiritual’ conception of historical existence, in which cultural formations would go through transformations as radical in depth as the transformations a tree goes through from seed, to sapling, to mature tree, Rousseau, like his contemporary Voltaire (from whose Essay on Manners (1756) we get the term ‘philosophy of history,’)21 remained attached to the theoretical space of a fundamentally atemporal essentialism. Voltaire took historical transformation very seriously, but he restricted it to accidental features of human existence – i.e., to customs, manners, mores – excluding it from human nature as such. [E]verything which belongs intimately to human nature is the same from one end of the universe to the other ... everything that depends on custom is different, and it is accidental if it remains the same ... [T]he basis is everywhere the same, and culture produces diverse fruits.22

Although human beings certainly change in history, argued Voltaire, they have the same essential natures throughout. This fundamentally atemporal essentialism manifests itself in Rousseau’s use of the image of Glaucus at the beginning of the Discourse on Inequality. The name Glaucus designates a number of figures in ancient Greco-Roman myth, and the story of the specific figure to which Rousseau refers is told in a variety of ways. For instance, both Plato and Ovid tell parts of the story, in which Glaucus is a deity whose appearance is transformed by living in the sea. Plato’s portrayal of Glaucus in his Republic emphasizes the disfigurement of the deity, whereas Ovid’s, in his Metamorphoses, only includes disfigurement as a minor point in passing. Much later, in his Paradise, most likely borrowing from Ovid’s image, Dante makes no mention at all of disfigurement.23 Following Plato, Rousseau’s Glaucus is ‘so disfigured’ by ‘time, sea, and storms’

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that he ‘looked less like a God than a wild Beast.’24 Rousseau’s ultimate use of the image is meant to show that surface disfigurement does not transform inner nature. In this also he follows Plato, who uses the image of Glaucus within an argument for the essential immutability of the soul existing under the changing surface of human existence.25 Although Rousseau’s account of the transformational stages of humankind in the Discourse on Inequality might seem to be an example of the radically deep historicism that would proliferate after the eighteenth century, it is not. Despite historical transformation, human nature never loses what it begins with, as reason will demonstrate. It is, so to speak, the life of your species that I am going to describe to you according to the qualities you received, which your education and habits have been able to corrupt (dépraver) but have been unable to destroy (détruire).26

In a very general sense, for most thinkers before the nineteenth century, the historical changes human beings underwent were understood to be surface changes unable to affect the essential core of human nature.27 Rousseau also followed Plato in reconstructing an elaborate logic of historical transformation in multiple stages from best to worst – a logic to which the use of the Glaucus image is related for both authors. I will come back to Rousseau’s Glaucus, but first I must distinguish the stages in Rousseau’s logic of historical transformation, the stages, one might say, in the disfigurement of Glaucus. As with Plato, and despite the fundamentally atemporal essentialism of both authors, Rousseau understood the distinctions between various historical stages to be very significant. Even though the variations do not affect the essential core of human nature, they make for significantly distinct ‘varieties’ of the human ‘species,’ to use the language Rousseau borrowed from Buffon. Transformations from stage to stage are deep but they do not go all the way down.28 To understand the historical stages in the Discourse on Inequality, we need to distinguish a number of features of human existence with respect to transformation. Recounting the initial approximation made above, first there is the unchanging core of human nature, and second there is human custom as such, which is always present but the content of which is unique in each historical stage. Beyond approximation, human custom requires careful analysis and subdivision. It is subdivided into two major epochs – the first basically natural, the second basically


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artificial. The natural epoch is itself subdivided into three stages, as is the artificial epoch. The Chances of Revolution in the Epoch of Natural Custom The first stage of the epoch of natural custom is the stage of ‘nascent man.’29 Rousseau begins with naturally independent, robust, and largely satisfied non-social human beings dispersed in the state of nature.30 He suggests that ‘Orang-utans’ (and other similar apes) in newly encountered regions of the world might be examples of nascent human beings.31 A long process of rudimentary developments in strengths, aptitudes, very basic tools, and simple prudence – ‘a mechanical prudence (prudence machinale)’32 – runs throughout the period, but the crucial cause of transformation from nascent human beings to the next possible stage is the development of ‘crude’ and ‘imperfect’ ‘particular languages.’ However, ‘the institution’ of the ‘few articulated and conventional sounds’ necessary for the development of such languages, ‘as I have already said, is not too easy to explain.’ Without addressing any of them in this passage, Rousseau reminds us of his prior discussion of the many difficulties involved in attempts to explain the origin of language (about which I will say something shortly), and then he moves on to the second possible stage of the epoch of natural custom.33 Thus the inexplicable advent of basic communicative competence is essential for transformation beyond nascent human beings. The second stage of the epoch of natural custom is the possible stage of ‘families.’34 That is, largely non-social nascent human beings may eventually form largely independent families. The very long process of rudimentary developments continues, but again only developments in communicative competence lead to a further transformation, and again Rousseau explicitly does not provide us with a full explanation. Rather, he provides a ‘glimpse’ ‘of how the use of speech was established,’ and a ‘conjecture’ about its spread. Perhaps rudimentary ‘speech,’ ‘perfected imperceptibly,’ was developed ‘in the bosom of each family.’ Perhaps, as the result of natural cataclysms that ‘broke up portions of the Continent into Islands,’ some human beings were forced into closer proximity (on the resulting islands), which encouraged the development of ‘a common Idiom,’ to be brought to the mainland later. With the development of this communicative competence, the causal details of which remain unexplained, ‘[e]verything begins to change its appearance,’ resulting in the next possible stage.35

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‘The veritable youth of the world’ is the third and final possible stage of the basically natural epoch of human custom. It is ‘the least subject to revolutions, the best for man.’ At this stage each may enjoy community life, the chief benefits of which are companionship and simple technical advances. However, it is crucial to note that these benefits are not developed to a level at which they could threaten the natural independence of any individual in the community. The social and technical activities remain below the threshold beyond which they would impose compromising interdependence – i.e., relations of dependence. [A]s long as they applied themselves only to tasks that a single person could do and to arts that did not require the cooperation of several hands, they lived free, healthy, good, and happy insofar as they could be according to their Nature, and they continued to enjoy among themselves the sweetness of independent intercourse (des douceurs d’un commerce independent).36

The result is the highest level of social and technical existence consistent with the preservation of natural independence. Independent association then, is the possible natural zenith of human existence, and in accord with an Enlightenment passion for arguments from the order of nature, it is, for Rousseau, a standard according to which we may measure any kind of human existence.37 Throughout the three stages of the basically natural epoch of human custom, the needs of individuals are met straightforwardly by what is naturally available. Although serious conflicts do develop,38 they are localized and intermittent, not the kind of problems that could possibly lead to revolutionary changes that would generate a new stage. This point is crucial for Rousseau. The most important causes of transformation from both nascent human beings to families, and from the latter to independent association, are the apparently inexplicable causes of communicative development. In each of those two cases of transformation, Rousseau identifies transformation to the new stage as an effect, and he identifies the crucial cause of the effect – i.e., a development in communicative competence – but he also indicates that the crucial cause is not to be found within the stage preceding the effect. Thus with respect to the content of each initial stage as such, the cause of transformation (leading to a subsequent stage) is inexplicable. It is alien to each initial stage – it disturbs the stage by ‘chance,’ inexplicably intruding on the explicable, and it transforms the stage unpredictably. In the


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end, although explicable historical developments do occur throughout the three stages, as causes of transformation between stages they are ineffective. This is why Rousseau’s discussion of the origin of language in the Discourse on Inequality is difficult to fathom. Mistakenly, we follow the twists and turns of his discussion expecting him to explain finally how communicative competence developed, but for Rousseau, strictly speaking, the complete grounds of communicative competence are not contained within the unfolding conditions of the experiment. He does nothing more than provide a good sample of the many inexorable problems faced by the attempt to explain the origin and development of language.39 The latter eludes explanation so much that it is an ‘almost demonstrated impossibility.’40 Rousseau’s accounts of inexplicability help him to establish the significant stability of human beings in the basically natural epoch. Basically natural human dispersions and associations tend not to develop (at least not until they are disturbed by externalities). This is fully brought home by the cause that leads to the transformation that finally pushes human beings out of the third and final stage of the basically natural epoch of human custom, which turns out to be the inexplicable advent of two arts. ‘Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts whose invention produced this great revolution.’41 Indeed, human beings ‘must have come out of’ the third and final stage ‘only by some fatal accident, which for the common utility ought never to have happened.’42 As we shall see below, when human beings fall from independent association, they begin to fall through a vicious process of degeneration that leads ultimately to tyranny. According to Rousseau, the relatively recent encounters with many different primitive peoples in remote lands are proof that human beings fall from the epoch of natural custom by unnatural accident alone – i.e., by a disturbance coming to the natural epoch from elsewhere. ‘The example of Savages, who have almost all been found at this point [i.e., independent association], seems to confirm that the human Race was made to remain in it always; that this state is the veritable youth of the World.’43 The examples tend to confirm that there is no motor of historical transformation internal to natural human beings. The origins of metallurgy and agriculture are inexplicable – i.e., they are external to the independent associations of the third stage. How could anyone within an independent association develop such arts? They could not discover and maintain the previously unknown and very complex art

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of metallurgy (including mining, use of fire, forging, etc.) by the kind of simple everyday accidents that occur in any historical stage, and because their needs were met they would not struggle through many hours, days, and seasons to develop large-scale agriculture, nor would they have the requisite tools for ploughing, etc., until metallurgy produced them.44 That these arts were discovered is inexplicable, which is to say that human beings themselves do not contain, either individually or socially, the complete grounds that led ultimately to their decline from the state of nature, a fact confirmed and reconfirmed by encounter after encounter with human beings still living in independent associations. Undisturbed, human beings are stable by nature. Interestingly, there are commonalities between Rousseau’s transformational path, on the one hand, and early eighteenth-century cosmology, on the other. It is as if Rousseau had in the back of his mind Newtonian conceptions of the decline of a planet’s orbit. For example, the earth’s orbit is stable and it would continue forever but for resistances that edge it into decline. Without God’s providential hand to correct it from time to time, forces acting on the orbit would degrade it. Analogously, natural human beings are basically stable and remain within their natural orbits, as it were. If external forces are effective, and if God’s hand does not intercede, ultimately human beings will degenerate just as planetary orbits will degrade.45 This analogy works well enough for the external causes of metallurgy and agriculture, one might argue, because their effects lead to degeneration, but the external causes of communicative competence seem to bring about progress toward and to the zenith, which seems not to be analogous to the cosmological example. However, although it is certainly unlikely, it is not impossible that an externality (such as a comet) would bump a planet just so that the planet’s orbit was strengthened somewhat. Thus a planet and a nascent human being must ever circle the same centre and indefinitely repeat the same round of existence respectively, until a couple of bumps from outside push the one into a greater orbit and the other into independent association. From there, a major bump could push the planet into decline and the independent association into the process of degeneration. In dividing the possible stages, the bumps also divide the possible kinds of orbits and human beings: the original stable orbit and nascent human beings; the greater orbit and human beings in independent association; the declining orbit and degenerating social and political existence. Rousseau has a variety of things to say about perfectibility in the Discourse on Inequality, but what holds them together is the view that


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human beings, who begin virtually the same as animals (as nascent human beings), are able to rise above merely animal existence (to the heights of independent association), but also to fall below that level (to tyranny in the process of degeneration), whereas ‘the Beast, which has acquired nothing and which has, moreover, nothing to lose, always retains its instinct,’ and so cannot fall below its own level. The imperfectible animal, saved from custom (which is corruptible), cannot fall below nature’s incorruptible order. However, the human being, ‘losing ... all that his perfectibility had made him acquire ... falls back lower than the Beast itself.’ Therefore, ‘this distinctive and almost unlimited faculty’ – i.e., perfectibility – ‘in the long run makes him the tyrant of himself and nature.’46 Before we turn to the process of degeneration that leads to tyranny, we should note that the first major epoch of human history does not require a robust conception of free agency. Because the crucial causes of the three major transformations that lead beyond each of the three stages of the epoch of natural custom are external to the stages themselves, the transformations exceed the possible agency of any individual or the social whole. As Voltaire wrote in his Elements of the Philosophy of Newton – motioning beyond the limits of exterior experience – ‘All that surrounds you ... is an enigma whose key it is not given to man to discover.’47 The Statue of Glaucus – A Sensational Moral Device As we have seen, historical transformations result in changed lives. Largely isolated individual life is changed into family life, which in turn is changed into the life of independent association, which finally enters precipitous decline. We have also seen that underlying these changes there is a fundamentally atemporal essential core of human nature that the changes are unable to destroy. Within the epoch of artificial custom – the epoch of decline – the cause of transformation is no longer inexplicable externality. Rather it is a mechanism internal to the human being as such, and so we must consider Rousseau’s account of the human machine to understand how it functions as the origin of transformation in the second major epoch of human history. In particular, we need to focus on desire and the multiplication of desires, and we shall also have to look at understanding. As will become clear, the stability inherent in the epoch of natural custom depended largely on the fact that human desires did not exceed natural needs, which them-

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selves did not exceed what nature made available. Whereas, in general, there is stability wherever desires are met adequately by nature, the same cannot be said where desires exceed nature. Rousseau begins the Discourse on Inequality with the image of Glaucus that he draws from Plato, and indeed Plato and Rousseau’s uses of the image are very similar. However, there is the interesting difference that Plato discusses ‘the sea-being Glaucus (ton thalattion Glaukon),’ whereas Rousseau discusses not the sea-being, but rather ‘the statue of Glaucus.’48 It is worth pausing to consider why the Glaucus of Rousseau’s logic of human disfigurement is explicitly a statue. Consider that the Discourse on Inequality consists of a very elaborate thought experiment, that the overall logic of transformation involves a long development of human faculties beginning from a stage in which the human being is physiologically formed but desire and understanding are largely latent, that Rousseau begins his text with the image of a statue, and that the chief obstacle to significant transformation (both between nascent human beings and families, and between families and independent association) is that it seems to be impossible that language could have developed among natural human beings. This list of features drawn from the Discourse on Inequality will remind historians of the Enlightenment of a philosopher who was well-known in the mideighteenth century, and who was an acquaintance and friend of Rousseau from some fifteen years before the publication of the Discourse on Inequality: Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de Condillac – an understudied but prominent figure of the French Enlightenment. In his Treatise on Systems (1749), Condillac argued that the systems of the great philosophers of the previous century failed to account for various necessary features of language. Rousseau explicitly invokes this work in part 1 of the Discourse on Inequality, where he argues that the development of language among natural human beings is an ‘almost demonstrated impossibility,’ as we have seen. Though Rousseau marks some distance between his own views on language and those of Condillac, he is clearly impressed by the latter.49 In addition to this acknowledged debt to Condillac’s Treatise on Systems, it is very likely the Discourse on Inequality is also indebted to ideas in two other books by Condillac. Condillac was much influenced by Locke, as the title of his first book makes clear: An Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge: A Supplement to Mr. Locke’s Essay (1746). In fact, Rousseau’s association with Condillac began about the same time the latter began his close study of Locke,50 and it was Rousseau’s introduc-


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tion of Condillac to Diderot that led to the publication of Condillac’s Essay – they all became friends, and for some time, reports Rousseau, ‘all three of us gathered once a week ... to dine together.’51 Lester Crocker provides a snapshot of the Condillac-Rousseau-Diderot friendship, and reports that Condillac carried ‘Locke’s sensationalism to its extreme consequences,’52 and that Condillac’s own sensationalism, ‘part of [his] great contribution to eighteenth century philosophy,’ ‘was to lie at the base of much of Rousseau’s thinking on education and politics.’53 It would ‘leave a deep imprint on Rousseau’s own work.’54 However, Condillac’s relevant work and influence are subject to a variety of interpretations. For example, Rolf George includes ‘Condillac, Reid and the Scottish school, Tetens, Fichte, Schopenhauer, W.V. Humboldt, Hamilton and ... Kant’ in the tradition of ‘sensationism’ (sensationalism by another name) – Rousseau is nowhere mentioned – and argues that the tradition constituted ‘a major departure both from the empirical and the rationalist traditions,’ which would mean a departure from Locke.55 Cranston also provides a snapshot of the Condillac-Rousseau-Diderot friendship and calls Condillac ‘a disciple of Locke,’ but he makes mention neither of sensationalism nor of its possible influence on Rousseau, and he claims that Condillac is far closer to the idealism of Berkeley than to the ‘materialist’ tendencies of some of the ‘French Encyclopaedists.’56 However, according to Isabel Knight, whose book remains the most comprehensive study of Condillac in English, one can find in the Abbé’s work ‘a thoroughgoing sensationalist psychology with hints of mechanistic determinism.’57 In very general terms, we may point to a broad tradition of discussions of sense experience that stretches from Descartes’s Meditations and Hobbes’s Leviathan in seventeenth-century France and England to the sensationalist psychologists of early nineteenth-century France, as well as some important late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English speaking and German speaking philosophers. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Locke’s work provided the most comprehensive and influential expression of that tradition, but from the mid-eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century Condillac and others took the tradition in a direction that developed and challenged Locke’s work. Locke used what he called the ‘historical, plain method’ in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding to trace ‘the original’ of all ‘ideas’ found ‘in the mind’ back to ‘sense experience,’ an approach we can find

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in part in Descartes and Hobbes.58 The proper account of a particular mental content was taken to consist in its being correctly traced back to its ‘historical’ origin in sense experience.59 One particular question, raised by William Molyneux,60 became a widely debated test case within Lockean philosophy: if a subject blind from birth regained his or her sight and was presented with objects he or she knew by touch alone, could he or she recognize the objects by sight? In the last section of part 1 of his Essay, Condillac addressed the problem, as did Diderot in his Letter on the Blind (1749); Condillac’s most famous book, his later Treatise on Sensations (1754), seems to have grown out of a reconsideration of the problem in light of Diderot’s Letter. In the Treatise on Sensations, Condillac constructed what might have been the most elaborate thought experiment of the century. He imagined a fully formed physiological human being, but one not yet animated, active, or experienced in any way – what he called ‘the statue.’ Then he systematically provided this device with a series of sensory stimuli, bringing each of the senses into operation in turn, arguing that on the basis of this conjectural procedure he could give an account of all human mental contents and processes. This went beyond Locke, who had critically rejected innate ideas but who had assumed that intellectual aspects of understanding were primordial – i.e., they could not be traced back to sense experience. Thus by means of his systematically perfected statue, Condillac developed and challenged Locke’s work by arguing that all mental contents and processes originated in sense experience – this is what would come to be known as sensationalism. The statue image may seem a little odd today, but it needs to be noted that though Condillac’s use of it was probably the most famous philosophical use made of it during the period, it was not an uncommon device. Knight points to its use by Buffon, Bonnet, and Diderot as well.61 We should also make brief notes of at least two other related contexts for the statue image. First, there is the famous moral avenger statue that came to life in performance after performance from Tirso de Molina’s Deceiver of Seville and the Stone Guest and Molière’s Don Juan or the Feast with the Statue in the seventeenth century, to Lorenzo da Ponte and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the late eighteenth century, and beyond.62 Surely, Rousseau knew of the famous statue in Molière’s play, for in a letter written during the very period in which he was working on the Discourse on Inequality, he praised ‘that great man Molière.’63 The second other related context we should note is that of the various ‘autom-


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ata.’ From Descartes to Frederick the Great, newly devised rudimentary robotic mechanisms that could imitate a few animal and human behaviours were popular, sensational, and even inspirational. Thus in the eighteenth century, statues or their images, often enough indicated the mechanical imitation of behaviour, a moral avenger, or a thought experiment’s principle device. Condillac’s conjectural statue was something of an utterly unprogrammed mechanical human being, the essential device in a grand philosophical thought experiment that provided a strictly empiricist-cum-sensationalist account of human desire, understanding, etc., – even of aspects of morality. Each invoking the statue image, Condillac’s 1754 Treatise on Sensations and Rousseau’s 1755 Discourse on Inequality are elaborate conjectural experiments that trace transformational paths of human perfectibility from largely undeveloped beginnings. Although the one project was epistemological and psychological, whereas the other was moral and political, the analogies between the two are evidence of significant cross-fertilization between acquaintances of some fifteen years. In addition to the longstanding friendship between Condillac and Rousseau, the analogies between the Treatise on Sensations and the Discourse on Inequality, the common contextual backgrounds of philosophical and theatrical statuary and automata, and the acknowledged debt regarding language theory, we must not underestimate the effects of the more general contextual background of Lockean empiricism on the Discourse on Inequality. The general influence of Locke’s ideas on Rousseau’s colleagues is well known. Certainly Voltaire, who was both a very important disseminator of Locke’s views and a fan of Condillac, was an author much admired by Rousseau. More directly relevant to the Discourse on Inequality, however, was Diderot – Condillac and Rousseau’s regular dining partner. Diderot put Lockean ideas to work in the most radical ways. Indeed Cranston suggests that Diderot had a direct influence on the content of the Discourse on Inequality itself,64 and in his Confessions Rousseau himself writes that the Discourse on Inequality was ‘a work that was more to Diderot’s taste than all my other Writings, and for which his advice was most useful to me.’65 Thus it is likely that Rousseau was breathing the same Lockean discursive air Condillac and Diderot (his close friends), Voltaire (the older colleague he admired), and many others were breathing. As much as his sensitivity, his critical wit, and his style might have exceeded the conceptual tools of that air and made him a forerunner of the ideas of the nineteenth century, it is worth considering the possibility that in the Discourse on Inequality at

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least his philosophical anthropology and logic of historical transformation did not exceed the tools. Keeping these discursive elements in mind as we turn to Rousseau’s analysis of the multiplication of desire will help us follow the path of radical degeneration from independent association to tyranny – the disfigurement of Rousseau’s statue of Glaucus. From Metallurgy to Tyranny Because historical transformations within the epoch of natural custom result in significantly changed lives, the specific capacities required to participate in the technical, linguistic, and social aspects of an independent association (let alone the capacities required to participate in what may succeed an independent association) are not manifest in original nascent human beings. In essence, part 1 of the Discourse on Inequality is an extended philosophical anthropology of ‘Savage man,’ the utterly natural human being – i.e., it is a comprehensive account of the nascent human being before it undergoes any changes whatsoever. Bringing that account to a close, Rousseau writes that he has ‘shown that perfectibility, social virtues, and the other faculties’ – which the original nascent human being ‘received in potentiality (en puissance),’ i.e., received from nature but not in an actualized or manifest form – ‘could never develop by themselves.’ Rather, ‘in order to develop, they needed the chance combination of several foreign causes (concourse fortuit de plusieurs causes étrangères) which might never have arisen.’ If it were not for these ‘accidents (hazards)’ the original nascent human being ‘would have remained eternally in his primitive constitution.’66 However, after ages of tiny developments and a couple of major inexplicable revolutions, by the beginning of independent association, which Rousseau also calls ‘nascent Society,’67 most of the potentiality in original nascent human beings will have been actualized and made manifest. As we have seen, when metallurgy and agriculture take hold of an independent association, a great fall is imminent. Agriculture follows the development of metallurgy, the products of which provide the tools for, and the labour requirements of which provide the market for, systematic cultivation. Because agriculture requires the mixture of labour with natural land, and because, following Locke, the mixture of labour with a portion of nature is the only rightful claim to possession of that portion of nature, agriculture brings with it division of land, possession of land, and, ultimately, property.68 For a moment, at the end of inde-


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pendent association, and with metallurgy, agriculture, and property in play, we find ourselves on the brink of falling. The original nascent human being’s potentiality, largely actualized and made manifest by the beginning of independent association, has been further perfected, and now, teetering on the brink, we may ‘Behold all our faculties developed ... and the mind (l’esprit) almost at the limit of the perfection of which it is susceptible.’69 Nothing is left but to fall – to begin the ‘progress of inequality’ – which has to occur because both the little natural differences in various qualities between particular human beings, and what would become market-driven differences between employments, both of which were insignificant or irrelevant in the past, will be exaggerated by the effects of property. Whether one was a little stronger, more clever or ingenious than others, and whether one found oneself working on a farm or in a blacksmith shop, for example, was going to have a great impact on one’s ability to accumulate property, relative to others. A selection of qualities became prized, and ‘it was soon necessary to have them or affect them; for one’s own advantage, it was necessary to appear to be other than what one in fact was.’ An essentially other-regarding competitive selfishness – ‘amour-propre’ – brought about the loss of natural independence. Living on one’s own terms in an association with others, each of whom was also living on his or her own terms, was supplanted by living essentially in comparison and competition with others, inaugurating the misery of unnatural dependent existence and the three stages of the basically artificial epoch of human custom. ‘Aroused’ on the brink of the fall, it was the development of this other-regarding selfishness that would finally complete (in the fall itself) the actualization of the original nascent human being’s potentiality.70 In the fall, those who managed to accumulate land and other possessions quickly ended up with significant advantages relative to the rest. Eventually, in order to end violent disputes over possession, all agreed to enshrine property in basic legal conventions, which of course legitimized the accumulated advantages of the few, resulting in the first stage of the epoch of artificial custom – the stage of ‘rich and poor.’ Property holders dominated the landless, which amounted to a radical decline in independence generally.71 The inequality enshrined in conventions was advanced by the establishment of offices of government, which could of course serve the rich better than the poor, bringing about the fall to the second stage of the epoch of artificial custom – the stage of the politically ‘powerful and

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weak’ – and bringing with it a further decline in independence generally.72 Eventually, rich and powerful families came to dominate key offices of government, finally coming to pass them down hereditarily, which resulted in the third and final stage of the epoch of artificial custom – the stage of ‘Master and Slave, which is the last degree of inequality,’ and which brings about the ‘Despotism’ of ‘Tyrants’ and completes the process of degeneration from independent (and so legitimate) to dependent (and so illegitimate) association.73 This all constitutes the ‘progress of inequality,’ ‘the last degree of inequality’ being ‘the limit to which all the others finally lead.’74 The Mechanism of Desire Multiplication Amour-propre, the essentially other-regarding competitive selfishness aroused by the emergence of property on the brink of the fall, draws individuals both out of their natural and independent selves, and into the pit of social competition. The bidding of nature within the individual is supplanted by the bidding of society outside the individual, replacing natural needs with socially constructed – i.e., artificial – desires. Because natural needs are definite and limited, they may be satisfied by resources gathered from the natural environment. However, artificial desires are essentially unconstrained and so their satisfaction exceeds what can be gathered from the environment. They require labour and technology, which involve various relations of domination. As domination progresses, a few become more successful than the rest at satisfying desires and they multiply their desires, while the rest desire what the few have in vain. Artificial desires cannot be satisfied by any single individual; rather, they require that each individual subject himself or herself to the consideration of those others from whom he or she must secure employment or labour, supplies or markets. Each is subject to the rest within a competition for the satisfaction of ever-multiplying artificial desires. Once amour-propre takes hold, the progress of inequality is essentially driven by the multiplication of desires, and the multiplication of desires is intertwined with the development of understanding. For Rousseau, ‘understanding,’ ‘knowledge’ and ‘reason’ overlap, largely because they indicate intellectual processes that involve representational ideas.75 Locke opened his Essay Concerning Human Understanding by arguing that ‘it is the understanding that sets man above the rest of sensible


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beings, and gives him all the advantage and dominion which he has over them.’76 For Rousseau, however, ‘it is not so much understanding (l’entendement) which constitutes the distinction of man among the animals as it is his ... faculty of self-perfection.’ Perfectibility makes it possible for human beings to develop both the natural but originally latent capacities required to participate in an independent association, and the artificial and excessive behaviours of societies caught in the progress of inequality. Because other animals are not perfectible, their natural needs are never supplanted by artificial desires, and so they do not fall below the level of nature – only the perfectible animal can do that. However, with respect to understanding, ‘[e]very animal has ideas, since it has senses.’77 In other words, because senses operate by generating representational ideas in the understanding, and because a non-human animal is able to have sense perceptions with respect to things in its environment, it is also able to understand ideas. It ‘even combines its ideas up to a certain point,’78 for a dog understands the idea that it is going to go for a walk when its sense perception gives it the idea that its master is picking up its leash (when its master picks up its leash) – the dog, which has combined the idea of the leash perceived with the idea of a walk remembered, understands that it is going to go for a walk. Certainly human beings make more complicated combinations, but ‘in this regard man differs from a Beast only in degree. Some Philosophers have even suggested that there is more difference between a given man and another than between a given man and a given beast.’79 Thus for Rousseau, and against Locke, there is no difference in kind with respect to understanding between non-human and human animals, because all animals have ideas and are able to combine ideas – essential features of understanding, as well as of knowledge and reason. Rousseau points to two fundamental kinds of understanding or ‘knowledge’: first, physical know-how, and second, significantly incremental knowledge. The first kind of knowledge, first in terms of the logic of historical transformation, amounts to the largely non-incremental physical know-how of ‘Savage man.’ ‘His knowledge (savoir) and his industry are limited to jumping, running, fighting, throwing a stone, scaling a tree,’ which ‘depend on Bodily exercise and are not susceptible of any communication or progress from one individual to another.’80 The know-how of original nascent human beings is rudimentary but adequate to their environment because they have not yet developed desires whose satisfaction would require more than the environment can provide (without systematic intervention). Obviously

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this know-how does not require communication, and it is by itself unable to develop into another kind of knowledge – in fact, the latter inability is in part a function of the former exclusion. However, we need to recall that for Rousseau all animals have ideas and the capacity to combine ideas, which are essential – if the most rudimentary – features of understanding, as well as of knowledge and reason. Thus know-how includes ideas and the capacity to combine them. The second kind of knowledge, second in terms of the logic of historical transformation, is more familiar to us than the first. Significantly incremental knowledge involves the ongoing accumulation of better ideas and practices, and, as with the improvement over time of a specific scientific practice or art, it is distinguishable from mere know-how. Significantly incremental knowledge ‘requires reflection,’ i.e., critical consideration of the various available ideas with respect to each other, and because it develops over time and advances through the contributions of many it also requires ‘communication.’ However, in the original nascent stage, as we have seen, human beings exist as a non-social dispersion of largely satisfied animals. As such they do not have ‘the needs’ that make communication necessary; nor do they have ‘the instrument’ (i.e., language) that makes it possible. They do not communicate, and so ‘all knowledge (connoissances) acquired only by the linking of ideas and perfected only successively’ over time is ‘altogether beyond the reach of Savage man.’81 However, with the advent of language – something for which nascent human beings have no explicable need, and for which they have no explicable means of acquisition – significantly incremental knowledge becomes possible. Thus it would seem to be the case that significantly incremental knowledge is possible in independent association, even though Rousseau also argues that the origins of the arts of metallurgy and agriculture, each of which is a kind of significantly incremental knowledge (requiring reflection and communication), cannot be accounted for in independent association. This is largely because the need for this knowledge does not exist within independent association. Without the need, natural human beings are satisfied, and they do not apply themselves to develop the knowledge. However, if human beings do not need to be capable of significantly incremental knowledge to participate in an independent association, a selection of the capacities they do need – including, most importantly, communication – has already set the stage for the displacement of know-how, and is all that is required for significantly incremental knowledge to begin should it ever be needed.


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In his account of the multiplication of desires, Rousseau does not give clear causal precedence to either understanding or desire. Rather, he conceives of them as driving each other.82 The fundamental human passions, the passions on which the others are based, are desire and fear. In the language of Hobbes, desire is ‘appetite,’ what moves one ‘toward’ something, while fear is ‘aversion,’ what moves one ‘fromward’ something.83 Furthermore, there are only two ways to desire or fear. First, ‘one can desire or fear things ... through the ideas one can have of them.’ 84 That is, to desire or fear an object, one has to know of the object, where knowing requires having an idea of the object in one’s understanding. Obviously, things about which one is utterly ignorant – about which one has no idea – cannot be desired or feared. However, the original nascent human being is ‘deprived of every kind of enlightenment’ and so, unable to desire or fear ‘through the ideas,’ he or she must desire or fear in another way. The original nascent human being ‘feels only the Passions of’ ‘the simple impulsion of Nature’ so that ‘[h]is desires do not exceed his Physical needs.’85 This second way of desiring or fearing is actually first in the logic of historical transformation. Natural needs – the biddings of nature within the individual – are limited and sufficient, and they are satisfied readily by gathering objects from the environment. Original nascent human beings may have basic ideas and combine them but the know-how that requires them merely serves the internal biddings of nature, and does not (yet) suggest ideas of objects of desire – as is the case for all animals. It is only on the basis of the first way of desiring or fearing, actually second in the logic of historical transformation, that the bidding of nature may be supplanted by the bidding of society. ‘The Passions’ – again, fundamentally desire and fear – ‘derive their origin from our needs’ to be sure, but they derive ‘their progress from our knowledge (connoissances).’86 For desires and fears to progress beyond merely natural needs, knowledge of the objects of desire and fear is necessary. Thus in the multiplication of desires and fears, understanding (or knowledge) drives desire and fear. It is also the case, however, that ‘human understanding (l’entendement) owes much to the Passions.’87 Given that passions, fundamentally, are desire or fear, why would anyone attempt to understand anything? The answer is that either understanding itself is pleasurable and so desirable (or ignorance is painful and so fearsome), or that the attainment of an object of one’s desire requires understanding an intermediary process (or because avoidance of an object of one’s fear requires understanding an intermediary process). That is to say, ‘it is impossible

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to conceive why one who had neither desires nor fears would go to the trouble of reasoning (raisonner).’88 Thus desire (and its correlate fear) drives understanding (including knowledge and reasoning), just as much as the latter drives the former. Luxuries unnecessary for the satisfaction of our needs cannot be objects of desire until they are known to us. Within a society in which amour-propre is aroused, advertising a luxury – i.e., making the idea of it known – amounts to making it an object of desire. Having a desire for an object that cannot be easily attained sets in motion the understanding, which comes up with various ideas in order to figure out how best to attain the object. Thus ideas generate desires, and desires generate ideas, all in a process not limited by natural need. The result is an unlimited multiplication of desires (and ideas). It should be noted that Rousseau makes no reference to free agency in his account of the mechanism of desire multiplication, which is precisely where a fundamentalist conception of freedom would rear its head if it were relevant. However, many authors from Hobbes to Condillac, read by Rousseau, rejected freedom of the will in favour of a minimalist conception of freedom as rooted squarely in desire. If I only ever had one desire, I would always be determined by it. However, if I had two or more desires, a conflict between them might arise, in which case I would compare the expected pleasures of each, factor in the expected pains necessary to attain each, and ‘choose’ the one that promised the most net pleasure – i.e., I would be determined, not without the mediation of ‘a mechanical prudence,’ by the greatest net desire. As Knight writes about Condillac, ‘his freedom is found in the tension among his desires as – like factions in the body politic – they contend for supremacy,’89 a conception of freedom (consistent with necessity) that would mesh with Rousseau’s own account of the human being subjected to multiplying desires. However, for Rousseau, as we have seen, ‘the difficulties surrounding’ this issue leave ‘room for dispute,’90 and a full explanation of the interior beginnings of desires and ideas probably seemed as remote as a full account of the origin and development of language. Perhaps he would have echoed Voltaire, who when asked ‘how thought and wish are formed in us,’ answered ‘I have not the remotest idea ... All we can do is to grope in the darkness for the springs of our incomprehensible machine.’91 Since the passions of original nascent human beings and those of fully social human beings are very different, Rousseau is ‘unable to conceive whence our Philosophers can derive all the passions they impute


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to Natural man.’92 He probably has Hobbes in mind in this passage. In Leviathan, Hobbes provides what he seems to consider a comprehensive list of the passions, defining each one with respect to desire and fear. The problem for Rousseau is that the list, which is supposed to be sufficient for inhabitants of both the state of nature and civil society, cannot possibly be appropriate for the former. Passions such as benevolence, covetousness, ambition, and liberality, each of which Hobbes defines in his list, depend on desires or ideas not available to original nascent human beings in the properly conceived state of nature.93 Sorely missing from Leviathan is a sophisticated conceptualization of the deep historical transformations that must have occurred between the state of nature and civil society. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which Rousseau does little more than supplement, with his transformational mechanism of desire multiplication, the atemporal mechanism at the centre of Hobbes’s seventeenth-century philosophical anthropology, which itself might reasonably be said to anticipate the empiricism and sensationalism that contextualize the Discourse on Inequality and distinguishes it from such later traditions as romanticism, historicism, and critical theory. With the inexplicable advent of metallurgy, agriculture, and property, the reciprocal perfection of desire and understanding becomes the largely internal mechanism by which the bidding of nature is supplanted by artificial desires, and by which these desires are multiplied indefinitely in an essentially competitive society that subjects formerly independent individuals to each other. Social and political critics in our own epoch have argued that desire and understanding are constructed, and that we are subjected to the various steering media of late modern society. In the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau’s analysis of the fate of the perfectible animal suggests that we look beyond the disfigured surface of what we have become, in order to glimpse the standard of independence hidden behind our commodified, administered, and spun desires and ideas. That standard remains at least one useful guide as we attempt both to avoid domination and to attain ‘principles of political right.’94

NOTES 1 Grace Roosevelt’s ‘An Alternative to Economic Man: The Limitation of Desire in Rousseau’s Emile,’ in this volume, can be read as very usefully

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3 4

5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24


complementing the discussion in the present chapter by extending it to Rousseau’s later Emile and to the field of political economy. Alternatively, in ‘Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society,’ also in this volume, Simon Kow argues that Mandeville had a major influence on Rousseau, especially in the Discourse on Inequality, but that what Rousseau rejected in Mandeville may be turned against Rousseau to effect, especially with respect to important issues developed in this and Roosevelt’s chapters. Kow makes a very compelling case for the Mandevillean influence, but not every reader will find the case for the Mandevillean critique as compelling. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Collected Writings of Rousseau (CWR) III, 25–6; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) III, 141–2; Basic Political Writings (BPW), 44–5. As well as two other kinds of freedom, neither of which is relevant here. Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 295. Also see both his introduction in Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Inequality, 31–3, and his Philosophers and Pamphleteers, 67–8. La Mettrie, Man a Machine, French and English texts, 148, 80. Hobbes, Leviathan: A Critical Edition, introduction (emphasis in original). Ibid., pt. 1, chap. 6. Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, AT 84–5. Descartes, The World, AT 31–48. Westfall, The Construction of Modern Science, chap. 2. La Mettrie, Man a Machine, 135, 65. Ibid., 142–3; 72–3. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II. xxiii. 15. Quoted in Hampson, The Enlightenment, 79. See, for example, Nadler, ‘Malebranche on Causation,’ 133–6. Compare Hampson, The Enlightenment, chap. 2. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 25; OC III, 142; BPW, 45. Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 295; Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 25–6; OC III, 141–2; BPW, 44 (emphasis added). Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 16 and 67; OC III, 127 and 193; BPW, 36 and 81. Ibid., CWR III, 19; OC III, 133; BPW, 38–9. Manuel, Shapes of Philosophical History, 92. Quoted in Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, 219. Plato, Collected Dialogues, 611b–12a; Ovid, Metamorphoses, XIII, lines 900–68; Dante, The Divine Comedy 3: Paradise, I, lines 67–72. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 12; OC III, 122; BPW, 33.


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25 Plato, Collected Dialogues, 611b–d. It might be argued that Rousseau rejected the immutability of the Platonic soul because he rejected the Platonic grounds for that immutability – i.e., immateriality and immortality. However, the Aristotelian essentialism that surely had its greatest ancestor in Plato (and that would not be overcome until Darwin), secreted immaterial immortality into the species / human nature. This remained true for the greatest natural historical influences on Rousseau, those of Buffon, who anticipated Darwin as much as any eighteenth- century natural historian when he admitted varieties to species. In very general terms, the rejection of Platonic idealism in favour of enlightenment naturalism would not necessarily exclude essentialism, on which see Duncan, ‘Sartre and Realismall-the-Way-Down,’ 99–100. 26 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 19–20; OC III, 133; BPW, 39. 27 Compare Ankersmit, ‘Historicism: An Attempt at Synthesis.’ 28 Buffon, Buffon’s Natural History (accessed June 20, 2008). 29 Discourse on Inequality: CWR III, 43–5; OC III, 164–7; BPW, 60–2. 30 If my analysis of Rousseau, at least in the Discourse on Inequality, is correct, it leads to interesting questions, one of which is whether or not the unchanging core of human nature (on which see above) is as radically solitary as are original nascent human beings. In ‘Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau,’ in this volume, Vasiliki Grigoropoulou argues that Rousseau’s theory of sentiments ensures that human beings are fundamentally open to alterity, and not deeply solitary. For an alternative view, see ‘Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau,’ also in this volume, in which Katrin Froese argues that the Rousseauian solitary human being is indeed essentially unable to fully overcome itself. Another possible view would pay careful attention to Rousseau’s discussion of the human capacity for language (on which see some remarks below). Finally, in ‘Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence,’ also in this volume, Mark Blackell argues that the bivalence of alterity and isolation in Rousseau is in part what makes him characteristically modern. 31 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 80–3; OC III, 208–11; BPW, 95–8. 32 Ibid., CWR III, 44; OC III, 165; BPW, 61. 33 Ibid., CWR III, 45; OC III, 167; BPW, 62. 34 Ibid., CWR III, 45–7; OC III, 167–9; BPW, 62–3. 35 Ibid., CWR III, 46–7; OC III, :168–9; BPW, 63. 36 Ibid., CWR III, 49; OC III, 171; BPW, 65. Regarding companionship, already in the stage of families, ‘The habit of living together gave rise to the sweetest sentiments known to men: conjugal love and Paternal love’ (l’amour

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37 38

39 40 41 42 43 44 45

46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56


conjugal, et l’amour Paternel) (ibid., CWR III, 46; OC III, 168; BPW, 62–3). On Rousseau’s remarkable life-long concern with the paternal role, see Duff, ‘“The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men”: Rousseau on Desire and the Child,’ in this volume. On the promise of conjugal love, especially in Rousseau’s later Julie and Emile, see Morgenstern, ‘Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity, and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,’ also in this volume. According to Duff and Morgenstern, to the extent that Rousseau’s critique of the ills of modernity is compelling, it finds itself, in his autobiography and fiction, both unable to reproduce itself in another human being, and unable to love the diversity of others, respectively. On the relationship between inabilities like these and the possibility that intercourse must be ‘independent’ for Rousseau, see Grigoropoulou, Froese, and Blackell, in this volume. Ibid., CWR III, 47–9; OC III, 169–71; BPW, 63–5. There is at least as much serious conflict in the last stage (which is ‘the best for man’), as there is idealistic caricature of natural humans – a common charge against Rousseau. Ibid., CWR III, 28–34; OC III, 144–52; BPW, 46–52. Ibid., CWR III, 33; OC III, 151; BPW, 51. Ibid., CWR III, 49–51; OC III, 171–4; BPW, 65–7. Ibid., CWR III, 48; OC III, 171; BPW, 65. Also see ibid., CWR III, 28–9 and 44; OC III, 144–5 and 165; BPW, 47 and 61. Ibid., CWR III, 48–9; OC III, 171; BPW, 65. Ibid., CWR III, 49–50; OC III, 171–3; BPW, 65–6. However, the stability of Rousseau’s natural human beings, even without God, seems to be deep enough in relation to the environment to stave off degeneration indefinitely in most cases, whereas Newtonian planetary decline is inevitable without God. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 26; OC III, 142; BPW, 45. Quoted in Hampson, The Enlightenment, 79. Although some of Plato’s language suggests a statue, he does seem to have the deity in mind: Plato, Republic, 611c–d. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 29; OC III, 146; BPW, 48. Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 142. Rousseau, The Confessions, bk. Vii, CWR V, 291; OC I, 347. Crocker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 176. Ibid., 190. Ibid., 134. George, ‘Kant’s Sensationism,’ 229–30. Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 217–19.


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57 Knight, The Geometric Spirit, 2–3. 58 See the sixth meditation in Descartes’s Meditations, and the first six chapters in Hobbes’ Leviathan. 59 For a detailed analysis of Locke’s important influences on Rousseau with respect to desire, reason, and ethics see Grigoropoulou, in this volume. 60 See Hopkins, ‘Molyneux’s Question.’ 61 Knight, The Geometric Spirit, 83. 62 Durant and Durant, Rousseau and the Revolution, 404. 63 Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 337. 64 Ibid., 307. 65 Rousseau, The Confessions, bk. Viii, CWR V, 326; OC I, 389. 66 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 42; OC III, 162; BPW, 59. 67 Ibid., CWR III, 48; OC III, 170; BPW, 64–5. 68 Ibid., CWR III, 49–51; OC III, 171–4; BPW, 65–7. 69 Ibid., CWR III, 51; OC III, 174; BPW, 67 (translation modified). 70 Ibid. 71 Ibid., CWR III, 52–6; OC III, 176–80; BPW, 68–72. 72 Ibid., CWR III, 56–61; OC III, 180–7; BPW, 72–6. 73 Ibid., CWR III, 61–5; OC III, 187–91; BPW, 76–80. 74 Ibid., CWR III, 62; OC III, 187; BPW, 76–7. 75 Imagination could be added to this list, but it is not a major concept in the Discourse on Inequality. 76 Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, intro., sec. 1. 77 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 26; OC III, 141–2; BPW, 45. 78 Ibid. 79 Ibid. 80 Ibid., CWR III, 71–2; OC III, 199; BPW, 87. 81 Ibid. 82 Contrast with Grigoropoulou, in this volume. 83 Hobbes, Leviathan: A Critical Edition, pt. 1, chap. 6. Locke’s relevant view has similar beginnings, on which see Grigoropoulou, in this volume. 84 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 27; OC III, 143; BPW, 45–6. 85 Ibid. 86 Ibid. 87 Ibid. 88 Ibid. 89 Knight, The Geometric Spirit, 132–3. Also see Hobbes, Leviathan: A Critical Edition, pt. 1, chap. 6, and pt. 2, chap. 21. 90 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 25; OC III, 142; BPW, 45.

Perfectibility, Chance, and Desire Multiplication 91 92 93 94

Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, entry on ‘Free Will.’ Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 86; OC III, 214; BPW, 101. Hobbes, Leviathan: A Critical Edition, pt. 1, chap. 6. Rousseau, Social Contract, CWR IV, 127; OC III, 347; BPW, 139.


2 An Alternative to Economic Man: The Limitation of Desire in Rousseau’s Emile grace roosevelt 1

‘The felicity of this life,’ argues Thomas Hobbes at the end of part I of his great work, Leviathan, ‘is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another, the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter.’ The cause of this restless movement, Hobbes goes on to say, is that ‘the object of man’s desire is not to enjoy once only and for one instant of time, but to assure forever the way of his future desires.’2 As is well known to students of political theory, the insatiable human desires and fears that Hobbes describes as essential to human nature in part I of Leviathan provide the psychological justification for the institution of absolute sovereignty that he prescribes in part II. All human beings are more or less equal in their basic physical and mental make-up, he argues, so in any context ‘where there is no power to overawe them all,’3 their competing desires for the same things naturally bring about a condition that resembles ‘a war ... of every man against every man’ in which life is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’4 The only way to get beyond such a condition of anarchy, Hobbes continues, is for individuals ‘to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men ... and therein to submit their wills every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement.’5 Given our natural aggressiveness, Hobbes maintains, the fear of an all-powerful ruler is necessary for the establishment of civic life. Much of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s political thought can be seen as an extended argument with Thomas Hobbes. ‘Who could imagine without shuddering the insane system of a natural war of every man against every man?’ Rousseau asks vehemently in an early unpublished fragment, ‘The State of War.’ Only a desire to ‘establish despotism and passive obedience,’ Rousseau continues, could have led a genius like

An Alternative to Economic Man


Hobbes to such an extreme view of human nature. Hobbes’s mistake, and the mistake of others like him, Rousseau argues, is ‘to confuse natural man with the man that they have before their eyes, and to transport into one system a being which could only exist in another.’6 Rousseau counters Hobbes’s view by asserting that it is not nature but corrupt social institutions that have fomented aggressiveness and greed in human beings. ‘A superficial philosopher observes souls that are endlessly kneaded and allowed to ferment in the yeast of society and believes he has observed man. But in order to know man well, he must know how to separate out the natural growth of the sentiments.’ Hobbes and the philosophes may well know what a bourgeois from Paris or London is, Rousseau concludes, but they will never really know man.7 As Simon Kow suggests in his chapter comparing Rousseau and Mandeville below, Rousseau’s aim in his Discourse on Inequality is precisely to ‘separate out the natural growth of the sentiments’ from their modern social contexts.8 The isolated primitive being that Rousseau depicts as representing basic human nature is radically different from the driven, insatiable individual portrayed by Hobbes. Rousseau proceeds to describe primitive man in his natural state as follows: Stripping this Being, so constituted, of all the supernatural gifts he could have received and of all the artificial faculties he could only have acquired by long progress – considering him, in a word, as he must have come from the hands of nature – I see an animal less strong than some, less agile than others, but all things considered, the most advantageously organized of all. I see him satisfying his hunger under an oak, quenching his thirst at the first stream, finding his bed at the foot of the same tree that furnished his meal; and therewith his needs are satisfied.9

The phrase ‘and therewith his needs are satisfied’ highlights the contrast between Rousseau’s assumptions about human nature and those held by both Hobbes and Mandeville. Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality shows that in their most basic psychological form, human desires are limited to satisfying the need for food, sleep, and occasional sex; in his fragment ‘The State of War’ he asks rhetorically, ‘When he has a healthy soul and his body is not in pain, what does [a human being’s] natural constitution lack to make him happy?’10 Although Kow and others (including Rousseau’s contemporary, Voltaire) may dismiss Rousseau’s portrayal of primitive man in the Discourse on Inequality as a romanticization of l’homme sauvage, Rousseau’s


Grace Roosevelt

vision provides the basis for a compelling set of alternative political ideals. The limitations Rousseau puts on natural desire in his early works enable him, in his later political writings, to envision a new kind of social contract in which the collected people themselves hold sovereign power and rule according to the guidelines of a general will. While acknowledging that modern social man’s desires have expanded well beyond those of his primitive ancestors, Rousseau strongly maintains – particularly in his writings on Poland and Corsica – that once basic needs are met (and given the proper context), political participation can take precedence over social subjection and the community can focus on fostering freedom rather than on imposing obedience. Although Rousseau recognized Hobbes’s ‘genius’ and learned much from the rigorous logic of the political principles laid out in De Cive and Leviathan, the disagreement between Hobbes and Rousseau over human psychological drives and the political implications of those drives have long constituted paradigmatic starting points for the study of modern Western political thought. In what follows, I suggest that Rousseau’s response to Hobbes has implications for the study of modern Western economic thought as well. In particular, I argue that Rousseau’s elaboration of the dynamics of human desire in book II of Emile provides an interesting alternative to the assumptions about homo economicus that Rousseau’s contemporaries such as Adam Smith posited as the psychological premise of a free market economy. As a lead-in to Rousseau’s analysis of desire in Emile, I explore some of the background issues that divided Smith and Rousseau. A thoroughgoing comparative study of Smith and Rousseau has yet to be written; the remarks that follow will necessarily be tentative and preliminary.11 I It is interesting to learn that in his early years, Adam Smith expressed a qualified but open admiration for Rousseau. In a 1756 letter to the Edinburgh Review urging the journal to broaden its scope to include the exciting new work then being published in Europe, Smith commented on the range of topics covered in the new French Encyclopédie and drew his readers’ attention specifically to the writings of ‘Mr. Rousseau of Geneva.’ In the letter, Smith stated that Rousseau was one of the few European writers at that time engaged in the kind of ‘original’ thinking characteristic of English writers such as Hobbes, Locke, Mandeville,

An Alternative to Economic Man


and Shaftesbury. As an example of Rousseau’s originality, Smith cited Rousseau’s recently published Discourse on Inequality. As Simon Kow notes, in summarizing Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, Smith first compared Rousseau’s portrayal of primitive life with that of Bernard Mandeville, who, in his two volumes (published in 1723 and 1728) of The Fable of the Bees: or Private Vices, Public Benefits, described human instincts in their most asocial and materialistic form. In his comparison, Smith argues that while Rousseau and Mandeville present somewhat parallel trajectories of human progress from the state of nature to modern life, in Rousseau’s version ‘the principles of the English author are softened, improved, and embellished, and stript of all that tendency to corruption and licentiousness which has disgraced them in their original author.’ Smith goes on to say that ‘Dr. Mandeville represents the primitive state of mankind as the most wretched and miserable that can be imagined: Mr. Rousseau, on the contrary, paints it as the happiest and most suitable to his nature.’12 At this point, in his Edinburgh Review letter, Smith appears to prefer Rousseau’s ideas to those of Mandeville. And yet not only did Smith in his private correspondence later refer to Rousseau as a ‘Rascal’ and a ‘hypocritical Pedant,’13 but, as some have argued, Mandeville’s ideas may have inspired arguments for ‘laissez-faire’ and the ‘invisible hand’ that are central to Smith’s economic theory.14 In any case, Smith was quite perceptive to observe the contrast between Rousseau’s and Mandeville’s basic assumptions about human nature. As Helena Rosenblatt has recently argued, much of Rousseau’s growing radicalization in the period between his completion of the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts in 1749 and his drafting of the Discourse on Inequality in 1753 can be explained in terms of his growing criticism of the doux commerce theory of economic development of which Mandeville was a leading proponent. In his Fable, Mandeville had suggested that ‘private vices’ such as selfishness, greed, and pride would have the ‘public benefit’ of stimulating commerce, generating material wealth, and ultimately leading to a happier, more civilized and greatly refined social life. Rousseau vehemently opposed this view, largely, Rosenblatt argues, because he had seen the ill effects that unlimited greed and commercial expansion had on the social and political life of his native city, Geneva.15 The main theme of the Discourse on Inequality – that human beings are naturally innocent and that it is social progress that engenders the ‘vices’ that make them miserable – can in fact be seen as Rousseau’s effort to oppose the ideas of Mandeville.16


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Smith’s qualified yet surprisingly positive assessment of Rousseau continues in the second half of his letter to the Edinburgh Review. When one looks at primitive life on a broad scale, Smith says, what is striking is both its profound ‘indolence’ and its unconstrained ‘adventurousness.’ Yet ‘Mr. Rousseau, intending to paint the savage life as the happiest of any, presents only the indolent side.’ Moreover, Smith goes on to say, Rousseau ‘exhibits [this indolence] with the most beautiful and agreeable colours.’ Indeed, the Scottish economist continues, ‘[i]t is by the help of this style, together with a little philosophical chemistry, that the principles and ideas of the profligate Mandeville seem in [Rousseau] to have all the purity and sublimity of the morals of Plato, and to be only the true spirit of a republican carried a little too far.’17 Despite his criticism of a republican spirit ‘carried a little too far,’ Smith at the end of his letter provides his readers with an example of Rousseau’s eloquence by translating into English a few paragraphs of the Discourse on Inequality. What is particularly interesting about Smith’s short translation is that he chooses to focus on precisely that place in Rousseau’s narrative where the introduction of the division of labour transforms man’s previously free, indolent, and innocent life into a miserable condition of greed, dependency, inequality, affectation, and ceaseless work. ‘While they applied themselves to such works as a single person could execute, and to such arts as required not the concurrence of several hands, they lived free, healthful, humane and happy, as far as their nature would permit them, and continued to enjoy amongst themselves the sweets of an independent society,’ Smith’s translation begins. It proceeds as follows: But from the instant in which one man had occasion for the assistance of another, from the moment that he perceived that it could be advantageous to a single person to have provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, labour became necessary, and the vast forests of nature were changed into agreeable plains, which must be watered with the sweat of mankind, and in which the world beheld slavery and wretchedness begin to grow up and blossom with the harvest.18

The next two paragraphs of Smith’s translation of Rousseau contain even more lurid descriptions of the human corruption that results from the proliferation of material needs and the further division of labour. Rank and preferences become established, guile and deceit become the norm, and thus ‘man, from being free and independent, became by a

An Alternative to Economic Man


multitude of new necessities, subjected in a manner, to all nature, and above all to his fellow creatures.’ To conclude, an insatiable ambition, an ardour to raise his relative fortune, not so much from any real necessity, as [much as] to set himself above others, inspires all men with a direful propensity to hurt one another ... and always with the concealed desire of making profit at the expense of some other person: All these evils are the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of beginning inequality.19

Rarely has Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality been translated with such an ear for its anticapitalist implications. And yet in Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations published twenty years later, there is little suggestion of the ‘direful propensity to hurt one another’ that Rousseau sees as an inevitable consequence of private property and the division of labour; indeed there is little indication that Smith had read Rousseau at all. As is well known, in chapter 1 of book I of the Wealth of Nations, Smith uses the description of a pin factory to launch into an unqualified panegyric to the material benefits that come from the division of labour, and much of what follows celebrates precisely those aspects of commercial development that Rousseau saw as the source of human corruption.20 The only hint of a Rousseauian presence in Smith’s monumental work is his reference, in book V, to man’s natural indolence, man’s desire ‘to live as much at ease as he can.’21 This basic human instinct is more than counterbalanced, however, by what Smith refers to as a universal ‘desire of bettering our condition,’ a desire that Smith asserts ‘comes with us from the womb and never leaves us till we go into the grave.’22 Whatever youthful enthusiasm Smith may have felt reading Rousseau in 1756 had clearly left him by 1776.23 II Rousseau’s death in 1778, only two years after the Wealth of Nations was published, makes it unlikely that he ever read Smith’s path-breaking work. However, in Emile: or On Education (first published in 1762), one finds an elaborate discussion of the relationships between happiness, desire, and power that can be read as Rousseau’s advice for resisting the spread of the market that Smith was soon to analyse and herald (and that Mandeville had praised so warmly in his Fable).24 Although


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Emile is often thought of as a primer for the permissive pedagogies that have flourished in the context of the consumerist culture of advanced capitalism, at the core of the book lies a vision of human happiness that challenges the premises upon which free market ideologies have been constructed.25 Rousseau opens his discussion of the relationship between happiness, desire, and power with the exhortation that teachers try above all to be ‘humane’ in their education of young children. ‘Love childhood; promote its games, its pleasures, its amiable instincts,’ but do not confuse ‘license with liberty [nor] the child one makes happy with the child one spoils.’26 To help the reader distinguish between these two outcomes, Rousseau embarks on definitions of human happiness and unhappiness that provide the guiding principles for much of the pedagogical program that follows. He begins by observing that happiness is basically a relative, not an absolute, condition. The happiest person is the one who suffers the least pain; the most unhappy is the one who experiences the least pleasure. But the experiences of pleasure and pain are themselves relative to desire. ‘Every feeling of pain is inseparable from the desire to be delivered from it; every idea of pleasure is inseparable from the desire to enjoy it.’ Because all desire thus implies ‘a privation, and all privations that one feels are painful,’ he says, our happiness depends on our ability to counter those desires. Indeed, true happiness (the absence of pain) can only be achieved by a balance between our desires and our powers, or faculties. ‘Our unhappiness consists, therefore, in the disproportion between our desires and our faculties,’ he argues. ‘A being endowed with senses whose faculties equalled his desires would be an absolutely happy being.’27 Since Rousseau has previously told us that ‘absolute’ happiness is unattainable, the idea of making faculties permanently equal to desires is a condition that cannot be fully attained. But it is a condition that can be aimed at. ‘In what, then, consists human wisdom or the road of true happiness?’ he asks. We must not attempt to eliminate desires, for then we would not enjoy our ‘whole being’; nor should we simply try to increase our faculties, for then our desires would increase commensurably and we would remain unhappy. The solution is to aim at ‘diminishing the excess of the desires over the faculties and putting power and will in perfect equality. It is only then that, with all the powers in action, the soul will nevertheless remain peaceful and that man will be well ordered.’28

An Alternative to Economic Man


Here it becomes clear that happiness is a condition of self-sufficiency. Only when human beings can satisfy their desires through their own powers can they be truly happy. The condition of equilibrium in which powers and desires are relatively balanced is similar, Rousseau reminds us, to the well-being experienced by human beings in their original state. ‘It is thus that nature, which does everything for the best, constituted [the human animal] in the beginning.’ Nature first gave man ‘only the desires necessary to his preservation and the faculties sufficient to satisfy them ... Only in this original state are power and desire in equilibrium and man is not unhappy.’29 As we have noted above, similar assumptions about basic human drives and motivations appear in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality where he depicts human beings in their most ‘stripped down’ pre-social state.30 Once again we are very far from both Hobbes’s restless, insatiable beings driven inexorably into the fold of political absolutism and Smith’s economic maximizers driven inexorably into a greater and greater division of labour. In Rousseau’s psychological model, the interdependence of needs that provides the rationale for the division of labour does not increase human happiness; on the contrary, such interdependence only increases our awareness of what we ourselves lack and hence is likely to lead to unhappiness. Rousseau proceeds to discuss the second term of the happinessdesires-powers equation in more detail. Like happiness, desires too are relative, for they are a function of our imagination. ‘It is imagination which extends for us the measure of the possible, whether for good or bad, and which consequently excites and nourishes the desires by the hope of satisfying them,’ he says. But the extension of desire that imagination stimulates is illusory. The elusive objects of our imagination never satisfy us: our desires remain, and the objects – mirage-like – disappear beyond our grasp the closer we get to them. This difference that imagination creates between the real world and the imaginary world thus gives rise to ‘all the pains which make us truly unhappy.’ Here Rousseau’s analysis suggests the antimodernist proposition that human happiness can be promoted by limiting the imagination.31 Emile’s early education will focus on the unmediated here and now, not the media-saturated there and then. In direct opposition to the frenzied creation of new desires and wants that today’s culture fosters in children, Rousseau counsels a firm restriction of what children should be exposed to, not because such stimuli are ‘bad’ but because they ultimately make for unsatisfied and therefore unhappy children.


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Turning finally to the third term in the equation – human powers – Rousseau argues that our powers too must be understood as relative, and here it is interesting to note that he defines strength and weakness not in relation to other men but in relation to the individual’s own needs. ‘When it is said that man is weak, what is meant?’ Rousseau asks, and then answers with the following observations: This word weak indicates a relation, a relation obtaining within the being to which one applies it. He whose strength surpasses his needs, be he an insect or a worm, is a strong being. He whose needs surpass his strength, be he an elephant or a lion, be he a conqueror or a hero, be he a god, is a weak being ... Man is very strong when he is contented with being what he is; he is very weak when he wants to raise himself above humanity.32

Again, the psychological assumptions here have little in common with those of Hobbes, Mandeville, or Smith. In Rousseau’s value system, the expansion of needs is a sign of weakness while the limitation of needs is a sign of strength. Happiness can be obtained by inner balance, not by outward striving. We are in a world here that hearkens back to Stoic resignation rather than looking forward to modern progress. The aim is to create neither homo economicus nor homo lutens but a being who can resist the psychological corrosiveness of the economic and social forces that surround him. As Madeleine Ellis has commented in reference to these passages from Emile, ‘Strength is for [Rousseau] the ability to exercise our resources in order to provide for true needs without being tormented by useless cravings that ultimately lead us far beyond our reach.’33 When Rousseau turns from theory to practice, it becomes obvious that much of the pedagogical program that the tutor Jean-Jacques advises for the young Emile follows directly from the analysis of human happiness in book II which we have just examined. To build up a child’s strengths so that they will be sufficient for his needs, Rousseau emphasizes the importance of physical exercise at each stage of a child’s development. The infant should not be swaddled but allowed to stretch his limbs and move about; the toddler should not be kept confined in stuffy rooms but encouraged to play outside; the youth is encouraged to run races, jump and climb and generally avoid the sedentary habits of city life. To limit the child’s desires to needs that can be easily satisfied, Rousseau counsels doing away with rich and highly seasoned foods, keeping the child’s clothing simple and unadorned, and – in one

An Alternative to Economic Man


of Rousseau’s most controversial recommendations – postponing the development of young Emile’s imagination by keeping him away from books, at least until he is ready to read a book about a fictional independent man, Robinson Crusoe.34 At this point, one might argue that the ‘education of things’ that Rousseau substitutes for the ‘education of men’ further on in book II would require the plethora of material goods generated by the free market system praised by Adam Smith. But this would be to misread this section of Emile. The ‘education of things’ is offered as a way to prevent the child from manipulating the people around him; it aims to make natural necessity rather than human whim the authority that the child confronts as he interacts with the world. ‘As long as children find resistance only in things and never in wills, they will become neither rebellious nor irascible and will preserve their health better.’35 And when examined closely, the ‘things’ that Emile learns from are common natural or household objects – a stone, a glass, a ladder from the barn – never commodities that have been bought specifically for him. Toys ‘R’ Us would get no business from Jean-Jacques. The equipment the tutor uses for Emile’s scientific studies is equally primitive: a scale is devised by putting a stick across the back of a chair; a compass is improvised with a magnet and a piece of wax. ‘The more ingenious are our tools, the cruder and more maladroit our organs become,’ Rousseau observes. ‘By dint of gathering machines around us, we no longer find any in ourselves.’36 The limitation of desire that Rousseau advises for the young Emile lays the theoretical foundation for the economic policy recommendations that Rousseau proposes first in On the Social Contract and then in his Considerations on the Government of Poland and Constitutional Project for Corsica. A full discussion of these texts is beyond the scope of this chapter. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that in a footnote to book I of his Social Contract, Rousseau makes the point that legitimate social institutions are advantageous only in so far as all men ‘have something and that none of them has anything superfluous’37 and that his advice for both Poland and Corsica is to preserve ‘simple tastes,’38 to resist as much as possible the international economic forces that surround them, and to concentrate on building up their strength from within. Rousseau specifically recommends that the use of money be done away with or at least drastically curtailed (and that exchange take the form of barter), that agriculture be encouraged (‘commerce produces wealth, but agriculture ensures freedom’),39 and that the nation become as economi-


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cally self-sufficient as possible. The aim, Rousseau says in the project for Corsica, should be to diminish trade ‘until it has been reduced of its own accord to the smallest possible volume’40 and to avoid luxuries by all means. Clearly Rousseau’s primary concern was not for the ‘wealth of nations’ but for their moral independence. In the context of today’s reigning ideologies, the limitations on desire that Rousseau argues for in his pedagogical and political writings may sound like ‘antibourgeois moralism,’ as Simon Kow suggests in this volume.41 And yet it would be wrong to dismiss Rousseau’s romanticization of human nature and of the natural world merely as symptoms of a ‘deep longing for a time irrevocably lost.’42 Postmodern scepticism may prompt us to squirm at Rousseau’s sentimentalism, but in at least three areas of contemporary concern, an appreciation for Rousseau’s alternative vision may be in order. The most obvious contemporary application of the limitations on desire that Rousseau lays out in Emile would be to the practice of childrearing itself. Rousseau’s eighteenth-century attempt to describe an alternative view of happiness has recently been echoed by those concerned about the effects of consumerism on children today. In Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture, Juliet Schor makes similar points to Rousseau’s about the relationship between consumerism and happiness. In a carefully conducted statistical study in the Boston area of the effects of commercial advertising aimed specifically at children, Schor found a direct one-way correlation between high levels of consumption and mental depression: ‘The children who are more involved in consumer culture are more depressed, more anxious, have lower self-esteem, and suffer from more psychosomatic complaints,’ she writes. In interpreting the results of her study within the context of other similar psychological studies of both children and adults, Schor postulates that ‘desiring less, rather than getting more, seems to be the key to contentment and well-being’ – a key point anticipated by Rousseau.43 Although Schor’s proposed remedies put more stress on collective action and less stress on isolating the child than Rousseau does, her recommendation for making safe outdoor space more available to children and limiting their exposure to television would certainly be applauded by the author of Emile. Rousseau’s discussion of the need to find an ‘equilibrium’ between powers and desires can also be applied to concerns about the environment. Indeed, a theoretical connection can be made between Rousseau’s ethic of self-limitation and current theories of environmental sustain-

An Alternative to Economic Man


ability. In an article entitled ‘Theorizing Sustainability: An Exercise in Political Ecology,’ Christopher Robinson argues as follows: [since] infinite economic growth is impossible in a world of finite resources ... the future of humanity and other species depends upon our ability to turn away from the seductions of the growth economy and turn instead to development that is sustainable.44

Later on in his paper, Robinson, like Rousseau, stresses that ‘more consumer goods or luxuries and buying power do not translate automatically into happiness or fulfillment.’ Indeed, he says, economists working with various happiness or ‘well-being’ indexes show consistently that while the United States may be the richest country in the world, its population is ‘competitive, insatiable, and unhappy.’45 Of course there is no hint in Emile of an environmental ethic per se: the pre-industrial ancien regime that is the setting for the book was blissfully innocent of the challenges of garbage disposal, species extinction, fossil fuel depletion, water and air pollution, nuclear waste, and global warming that preoccupy us today. Nonetheless, many of the ingredients for a usable theory of sustainability are in the text – the devaluation of growth for growth’s sake, the recognition of the need to limit excessive consumption, and above all the definition of human happiness as an equilibrium between desires and powers. For both Rousseau and sustainability theorists, hopes for human well-being lie in countering the dominant ethos of unbridled consumption and economic expansion. A final example of the continuing relevance of Rousseau’s vision of an alternative to economic man may be seen in recent developments in the economics profession itself. The appearance of a subfield dubbed ‘heterodox economics’ at a number of universities in the United States and in Europe suggests that the neoclassical model, based as it is on assumptions about economic man derived from Adam Smith, may not adequately account for much of market behaviour. As a recent article in The Nation states, ‘Those who study how humans actually reason about economic decisions ... routinely find ... that the rational utility maximizer of the neoclassical model is a convenient fiction,’46 and here one might add, perhaps no less of a ‘fiction’ than Rousseau’s construct of a solitary primitive being with needs and wants that are limited to securing basic survival. While there is little chance that members of the economics profession will begin taking to heart Rousseau’s alternatives to economic


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man any time soon (indeed, much of the recent research in the area of ‘behavioural’ economics, focusing as it does on cultural norms, seems to relate more closely to Mandeville’s work than to Rousseau’s), the current ‘growing will to debate fundamental assumptions,’ as the New York Times has recently called it,47 may signify that the visions of human nature put forth by Hobbes and Smith are once again in question. In her recently published Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment, Emma Rothschild explores the complex interweaving of English and French economic and political thought in the years leading up to (and through) the French Revolution. Stressing the intellectual bridges between Smith and Condorcet, sentiment and reason, free markets and free men, Rothschild aims to highlight the ‘warm’ moral origins of classical economics and to debunk the idea of the Enlightenment as dominated by ‘cold’ rationality.48 The picture that emerges from Rothschild’s rich and provocative work represents, as one commentator has put it, ‘capitalism with a human face’49 and portrays the differences between English and Continental authors in a more nuanced and balanced way than in previous studies. Given her focus on economic thought, it is understandable that Rothschild rarely mentions Rousseau in her book – although it was her footnote regarding Smith’s translation of Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality that provided the seminal inspiration for this chapter.50 Once Rousseau is included in the history of eighteenth-century economic thought, however, the Enlightenment becomes a more contentious field of ideological differences than Rothschild makes it out to be. As we have seen, at the heart of the book that Rousseau himself deemed his most important work lies an analysis of human needs and desires that challenges the assumptions about economic man that underpin the dominant discourse of our age. At a time when the free market system has infiltrated so much of modern life, it may be important to keep Rousseau’s alternative vision of human happiness in mind.

NOTES 1 This chapter could not have been completed without the wise counsel and generous assistance of my husband, Frank Roosevelt, whom I continue to learn from even after forty-five years of marriage. I am also grateful to Chris Bertram for his comments on an earlier draft.

An Alternative to Economic Man


2 Hobbes, Leviathan Parts I and II, chap. 11, 86. In an earlier work, Hobbes defined happiness as ‘the gratifying thought of advancing from the enjoyment of one good thing to that of another.’ See Hobbes, Thomas White’s De Mundo Examined, 468. I am indebted to Simon Kow for bringing this reference to my attention. 3 Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 13, 106. 4 Ibid., chap. 13, 105. Part of Hobbes’s argument in chapter 13 is his point that though some men might be satisfied with ‘moderate’ power, since there are other men who want more than they need for survival, ‘there is no way for any man to secure himself so reasonable as anticipation – that is, by force or wiles to master the persons of all men he can’ (chap. 13, 106). 5 Ibid., chap. 18, 142. 6 Rousseau, ‘The State of War,’ Collected Writings of Rousseau (CWR) XI, 63; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) III, 611. 7 Ibid., CWR XI, 63–4; OC III, 612. 8 Kow, ‘Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society’ in this volume. 9 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 20; OC III, 134–5. 10 Rousseau, ‘The State of War,’ CWR XI, 63; OC III, 612. 11 For an excellent introduction to such a study, see Rasmussen, The Problems and Promise of Commercial Society, chaps. 1–4. See also part 3 of Colletti, From Rousseau to Lenin, 143–216. 12 Smith, Essays, 250. 13 Smith, Correspondence, 112–13. To Smith’s credit, the 1766 letter in which these epithets appear had as its aim to persuade his friend David Hume not to publish correspondence between himself (i.e., Hume) and Rousseau that revealed the nasty quarrels between them. Hume did not take Smith’s advice, and as Smith had predicted, the publication of the letters exacerbated the ill feelings on both sides. 14 See, for example, Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests, 18–19. 15 Rosenblatt, Rousseau and Geneva, 53–84. 16 For a further comparison of Rousseau and Mandeville, see Kow, ‘Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society’ in this volume. 17 Smith, Essays, 251–2. 18 Ibid. (emphasis added). 19 Ibid., 252. 20 Interestingly, in his discussion of the uniquely human ‘propensity to truck, barter, and exchange’ that gives rise to the division of labour, Smith uses


Grace Roosevelt some of the same words that he had used in his translation of the section on the division of labour in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality: In almost every other race of animals each individual ... is entirely independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature. But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren ... (Smith, The Wealth of Nations, bk. I, chap. 2, 15)

21 22 23

24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Note, however, that in this passage Smith departs from his earlier admiration for Rousseau’s vision of natural man and relegates the concept of a self-sufficient individual to the animal kingdom. I am indebted to Frank Roosevelt for these observations. Ibid., bk. V, chap. 1, pt. iii, 821. Ibid., bk. II, chap. 3, pt. ii, 372. Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments contains hints that he had abandoned Rousseau’s critical perspective on the division of labour and the origins of inequality even by 1759. In book IV, chapter 1, where Smith is weighing the ‘utility’ of great wealth, he argues that the rich ‘are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants; and thus, without intending it, without knowing, it, advance the interest of the society’ (264–5). I am grateful to Simon Kow for bringing this passage to my attention. See Kow’s chapter in this volume. Parts of the analysis that follows build on the arguments that appear in Roosevelt, ‘Another Side of Rousseau.’ Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 79–80; OC IV, 303–4. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 80; OC IV, 304. Ibid. Ibid. See note 9 above. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 81; OC IV, 304. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 81; OC IV, 305. Ellis, Rousseau’s Socratic Aemilian Myths, 84. As Emile approaches maturity, Rousseau recognizes that in order to be a productive member of society he will have to learn a trade, thus acknowledging the benefits of some division of labour. But the trade that Rousseau recommends for Emile – carpentry – is notable for the range of skills that it requires and the independence of thought that it encourages. Compare

An Alternative to Economic Man

35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

44 45 46 47

48 49 50


Rousseau’s descriptions of a carpenter’s workshop (Emile, ed. Bloom, 200–1; OC IV, 477–8) with Smith’s description of a pin factory (Wealth of Nations, 3–5). Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 66; OC IV, 287. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 176; OC IV, 443. Rousseau, Social Contract, CRW IV, 144; OC III, 367. Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland, CWR XI, 209–10; OC III, 1003. Rousseau, Constitutional Project for Corsica, CWR XI, 127; OC III, 905. Ibid., CWR XI, 143; OC III, 924. Kow, in this volume, 73. Kow, in this volume, 77. Schor, Born to Buy, 166 and 172. See also Barber, Consumed. As an epigraph to his chapter 6, Barber quotes from Rousseau’s Discourse on the Arts and Sciences as follows: ‘The arts and sciences, less despotic though perhaps more powerful than government, fling garlands of flowers over the chains which weigh [people] down ... causing them to love their own slavery.’ Robinson, ‘Theorizing Sustainability,’ 173–89 (emphasis added). Ibid., 176. Hayes, ‘Hip Heterodoxy.’ Online at doc/20070611/hayes. Cohen, ‘In Economics Departments, a Growing Will to Debate Fundamental Assumptions.’ Online at education/11economics.html. Rothschild, Economic Sentiments, 26–7. Mattick, ‘Who Is the Real Adam Smith?’ 25. Rothschild, Economic Sentiments, 271, n. 24.

3 Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society simon kow

In a letter to the Edinburgh Review, Adam Smith remarked the following: ... the second volume of the Fable of the Bees has given occasion to the system of Mr. Rousseau, in whom however the principles of the English author are softened, improved, and embellished, and stript of all that tendency to corruption and licentiousness which has disgraced them in their original author.1

Smith represented Rousseau as a sort of purified Mandevillean. Indeed, there are remarkable parallels in the accounts of bourgeois society in Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1723–8) and Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (1755), particularly the multiplication of desires as a central factor in the development of modernity. John Duncan’s essay ‘Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality’ in this volume has explored the multiplication of desires against the backdrop of early modern natural philosophy; the relation to Mandevillean social and political thought is in my view equally important, as also indicated in Grace Roosevelt’s treatment (chapter 2) of Rousseauian political economy in contrast to Smith’s. Malcolm Jack has observed that both Rousseau and Mandeville emphasized the relationship material progress has with moral decline.2 E.G. Hundert writes of Rousseau as being ‘in Mandeville’s shadow’ because Rousseau, following Mandeville, ‘elevated the question of language origins into an Enlightenment controversy about the ethical consequences of the progress of civilization.’3 I seek in this essay to clarify Smith’s view that Rousseau’s thought in

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


the Discourse on Inequality is a ‘little philosophical chemistry’ applied to Mandeville’s Fable,4 and take issue with Smith’s judgment that Rousseau improved upon Mandeville while contesting Roosevelt’s claim that Rousseau’s thought is an antidote to modern political economy (as outlined, Roosevelt argues, in the systems of Hobbes and Mandeville and expanded upon in the Wealth of Nations). Indeed, Rousseau’s corrosive criticism of modernity cannot be fully understood without consideration of Mandeville’s cynical endorsement of commercial society, but Rousseau’s departure from Mandeville leads the former into certain difficulties relative to Mandeville’s thought. While Roosevelt’s essay emphasizes the ways in which seventeenth- and eighteenth-century bourgeois thought led Rousseau to his brilliant critique of modern political economy, I argue that if we identify the influence of Mandeville, then we discern certain problems arising from Rousseau’s break with Mandeville’s conclusions. That is to say, the contrasts between each thinker’s stance with respect to modern society highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Rousseau’s critical project of modernity in relation to this predecessor. The parallels between Rousseau’s and Mandeville’s accounts of the development of modern society show the degree to which Rousseau’s hypothetical history should be situated in the context of this earlier eighteenth-century speculation, and their opposing evaluations of modernity suggest Rousseau’s originality in employing a partially Mandevillean conception of desire and material progress to indict bourgeois society. In the Fable of the Bees, Mandeville sought to clarify the distinctions between the vice-ridden commercial society of his day and Christian virtue, while ironically embracing the former; Rousseau went further in endeavouring to discover (or recover) the natural human being underneath the deformities of modern vice. Nevertheless, Rousseau’s lament for our lost natural state is very much a reaction, and, I argue, a questionable one, to Mandeville’s clever portrayal of European society. Where they differ lies in Mandeville’s more negative treatment of the state of nature: civilization may depend on vice, but it is also an improvement on brutish nature. If Mandeville successfully accounts for the society railed against by Rousseau, then we may question the validity of Rousseau’s nostalgia for a more natural existence. In other words, Rousseauian nostalgia may be criticized not only from the perspective of, for example, contemporary feminist and phenomenological theory (see Katrin Froese’s essay in this volume), but also from the standpoint of Mandevillean thought. Rousseau’s conjectural


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history of humanity is in many ways derivative of Mandeville’s partly historicized conception of the movement from nature to society. Recognizing this lineage allows us to criticize Rousseau’s romanticization of nature in light of Mandeville’s account and draw out some of the implications for Rousseauian thought. Language and Nature Mandeville’s influence on the ideas in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality is not explicit outside of a brief reference to him in the discussion of pity in part 1. But even prior to that discussion, Rousseau’s comments on language in the primitive state should be read in relation to Mandeville’s conception of the origins of language in the Fable of the Bees. For Rousseau, as Duncan and Froese point out, the development of language is crucial to human history: the progress of the human species from primitive animals to rational individuals is marked by a movement from inarticulate grunts and gestures to the representation of abstract thought in words. Language and thought are inseparable. So too are language and desire. Rousseau wrote of ‘man’s first language,’ the cry of nature to elicit help in times of danger. In both the Discourse on Inequality and the Essay on the Origin of Languages, he surmised that as human beings came in closer contact, language became more extensive.5 Society entails greater dependence on others to satisfy one’s needs and wants. Thus for Rousseau, language evolves as desire is augmented. The evolution of language, thought, and desire are all implicated in human progress. Rousseau was not the first thinker to link language and desire in an account of human history. In the second volume of the Fable, Mandeville described a ‘wild Couple,’ a secularized Adam and Eve, who do not have a language: It is not without some Difficulty, that a Man born in Society can form an Idea of such Savages, and their Condition; and unless he has used himself to abstract thinking, he can hardly represent to himself such a State of Simplicity, in which Man can have so few Desires, and no Appetites roving beyond the immediate Call of untaught Nature: To me it seems very plain, that such a Couple would not only be destitute of Language, but likewise never find out or imagine, that they stood in need of any; or that the want of it was any real Inconvenience to them.6

Mandeville struck the same speculative tone as Rousseau in his own

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


hypothetical history of human origins, and asserted that the need for language is proportional to the degree of human desire. He seems to have deduced the inarticulacy of primitive desire from the crying of children ‘to call Assistance and raise Pity’ just as Rousseau compared savage man to a child.7 Also, the authenticity of the Rousseauian cry of nature which, prior to representation and artifice, immediately springs from pure desire finds an earlier expression in Mandeville’s assertions that the child’s cry stirs up universal compassion and that the ‘Language of the Eyes’ is understood even in the remotest countries of the world.8 Rousseau, however, displayed a greater uncertainty than Mandeville about language and society. The problem of how language and society could have come into being without the prior existence of the other was a thorny one for modern philosophers. For example, because of his theory that society could have been generated only through a contract, a speech-act, Hobbes had uncharacteristically resorted to Genesis in order to explain the invention of speech.9 Mandeville broke from this reliance on divine origins by arguing that primitive humans probably invented language over generations as a result of mutual intercourse between the first couple and with their children. They represented the things around them with sounds, in order to convey the ideas of these things when the things were absent. Succeeding generations refined and expanded these conventional signs.10 Later thinkers, including Condillac, followed in this vein in considering the non-divine origins of language. Rousseau opposed the view of Condillac that there was some sort of society prior to the invention of language. On the contrary, he argued, sexual union in the primitive state was too casual for any domestic permanency. But given the difficulty of conceiving how language could have been formed without some association, and how any association could have been formed without language, Rousseau simply stated the problem without speculating on a means of resolving it.11 Mandeville might have countered that the problem only arises when one attempts to account for a fully formed system of language and an established society. Instead, the development of both might be regarded as gradual and interdependent, with the first domestic association formed on the basis of gestures rather than words. Rousseau’s state of nature is in this respect quieter and more solitary than Mandeville’s, its tranquillity, beyond mating, punctuated only by the occasional cry for help. This contrast reflects the methodological differences between Rous-


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seau and Mandeville. While Rousseau’s state of nature is a theoretical standpoint from which modern society can be criticized, Mandeville’s state of nature serves chiefly to persuade the reader of the great artifice involved in the generation of civilized society in order to justify the necessity of vice to keep ‘so beautiful a Machine’12 functioning. Hence Mandeville’s account dispels the illusion of bringing together virtue and modern society, whereas Rousseau’s strategy is not only to dispel the illusion of modern social progress, but also to counter modern society with what Mandeville would well regard as a naive and illusory natural state. Pity Rousseau saw in Mandeville’s Fable a deep insight into the naturalness of compassion. Against Hobbes’s attribution of wickedness to human beings in the state of nature, Rousseau declared that ‘Savages are not evil precisely because they do not know what it is to be good.’ Alongside this ignorance of good and evil, natural pity lessens ‘the ferocity of … the desire for self-preservation.’ The most cynical of thinkers, he added, was ‘forced to recognize’ this ‘Natural virtue.’ He cited Mandeville’s example in the Fable of the Bees of an imprisoned man’s torments at seeing a child turned into a meal for a ferocious beast. Rousseau implied that even the immoral Mandeville could not deny the natural repugnance of humanity at seeing others suffer. He commended Mandeville for his recognition that pity alone prevents human beings from being monsters, but added that the earlier writer failed to see ‘that from this quality alone flow all the social virtues he wants to question in men.’13 Mandeville’s account of pity, however, had a very different objective from Rousseau’s use of pity in his critique of Hobbes. ‘An Essay on Charity, and Charity-Schools’ in Mandeville’s Fable distinguishes pity from charity. What is called pity or compassion is but a counterfeit passion of the virtue of charity. Mandeville defined charity as ‘that Virtue by which part of that sincere Love we have for our selves is transfer’d pure and unmix’d to others.’ As he remarked, the definition is a rigorous one, so that any admixture of self-love is sufficient to deprive an action of its virtue. Mandeville thus did not deny the existence of pity, ‘which consists in a Fellow-Feeling and Condolence for the Misfortunes and Calamities of others,’ nor did he attribute it to a few rare individu-

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


als, as ‘all Mankind are more or less affected with it,’ though with this qualifier: ‘but the weakest Minds generally the most.’ Pity is not a disinterested virtue but a human frailty; Mandeville saw only weakness in the uneasiness we feel when witnessing the suffering of others.14 Mandeville illustrated this definition with his story of the butchered child, cited by Rousseau. His graphic description indicates that he intended to demonstrate more than merely the naturalness of pity: To see her widely open her destructive Jaws, and the poor Lamb beat down with greedy haste; to look on the defenceless Posture of tender Limbs first trampled upon, then torn asunder; to see the filthy Snout digging in the yet living Entrails suck up the smoking Blood, and now and then to hear the Crackling of the Bones, and the cruel Animal with savage Pleasure grunt over the horrid Banquet; to hear and see all this, What Tortures would it give the Soul beyond Expression!

The visceral quality of this account shows that pity is a bodily reaction that affects all human beings, and thus ‘not only a Man of Humanity, of good Morals and Commiseration, but likewise an Highwayman, an House-Breaker, or a Murderer could feel Anxieties on such an Occasion.’ Pity, Mandeville added, is stimulated by sight and hearing. Therefore, the more remote the suffering is, the less compassion we feel. We may feign pity at hearing of terrible news that does not appear in our sensory field, but the true feeling is lacking.15 Thus far Mandeville’s conception of pity would seem to be compatible with Rousseau’s, though the universality of pity despite class debases its worth in Mandeville’s eyes while commending itself to Rousseau. Its effects on the body establish for both thinkers its place among the human passions. But Rousseau introduced pity as a rebuttal to Hobbes’s naturally evil man, whereas Mandeville (as Rousseau acknowledged) denied any connection between pity and natural goodness. Mandeville conceded that ‘of all our Weaknesses it is the most amiable, and bears the greatest Resemblance to Virtue; nay without a considerable mixture of it the Society could hardly subsist.’ But keeping in mind his rigorous standard of the virtues as independent of selfinterest, we can comprehend his cynicism: As it is an Impulse of Nature, that consults neither the publick Interest nor our own Reason, it may produce Evil as well as Good. It has help’d to


Simon Kow destroy the Honour of Virgins, and corrupted the Integrity of Judges; and whoever acts from it as a Principle, what good soever he may bring to the Society, has nothing to boast of but that he has indulged a Passion that has happened to be beneficial to the Publick.16

Mandeville’s judgment recalls Hobbes’s supposed reply to a divine who asked him why he gave sixpence to a beggar: ‘I was in paine to apprehend the miserable condition of the old man; and now my Almes, giving him some reliefe, doth also ease me.’17 Mandeville concurred with Hobbes in locating compassion in self-interest, namely, the ease of one’s pain, though Mandeville also stressed the evil that may accrue from acts of pity. Indeed, while Hobbes would have argued for the virtue of his action (given that for Hobbes, morality is not disinterested because the laws of nature, the rules of good and evil, are conducive to self-preservation), Mandeville denied any intrinsic merit whatsoever to compassionate motives, even if an innocent baby be saved from a fire.18 While he followed Mandeville in linking pity to self-love, Rousseau distinguished amour de soi-même from amour-propre and associated natural pity with the former as the well-spring of virtue. Mandeville did not make this distinction in regard to pity. In his remarks on compassion, the self-love from which pity springs exempts it from being considered virtuous or leading to virtue. Visitors to a large city, he wrote, give alms because they are ‘attack’d on all sides ... when they really feel that they would rather not.’19 Pity for Mandeville is not a natural source of social virtues; and as his example indicates, he criticized pity in the context of developed urban society, not the state of nature. Pity, as self-interested in society, is distinct from virtue, whereas for Rousseau, pity acts as a natural source of the social virtues without being categorically opposed to self-preservation. This account may elucidate the question of whether it is pity or healthy self-love from which, according to Rousseau, the social virtues are formed. Mandeville answers that pity is an extension of self-love. This conception appears consistent with Rousseau’s clarification of the origins of pity in the Essay on the Origin of Languages; pity arises from natural self-love, but with the imagination of others’ suffering.20 Mandeville would therefore question whether Rousseauian virtue, founded originally on pity and self-love, does not show itself to be morally deficient.

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


Self-Love and the Golden Age Mandeville differentiated various sorts of self-love in other parts of the Fable. In the second volume, the interlocutors Horatio and Cleomenes discuss the origin of politeness, understood as the ability to hide one’s pride. Cleomenes speaks of the self-love ‘given to all Animals ... for Self-preservation’ and contrasts it with ‘self-liking’: Self-love would first make [a creature] scrape together every thing it wanted for Sustenance, provide against the Injuries of the Air, and do every thing to make itself and young Ones secure. Self-liking would make it seek for Opportunities, by Gestures, Looks, and Sounds, to display the Value it has for itself, superior to what it has for others.21

Self-love and self-liking seem to correspond to Rousseau’s amour de soi-même and amour-propre.22 Rousseau stressed the importance of not confusing the two: the former is a natural sentiment to look after one’s preservation and is the source of true virtue; the latter is an artificial sentiment born in society causing one to overvalue oneself and is the source of vice.23 Apart from Mandeville’s view that self-liking is present in nature, Rousseau appears to have employed the English writer’s distinction of self-love and self-liking. Mandeville, however, also tended to conflate the two, reflecting his conviction that any element of self-love is destructive of virtue. Cleomenes describes self-liking as also given for self-preservation, but Horatio wonders at the harm it causes others. Cleomenes replies that ‘the inward Pleasure and Satisfaction a Man receives from the Gratification of that Passion, is a Cordial that contributes to his Health.’ He adds that its unhappy effects are reflective of the mixed blessings of life generally.24 Thus it is not simply the case that self-love and self-liking differ in degree, which may be true of Rousseau’s distinction,25 but rather that the two cannot be clearly differentiated on the basis of (even nascent) virtue and vice. For Rousseau in the Discourse on Inequality, only amour de soi-même can be characterized as a healthy self-love, but for Mandeville, health may derive either from self-liking or self-love. That is to say, for Mandeville, the standard of health cannot be associated merely with what is natural. Moreover, Mandevillean self-love is not only no more natural than self-liking, but it is certainly not virtuous. Self-liking is itself present in nature, and more important, Mandeville’s


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standard for virtue is not grounded in nature. His account of self-liking and self-love emphasizes their moral ambiguity.26 Mandeville, unlike Rousseau, was interested in showing that despite certain distinctions between the vanity of self-liking and the love of one’s preservation, it would be problematic to regard the latter as somehow morally superior. The distinction between the two forms of self-love may have influenced Rousseau, but Mandeville employed a greater moral realism than did Rousseau. Given that Mandeville’s state of nature contains vice within it, and that the self-liking found outside of a natural state can be beneficial, it follows that the state of nature for Mandeville is not a golden age. For Rousseau, the latter stage of natural man, the formation of primitive communities, was a golden age of sorts, despite the nascent amourpropre of the individuals in this period: ‘the happiest and most durable age.’27 But for Mandeville, the transition from the state of nature was not that of the shift from the golden age to bourgeois corruption. Why did he write of a golden age at all? It seems that he used this poetic myth to illustrate the folly of seeking moral innocence alongside economic prosperity. In the poem of the Fable, ‘The Grumbling Hive,’ Mandeville concluded that a great and virtuous society ‘is a vain / EUTOPIA seated in the Brain’ because only private vices produce public benefits. Therefore, the pursuit of a golden age has certain consequences: Bare virtue can’t make Nations live In Splendor; they, that would revive A Golden Age, must be as free, For Acorns, as for Honesty.28

Mandeville modified his tone later in the book. In ‘A Search into the Nature of Society,’ he discussed the golden age in relation to the Garden of Eden. There could be no reason why human beings would have left such a state: Where a Man has every thing he desires, and nothing to Vex and Disturb him, there is nothing can be added to his Happiness; and it is impossible to name a Trade, Art, Science, Dignity or Employment that would not be superfluous in such a Blessed State.’29

This is similar to Rousseau’s argument that the happiest stage of his-

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


tory ended through a disastrous accident. The crucial difference is that Mandeville’s prelapsarian state is based more on the biblical account than it resembles Rousseau’s naturalistic account. It plays no role in humanity’s progress from nature to society. Mandeville’s golden age, as Hundert notes, is a fantasy quite removed from modern life. Rousseau’s rejuvenation of ‘the fantasies of republican moralists ... could only have evoked Mandeville’s knowing sneer.’30 The state of nature, in turn, is postlapsarian, and thus the transition to society is the movement from primitive vice to complex vice. Now, Mandeville’s savage man does resemble in many respects l’homme sauvage of Rousseau. Rousseau characterized savage man as possessing simple needs that are easily satisfied. Against the views of Hobbes and the seventeenth-century German philosopher Samuel Pufendorf, he is neither aggressive nor in perpetual fear, but is well equipped to fend off natural predators.31 Similarly, in Mandeville’s judgment of savage man: it is not probable that Nature should have design’d him for Rapine; for this Reason his Hunger is not voracious as it is in Beasts of Prey; neither is he so salacious as other Animals that are call’d so, and being besides very industrious to supply his Wants, he can have no reigning Appetite to perpetuate his Anger, and must consequently be a timorous Animal.

In contrast, man in society is a ‘hurtful and noxious Creature.’32 Nevertheless, Mandeville maintained that humanity is naturally bad. Cleomenes remarks that ‘All men uninstructed, whilst they are let alone, will follow the Impulse of their Nature, without regard to others; and therefore all of them are bad, that are not taught to be good.’33 Rousseau criticized the corrupting effects of modern education, but Mandeville emphasized the necessity of virtue to be learned because of the natural propensity to vice. This point can be seen not only in individuals left alone but also in aggregations of savage men. So strong is the self-liking in savage man as well as in civilized man that ‘if a hundred Males of the first, all equally free, were together, within less than half an Hour, this Liking in question, though their Bellies were full, would appear in the Desire of Superiority, that would be shown among them.’ Contention and then war would result.34 Mandeville anticipated the Rousseauian distinction between natural and civilized humanity but retained the Hobbesian conception of the natural desire for glory, and asserted a greater desire for recognition among men than even Hobbes had done.35


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Mandeville’s depiction of natural man is far less sentimental than Rousseau’s, and is thus contrary to the latter’s tendency to romanticize le sauvage. Multiplied Desires and Political Manipulation Although Rousseau clearly followed Mandeville in theorizing the multiplication of desires, their diverging accounts of the state of nature are reflected in their assessments of the transition to modern society. Mandeville wrote: As soon as his Pride has room to play, and Envy, Avarice and Ambition begin to catch hold of him, he is rous’d from his natural Innocence and Stupidity. As his Knowledge increases, his Desires are enlarg’d and consequently his Wants and Appetites are multiply’d.36

For Mandeville, social man is differentiated from natural man by the multiplicity of his desires. Now, Rousseau also wrote of a gradual material progress that brought humanity out of its nascent stage into its happiest epoch. The key material changes in society from its golden era to a ‘decrepitude of the species’ characterized by manifold appetites and vices, and thus civilized inequality, were brought about by the development of metallurgy and agriculture. Thus for Rousseau, the multiplication of desires might be said to have originated in the overcoming of natural obstacles.37 The precursor to this argument is Mandeville’s assertion that ‘the Sociableness of Man arises only from these Two things, viz. The multiplicity of his Desires, and the continual Opposition he meets with in his Endeavours to gratify them.’ That is to say, it is these things which give rise to the need for society. Manifold wants prompt industry to overcome natural obstacles to the satisfaction of our increasing needs; such industry depends on the specialized labour of all.38 Far from characterizing this development as ‘decrepitude,’ Mandeville embraced modern society, with its multiplicity of desires and social inequality. Mandeville presaged Rousseau in theorizing this multiplicity and inequality in modern society but his evaluations are Lockean. ‘[E]very thing is Evil,’ he wrote, ‘which Art and Experience have not taught us to turn into a Blessing.’ And in a satirically lyrical passage, Mandeville praised the future time when Britain ‘shall be cultivated and every Inch of it made Habitable and useful, and the whole the most

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


convenient and agreeable Spot upon Earth.’39 Mandeville coupled his sophisticated account of multiplied desires with a thoroughly bourgeois approval of commerce minus the moralistic tone of bourgeois apologists such as Locke, and without the antibourgeois moralism that would be embraced by Rousseau. Accordingly, his conception of government may be contrasted with Rousseau’s view that being bound to manifold desires would lead to political enslavement. One of Mandeville’s discussions of multiplied desires occurs in his dissection of honour. ‘Honour,’ he wrote, ‘in its Figurative Sense is a Chimera without Truth or Being, an Invention of Moralists and Politicians’ because it is unrelated to moral virtue. Men of honour value themselves for their courage, but courage is provoked by anger, and anger is stirred up by hunger and lust. Thus, civilized man with his manifold appetites is likely to be roused to anger under the guise of honour. The role of government is to constrain ‘by severe Punishments’ this ‘hurtful and noxious Creature.’40 Government is a necessary curb to augmented desires, not a consequence of material enslavement. Moreover, Mandeville’s conception of government goes beyond the mere constraint of appetite by punishment. The politician must also manipulate the people. ‘The Grumbling Hive’ illustrates the necessity of vice in a modern commercial society. But absent from the poem is the discussion elsewhere in the Fable of the role of political artifice in directing human vices to the common prosperity. That is to say, private vices do not naturally produce public benefits. Mandeville called the ingredients of society vile, but ‘extol[led] the wonderful Power of Political Wisdom, by the help of which so beautiful a Machine is rous’d from the most contemptible Branches.’ By themselves, the vices of each individual are harmful to others, but ‘those very Vices of every particular Person were made subservient to the Grandeur and worldly Happiness of the whole.’41 The means by which this is achieved are far from straightforward. The founders of society persuaded the people to curb their appetites and act for the public good. As self-denial is painful and real rewards for restraint would be unfeasible, they offered the people an imaginary incentive, a sort of modern ignoble version of Plato’s noble lie (and likely inspired by Pierre Bayle’s Various Thoughts on the Comet). They flattered the people by extolling humanity high above other animals; and Having by this artful way of Flattery insinuated themselves into the


Simon Kow Hearts of Men, they began to instruct them in the notions of Honour and Shame; representing the one as the worst of all Evils and the other as the highest Goods to which Mortals could aspire ...42

Subsequently, gratification of appetites was represented as shamefully brutish, and rational abstinence as honourable. This manipulation of our propensity to seek honour required in addition a division of humanity into appetitive and intellectual classes, the one wholly oriented to satisfaction of sensual desires and the other valuing the life of the mind. Given that the most capable persons are also the proudest, they endeavoured to be recognized as belonging to the more dignified class, as did the less capable who were loath to be seen as belonging to the sensual class despite their private indulgence in the baser appetites. By this common emulation of the higher pursuits, pride-seeking individuals have ‘cr[ied] up Self-denial and Publick-spiritedness.’ Consequently, gratification of appetites was called vice, and seeking ‘the Benefit of others; or the Conquest of [one’s] own Passions out of a Rational Ambition of being good’ was called virtue.43 The point of this complex conjecture is to show how the politician can divert private vices for public ends. In the establishment of society, the use of flattery to appeal to notions of honour and shame is indispensable to inculcating a superficial observance of virtue, because individuals left unimpeded in the pursuit of their desires will naturally harm others. Likewise, vices other than pride such as luxury, indolence, avarice, vanity, and prodigality may also be skilfully managed to produce beneficial effects. Underlying the Mandevillean politician’s invention of social morality is the notion that human society has developed to the point that language is used not just to represent our ideas but also to misrepresent ourselves to others. Given that primitive human beings could successfully interact through gestures and signs, speech only emerged with the multiplication of desires, and this multiplication is the augmentation of self-liking. Language, as Mandeville conceived it, is a tool ‘to persuade others, either to give Credit to what the speaking Person would have them believe; or else to act or suffer such things, as he would compel them to act or suffer, if they were entirely in his Power.’44 Speech would seem to be an insidious invention to aid self-liking, but as the political establishment of morality shows, it is also an essential tool for keeping the grumbling hive in order. Indeed, this description of language as a two-edged sword is also

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


reflected in his account of the origins of politeness as both entirely artificial and absolutely necessary: ... all untaught Men will ever be hateful to one another in Conversation, where neither Interest nor Superiority are consider’d: for if of two Equals one only values himself more by half, than he does the other; tho’ that other should value the first equally with himself, they would both be dissatisfied if their Thoughts were known to each other: but if both valued themselves more than half, than they did each other, the difference between them would still be greater, and a Declaration of their Sentiments would render them both insufferable to each other; which among uncivilz’d Men would happen every Moment, because without a Mixture of Art and Trouble, the outward Symptoms of that Passion are not to be stifled.45

Mandeville both deflated and justified the sociable virtue of politeness in this fashion, and transplanted Hobbes’s causes of the war of all against all into the sphere of polite society. Polite speech is nothing but concealment of social antagonism arising from the puffed-up desire for recognition. But as we cannot revert to the simple appetites in the primitive state without jettisoning arts, letters, and comfortable self-preservation, polite speech functions as an artificial medium to attenuate open conflict. The influence of Mandeville’s ironic apology for rhetorical manipulation at the social and political level is evident in Rousseau’s account of the origins of social inequality. As Hundert points out, ‘the first individual represented by Rousseau in his hypothetical history of humanity is also the first person he permits to speak, and ... the speech of this person is undertaken expressly in order to deceive.’46 Thus, the first person’s declaration that a plot of land is his not only underlines the artificial inequality of private property but also the centrality of language in the decrepitude of the species. Language develops with the formation of the first families and the geographic upheavals forcing closer contact. The language of the happiest epoch was that of song and dance, though the communal gatherings sowed the seeds of vanity and social esteem. Nevertheless, the corruption of the golden age by the introduction of private property entailed every person’s use of speech to appear as ‘something other than what he in fact was,’ giving rise to the vices of deceit, ostentation, cunning, and so on. Finally, the social contract was a masterpiece of fraud by the rich to dupe the poor into accepting the


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institution of civilized inequality.47 Mandeville’s penetrating insights into language as artifice proved indispensable to Rousseau’s account of the progressive alienation of humanity from nature, without relying on the ideal of authentic discourse as a moment in human history. Rousseau’s denunciation of the corruption of language may thus be considered in relation to Mandevillean deceit. Rousseau profoundly agreed with Mandeville that modern uses of speech serve individual vanity at the expense of others, but he did not consider social and political manipulation through rhetoric to be an occasion for cynical praise. Throughout the Discourse on Inequality, we hear the authentic voice of nature, not only in the obvious distaste Rousseau showed for the emergence of artificial speech, but also in the counterpoints to unnatural discourse. These counterpoints include the individual who exposes the first property claimant as an imposter, and the harmonic language of song and dance as opposed to the deceitful use of spoken and written words.48 Conclusion Rousseau’s work is thus very much a response to Mandeville’s cheerful licentiousness. Rousseau castigated the immorality of modern reason, the amour-propre which leads the philosopher to cover his ears to the suffering of others and thus stifle his compassion.49 Mandeville, we saw, regarded pity as a counterfeit virtue. Indeed, the central target of the Fable of the Bees is arguably the hypocrisy of moralists who fail to examine their own conduct, including the motivation for compassionate acts, and would have both moral virtue and material prosperity at the same time.50 Mandeville did not decry modern vice but rather sought intellectual clarity: the cultivation of private virtue and the production of public bourgeois benefits are contrary to each other. Thus, the great disaster of the grumbling hive occurs when the indignant and rather dull-witted Jove ‘rid / The bawling Hive of Fraud’: industry collapses, unemployment ensues, trade disappears, and an invading army causes the inhabitants of the hive to flee.51 In contrast, Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality is a radical indictment of modern progress rather than a work chiefly intended to clarify ideas and concepts; and though Mandevillle criticized the tendency to twin material and ethical progress, the moral of his Fable is that we must accept the necessity of vice in commercial society. Both accounts are, of course, unpalatable to the Lockean moralist who would ground property rights in natural reason and divine com-

Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire


mand, but Mandeville’s ironic treatment more forcefully underscores the centrality of vice to the real benefits of modern life. Rhetorically and theoretically, Mandeville’s Fable avoids the excesses of Rousseau’s critique without compromising its depiction of the immorality in modern society. Champions of authenticity and recognition, including such contributors to this volume as Katrin Froese and Mira Morgenstern, would do well to keep in mind Mandeville’s warnings concerning the dangers of moralism and authentic discourse for civilized society. The assurance of ethical and political norms depends on deceit, according to Mandeville, just as in our liberal democratic societies the acceptance of political authority largely rests on the false belief that we enjoy full social mobility and equality of opportunity. Moreover, Mandeville’s influence on Rousseau throws into question Rousseau’s yearning for a more natural existence. Mandeville’s cynical endorsement is almost designed to rouse indignation over, rather than support for, commercial society. After all, Mandeville favoured probity at the expense of nicety. Rousseau’s indictment of modernity thus draws from Mandeville’s exposure of the dark underpinnings of commercial society. But the standpoint from which Rousseau tells his hypothetical history may be challenged on Mandevillean terms. This standpoint from nature is most explicitly stated early in the Discourse on Inequality: There is, I feel, an age at which the individual man would want to stop: you will seek the age at which you would desire your species had stopped. Discontented with your present state for reasons that foretell even greater discontents for your unhappy Posterity, perhaps you would want to be able to go backward in time. This sentiment must be the Eulogy of your first ancestors, the criticism of your contemporaries, and the dread of those who will have the unhappiness to live after you.52

There is a sense in this and other passages of a deep longing for a time irrevocably lost. According to Mandeville’s work, however, the society decried by Rousseau need not have come into being according to Rousseau’s hypothetical history. After all, Mandeville clearly perceived the multiplication of desires, the prevalence of vice, the augmentation of amour-propre, and the deceitful use of language without concluding that humanity fell from natural goodness or tranquillity into modern immorality. Indeed, our capacity for harm may have been less in the primitive state, but our natural propensity was always to be antagonistic to our


Simon Kow

fellow creatures. Mandeville presaged Rousseau’s account of human history but without romanticizing nature in contrast to the evils of modern civilization. The Rousseauian reply might be that Mandeville never fully departed from the Hobbesian assumption of natural brutishness and Lockean optimism about the cultivation of nature. But the Mandevillean perspective should at least be regarded as hard-headed and clear-sighted, unaffected by nostalgic longing or touching sentiment. Even abstracting from Roussseauian sentimentality, which is perhaps most risible in its erroneous glorification of so-called primitive societies (which are far more morally and culturally complex than dreamt of by Rousseau, according to modern anthropologists),53 does Rousseau’s thought not constitute an important critique of bourgeois political economy, as Roosevelt argues? His influence on Marxist and Nietzschean critiques of modern society is significant,54 as is his inspiring contemporary ecological thinking, but his attraction for bourgeois modernity’s discontents should not blind us to the problems Rousseau’s thought raises. If Rousseau’s romanticized ideal of nature is the foundation of his critique of commercial society and is taken up by modern ecology, then do Rousseau and his intellectual descendants seek simply to replace the Mandevillean deceit of modern society by an equally deceitful alternative? Indeed, Marx and Nietzsche were arguably well aware of the falsehood lying at the heart of naturalistic critiques of society. Roosevelt argues that Rousseauian thought provides an urgently needed alternative to modern capitalism and globalization. But while it may be intellectually salutary to question modern assumptions about economic growth and its moral consequences, it should be just as salutary to subject critiques of these assumptions to questioning: does the pursuit of an authentic and ecologically minded politics lead to certain dangerous consequences, such as the wholesale abandonment of the benefits accruing from commercial society (industry, trade, luxury, the arts), or worse, the stripping away of the necessary deceits which make polite society possible? Mandevillean thought, in contrast to Rousseau’s, does not shy away from contemplating the sacrifices made when pursuing either commerce or morality; a politics founded wholly on the latter may be as pernicious and hypocritical as that of the former.

NOTES 1 Smith, ‘A Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review,’ in Essays on Philosophical Subjects, 250.

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2 Jack, ‘One State of Nature.’ 3 Hundert, The Enlightenment’s Fable, 105. See also Hundert, ‘The Thread of Language.’ 4 Smith, ‘A Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review, 251. 5 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Collected Writings of Rousseau (CWR) III, 31; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) III, 148. See also Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, chap. 9: CWR VII, 305–15; OC V, 395–407. 6 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 2:285. 7 Ibid., 286; Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 40; OC III, 148. 8 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 2:286–7. 9 Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck, chap. 4, 24–5. 10 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 2:287–8. On the naturalness of the language of gesture and the origin of speech in desire, see also Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, CWR VII, 290–1, 293–4; OC V, 375–8, 380–1. 11 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 29–30, 33; OC III, 146, 151. See Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 309. 12 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:6. 13 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 35–7; OC III, 153–5. 14 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:253–4. 15 Ibid., 255–6. 16 Ibid., 56. 17 Aubrey, Brief Lives, 446. 18 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:56. Robert H. Hopkins suggests that ‘Mandeville’s point is identical with Swift’s indictment of “fondness” in Book Four of Gulliver’s Travels: “They [the Houyhnhnms] have no fondness for their colts or foals, but the care they have taken in educating them proceedeth entirely from the dictates of Reason.”’ See ‘The Cant of Social Compromise,’ 183 (Swift’s emphasis). If, however, we regard Houyhnhnm Land as a satire on modern rational utopias, then Swift is defending fondness against Mandevillean critiques of compassion. 19 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:258. 20 Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, CWR VII, 306; OC V, 395–6. 21 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 2:129, 133. 22 See Jack, ‘One State of Nature,’ 121–2. 23 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 91–2; OC III, 219–20. 24 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 2:134–5. 25 Mira Morgenstern argues that the two forms of self-love ‘also exist in a philosophical continuum that ... threatens to make their obvious distinctions collapse. Rousseau’s overriding point is that this philosophical ambiguity is an inherent part of human life.’ Rousseau and the Politics of Ambiguity, 60, n. 6.


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26 Indeed, self-liking is socially beneficial as well. As Hundert writes, ‘Self-liking serves as a regulating principle of individual actions which promotes social stability by directing men to seek the approval of their fellows.’ Enlightenment’s Fable, 53. 27 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 48; OC III, 171. 28 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:36–7. W.A. Speck points out that the pursuers of a golden age satirized by Mandeville included the ‘members of the Societies of the Reformation of Manners. Their attempts to preserve the simplicity of life in a rural village and at the same time to enjoy the amenities of a large city were incompatible.’ ‘Mandeville and the Eutopia Seated in the Brain,’ 79. 29 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:346. 30 Hundert, Enlightenment’s Fable, 114. 31 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 21–2; OC III, 136–7. 32 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:205–6. 33 Ibid., 2:269. 34 Ibid., 2:132. 35 See Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 13, 88: only some individuals take ‘pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest’; others ‘would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds’ but are forced to seek dominion over others out of defence. 36 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:205–6. 37 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 43–50; OC III, 164–73. See Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 26–7. 38 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:344, 366. 39 Ibid., 1:321–2, 345. F.B. Kaye and Robert Hopkins argue that ‘A Search into the Nature of Society’ is likely a parody of Addison’s romanticization of English commerce in The Spectator, no. 69. See Hopkins, ‘The Cant of Social Compromise,’ 178–9. 40 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:198–206. 41 Ibid., 1:6–7. H.T. Dickinson explains that ‘a general framework had to be created, but then it must evolve under the impulse and actions of man’s selfish nature and not be too restrictive.’ ‘The Politics of Bernard Mandeville,’ 97. 42 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:42–3. 43 Ibid., 1:42–9. As Hundert puts it, the politician’s craft is a ‘management of appearances.’ Enlightenment’s Fable, 151. Hopkins notes the reversal of the position that ‘politics is supposed to be a branch of ethics, not vice-versa’ (172). 44 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 2:289.

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45 Ibid., 2:138. 46 Hundert, Enlightenment’s Fable, 110. 47 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 47–54; OC III, 169–77. See Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 310–22. 48 Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, CWR VII, 317–18, 329; OC V, 410, 424–5. 49 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 37; OC III, 155–6. 50 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:8. Mandeville, writes Hundert, targeted ‘all persons who successfully concealed their desires from themselves.’ Enlightenment’s Fable, 134 (Hundert’s emphasis). 51 Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, 1:27–35. The metaphor is subtly gendered: the hive is a feminized sphere of frivolity and luxury, in contrast to the patriarchal deity Jove who banishes vice. My thanks to Elaine McGirr for this point. 52 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 20; OC III, 133. 53 See, for example, Wright, A Short History of Progress. 54 For example, see Horowitz and Horowitz, Everywhere They Are in Chains; and Froese, Rousseau and Nietzsche.

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PART TWO Desire and the Problem of Others in Modernity

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4 Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau vasiliki grigoropoulou

In Plato’s Philebus, Philebus argues that the good for us is the plenitude of pleasure. Socrates in turn counters that ‘intelligence (nou~)’ is a far better thing for a person’s life than pleasure. The dilemma that Plato’s dialogue focuses on persists. Does a life that is a blend of intelligence and pleasure owe its goodness primarily to the presence of reason, or to the presence of pleasant feeling?1 Can the decisions of our will, in so far as they are conditioned by our desires, be moral, or do they require the fundamental intervention of reason, which means a way of life in which the desires are strictly controlled for the sake of being ethical? Plato’s Republic has bequeathed to us the model of a threefold division of the soul, in which desires occupy the lowest rung, and the different elements are ordered by reason. In the Christian tradition, the Augustinian model and its Neoplatonic elements tended to encourage the division of the mind into a hierarchy of faculties. This fragmentation of the mind was worrying to a number of seventeenth-century authors.2 In the seventeenth century, there was a re-examination of the relationship between the passions and reason, which for both scientific and moral reasons was given a new basis and involved new syntheses. While previously the relationship between the passions and reason was of interest for theological reasons and for the determination of sin and guilt, it became in the seventeenth century a concern for those seeking autonomy and self-knowledge for the individual person and citizen. In the modern context desire was elevated to a much more central role. For many philosophers, such as Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau, desire came to be recognized as a productive emotional principle and as the key to converting passions into active emotions. The upgrading of desire went along with a modern emphasis on and support


Vasiliki Grigoropoulou

for the active citizen, who could and should possess self-control, so as to be in a position to make right decisions. Furthermore, the relationship between desire and the search for self-control was affected by the emergence of the concept of consciousness. As the particularly modern concerns with self-control and with the coherence of the desires of the self intensified, so did discussions of the fragmentation of desires and of the interjection of reason. In this chapter I will explore these issues in the intellectual movement from Locke to Rousseau. I will argue first that, for Locke, desire plays a crucial role in defining the freedom of the will and proper human action. The role it plays, however, is subtle and complex. Locke distinguishes desire from will and reason, and sees proper action as requiring mediation by reason. He is interested in the consciously acting citizen, but he finds that human beings are not always conscious of their desires and do not always act fully consciously. He therefore advocates the suspension of desire. However, he also distinguishes between the scientific concepts of ‘consciousness’ and ‘conscience,’ the latter being the moral dimension of consciousness, a fruitful distinction, which however, as we shall see, contains an inherent tension. Locke gives priority to the relationship of the self to itself in consciousness, but it is doubtful whether this relationship can provide a solution to the fragmentation of the modern self. Locke’s theory of the self also does not provide adequate explanation for how a separate individual achieves an adequate level of ethical consciousness – i.e., conscience. What Locke does give us, and what Rousseau inherits from him, is a vision of desire that generates a divided self that is pervaded with unease. In the second part of the chapter, I turn to Rousseau’s theory of sentiment and conscience. Rousseau maintains that sentiment is anterior to reason and is to be distinguished from the passions. Sentiment is a component of conscience. Consciousness in Rousseau is sentiment intérieur, a term that has the capacity to convey moral judgment and so dispenses with the tension between consciousness and conscience found in Locke. Rousseau provides a more persuasive account of the citizen’s capacity to have confidence in his or her feelings, one which attends to the ethical dimensions of citizenship. Conscience in Rousseau is not merely individual and private in character; it also has a collective dimension whose goal is the common good. Rousseau’s thought is in many ways a response indebted to Locke’s theory of consciousness and political theory. As mentioned above, Locke gives priority to the relationship of the self to itself. Furthermore,

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his political theory sees private property as an essential tenet of society. For Rousseau this coupling of self-consciousness and private property can provide no guarantee for the maintenance of social cohesion; rather it is a threat to individual freedom and happiness, as outlined in the Discourse on Inequality. Rousseau is nonetheless inspired by Locke and in the Discourse he continues Locke’s critique of slavery and patriarchal society. He also agrees with the Lockean idea of private property as grounded in labour. But for Rousseau what guarantees individual liberty is popular sovereignty and it is for this reason that his methodological approach differs from that of Locke. Rousseau also endeavours to give a more comprehensive and persuasive answer to the questions of how the individual ought to be related to society and of what should be the basis of social cohesion. The key to Rousseau’s answer lies in his theory of the sentiments, for they bridge the gap between self and other and are a key element in maintaining social order. As John Duncan suggests, Rousseau’s theory of sentiments seems to stand somewhere between mechanistic and voluntaristic theories of the human.3 I will argue that Rousseau introduces interior sentiment as a guarantee for the autonomy of man and citizen, opening up a dialogue for the self and the opportunity for self-assessment. Uneasiness as Desire in Locke While many other early modern philosophers examined man through his passions, Locke is not known specifically as a philosopher of the passions,4 although he certainly does recognize the power of desire.5 Desire, he says, ‘successively determines the Will and sets us upon actions we perform.’6 And at the root of desire is uneasiness: The uneasiness a Man finds in himself upon the absence of any thing, whose present enjoyment carries the Idea of Delight with it, is that we call Desire, which is greater or less, as that uneasiness is more or less vehement. Where by the bye it may perhaps be of some use to remark, that the chief if not only spur to human Industry and Action is uneasiness.7

There is no desire whenever we are relaxed and contented, according to Locke, and uneasiness spurs all human activity. Uneasiness appears upon ‘the thought of a Good lost,’ and extends its role from the operation of thought to the process of willing and acting. Desire is a crucially important kind of uneasiness, and as such it is a primary sentiment.


Vasiliki Grigoropoulou

What determines the will in voluntary actions is ‘the uneasiness of desire.’8 Uneasiness ‘is the great motive that works on the Mind to put it upon Action’9 because it generates a state of mind seeking an object. For Locke, as Peter Schouls argues, the will is always determined,10 but it may be determined by immediate desire for an apparent good, by desire for the common necessities of our lives, or by the ‘fantastical uneasiness, (as itch after Honour, Power, or Riches, etc.) which acquir’d habits by Fashion, Example, and Education have setled in us, and a thousand other irregular desires, which custom has made natural to us.’11 Locke is well aware of the practical difficulties in choosing the real good through a will motivated by desire, for people are preoccupied with the satisfaction of their immediate desires, which appear to rank higher than those that are more remote. Take, for example, the pleasure of drinking,12 where, given that a man is acting in accordance with strong immediate desires, the real and salutary desires for the more remote better health that comes from moderation or abstinence fail to determine the will.13 A common cause for an incorrect judgment of the good is that ‘an object near our view appears to be greater than another which is remote.’ A present pleasure, the desire for a near object, makes us forget about the future, ‘and so forces us, as it were, blindfold into its embraces.’14 Thus it is of the greatest importance to draw proper comparisons between ‘present Pleasure’ and ‘pain with the future.’15 Another source of judging amiss is ‘to venture a greater Good for a less, upon uncertain guesses, and before a due examination be made, proportionable to the weightiness of the matter.’16 Choosing the greater remote good over the lesser near one requires due examination. Locke’s aim is to provide firm ground for discriminating between what is really and what is only apparently good, for instituting a proper assessment of the value of things and actions.17 This firm ground is not based on knowledge alone; it requires reflection on the power of will. According to Locke, the mind generally possesses ‘a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires,’18 a power which allows for the redirection of the will and action, and as such is the true source of liberty. During such a suspension, the mind is at liberty to consider the objects of its desires, to examine them from all sides, and weigh them against others.19 Suspending and examining desires, and also judging the good and evil of our actions, means doing ‘our duty, all that we can, or ought to do, in pursuit of our happiness.’20 For Locke, the suspension of desire consists in holding our wills ‘undetermined, till we have examined the

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good and evil of what we desire.’21 We thus suspend our will in favour of deliberation on the worth of the desire, so that suspension is not a radical abnegation of all desires. Locke’s remedy, the suspension of desire, can be seen as a therapy, a cleansing of confused ideas concerning apparent goods from the mind,22 a process that can facilitate the revaluation, correction, or reform of our ideas, giving them an order and cohesion that is a prerequisite for any conception of a real good. Suspension of desire is possible, given that ‘the mind has a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires; and so all, one after another, is at liberty to consider the objects of them.’23 If the general desire for happiness can explain the emergence of desires, it can also explain the capacity for correcting them. It can, according to Locke, show that we are able ‘to raise our desires in due proportion to the value of that good, whereby in its turn, and place, it may come to work upon the will, and be pursued.’24 In Locke, desire is distinct from reason. Desire certainly has the power to trump reason, and reason ought to direct and mediate desire. However, reason’s goal is happiness and pleasure together, which requires the attainment of an object that is both pleasurable and good. Suppression of mere desire, which is an act of liberation in which the will expresses self-control and restraint, is not empty of content but aims at a future good. It is in this way that liberty is linked to happiness. It should, however, be noted that although Locke acknowledges the power of desire, he does not provide a sufficiently complete theory of the sentiments. Moreover, he highlights the division of the self into its various desires, and so legitimizes the intervention of reason. By contrast, as we shall see, Rousseau was to give desire precedence over reason, in addition to formulating a more complete theory of the sentiments. However, first let us examine the problem of the divided self in the context of Locke’s theories of identity and consciousness. Consciousness and Desire Uneasiness and desire in Locke direct the will in such a way that they require mediation by consciousness so that the will may steer the person toward proper action. As a result, consciousness must orient itself to desire and the problem for Locke is that human action is often guided by an inadequate understanding of desires and their consequences in practical life. He argues that ‘the Soul may not always think’25 and also that memory is interrupted by forgetfulness. He thus finds that we


Vasiliki Grigoropoulou

often act unconsciously, and consequently ‘we are not enough Masters of our Minds.’26 In this, Locke is using a quite distinct account of ‘consciousness.’ At the time, the term was a neologism in English, dating from the publication of Ralph Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of the Universe in 1678. It was formulated as a way of conveying the mind’s specific awareness of itself. In Cudworth’s teaching, as in Locke’s, consciousness is not mere awareness (of however private a nature); it is, as Catherine Glyn Davies puts it, reflexive self-awareness.27 This selfreflexive account of consciousness in Locke must be distinguished from ‘conscience,’ with its moral connotations and associations with guilt as emphasized in Christian thought. The new fashion in which Locke and his contemporaries were using the term consciousness posed problems for Coste, Locke’s French translator, who rendered consciousness in a number of different ways, such as ‘conviction intérieure’ and ‘sentiment intérieur.’28 Indeed, the tendency to interpret consciousness in terms of sentiment was of central importance in the French Enlightenment and in Rousseau, as we shall see in the next section. What matters in Locke’s account of consciousness is the divided nature of the reflective self. In the second book of his Essay, Locke outlines his theory of personal identity. A person is his or her consciousness, not his or her body, and not his or her soul as a thinking substance. Locke gives two definitions of the person in the Essay. In the first one, he emphasizes that a person is a thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflexion, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness, which is inseparable from thinking, and as it seems to me essential to it.29

Thus only a being with a consciousness, i.e., an intelligent being that can consider itself as itself, may be called a person. As Yolton states, there are ‘no moral overtones here, just the specification of intelligence, reason, reflexion and the considering of self by self.’30 In addition, what makes the person identical to himself is not his soul, but his consciousness, which ‘unites Existences, and Actions, very remote in time, into the same Person.’31 This is to say that the person is not a unity that comes to be known, but rather a unity constituted by consciousness. Locke goes beyond spiritualism and materialism, as neither pure a priori ideas nor pure material processes constitute the person. Instead, the person is a consciousness that comes into being through the uniting of thoughts and actions. Consciousness is ‘a perception of what passes

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in a Man’s own mind,’32 or a ‘reflex Act of Perception,’33 and as such it is ‘inseparable from thinking and … essential to it.’34 Consciousness can pertain to the present as well as the distant past through memory of a past consciousness. However, a person cannot influence the past through present actions, and so the present self cannot be the same as the past self. Locke does not stop there, but gives a second definition of the term ‘person,’ as a forensic term appropriating Actions and their merit, and so belongs only to intelligent Agents capable of Law, and Happiness and Misery. This personality extends it self beyond present Existence to what is past, only by consciousness, whereby it becomes concerned and accountable, owns and imputes to it self past Actions, just upon the same ground, and for the same reason, that it does the present.35

In this second definition of the person, present and past actions are linked through consciousness in a manner that has moral implications. The self-reflexively constituted person sees himself as if through the eyes of another and this has a bearing on his responsibility for relevant actions. The person is the owner of himself, proprietor of his own words and actions and accountable for them. Appropriation of past and present experiences is enacted through self-reflection and memory as if one were another being judging the self. The conscious person is aware of his actions, thoughts, and words, given that he is possessed of the ability to both distance himself from, and yet identify himself with, them. Only such a person may be described as responsible. Self-awareness, self-appropriation, and accountability are mutual preconditions. An implication worth emphasizing here is that Locke’s account of a morally responsible personal identity does not depend upon any a priori ontology of personhood; rather, personal coherence and responsibility arise with the consciousness of thoughts and actions. Locke nevertheless concedes that we are not conscious of all our thoughts and actions – we cannot always reconcile or appropriate them: ‘Since a man Drunk and Sober is not the same person, why else is he punished for the Fact he commits when Drunk, though he be never afterwards conscious of it?’ However, the drunk acknowledges that a judge justly punishes him ‘because the Fact is proved against him, but want of consciousness cannot be proved for him.’36 Here we have three relevant persons – the sober person, the drunk, and the judge – each being fully


Vasiliki Grigoropoulou

distinct. The drunk evidently cannot be defended by the sober person but, as Locke says, the judge ‘justly punishes him,’ albeit without clear proof of consciousness since the accused cannot remember his crime. The sober person cannot defend himself because consciousness or its lack cannot enter into the judgment. Judgment can only be made on the basis of fact so that judgment concerning consciousness remains insufficiently justified. However, if a person cannot acknowledge authorship of his actions, cannot defend himself, and cannot represent himself, can he properly be acknowledged as a person? If we are to be capable of judging ourselves, we must be able to judge our past actions across distinct states of consciousness. Personal identity consists in consciousness which undertakes the duty of connecting (and judging) as an outsider the thoughts, desires, and actions of the sober person and the drunk, so to speak. This connection is not merely an epistemological problem; it is also a moral one. Relying on one’s own consciousness, one has to decide which thought and which desire one should give priority to. In other words, one has to establish an order within one’s thinking process. In this the role of the judge is vital. People evidently experience inner conflict over conflicting notions of good: the happiness of the sober person is not of interest to the drunkard and vice versa, so that in the same person there are two different unrelated and conflicting worlds. The dreadful prospect of a Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ necessitates the viewpoint of the outsider, the ‘third person.’ Due to this third person, or the judge, a normative stance can be adopted, essential for the preservation of the well-being of the integrated person. The problem of personal identity, in brief, hinges on the autonomy and the happiness of the agent, the person able to act, to represent himself or herself, and who can reflect upon and suspend his or her desires.37 Epistemologically, Locke defines the self in terms of consciousness divided across past and present so that a reflective distance is made possible. This epistemological definition, however, does not suffice to ensure that a person will be moral in the sense of being ‘capable of Law, and Happiness and Misery.’38 Personhood is grounded not only on consciousness, but also on moral conscience. On such bases a person can put diverse desires in order and establish the connections between them, can be his own lawyer and judge, and can have a capacity for happiness. However, the difference between the epistemological and the moral dimensions of consciousness is a critical problem. Ultimately, the solution Locke advances to this epistemological and ethical rift is divine intervention.39 In everyday life, an agent’s autonomy, as

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Locke sees it, is only partial. Reflectivity attains its highest level when it is illuminated by divine judgment. Given Locke’s recourse to divine intervention, it is questionable to what extent such an agent is really capable of supporting and representing himself or herself rather than being represented by someone else, by some other part of the self. Is the decisive criterion upon which the cohesion of the self is based the selfreferential relationship, moral conscience, or the divine revelation that illuminates a person and renders the self transparent? The answer to this question remains open, which is attributable to Locke’s methodology, which in turn takes as its starting point each self as an individual. In his political theory, he also gives priority to private property over civil society. Already in the state of nature, each human being is owner of his person and his belongings. By contrast, for Rousseau – although he was both familiar with Locke and shared his critical stance vis-à-vis the origins of kingly and paternal power – private property, and the development of reason do not predate the establishment of society, but rather follow it. To the question of what the decisive factor is for the cohesion of the self, conscience, and the community, he replies with a theory of the sentiments, as I shall now attempt to show. Rousseau: Sentiments as Principles and Conscience As Mark Blackell points out, for Rousseau desire reveals itself as the crucial middle term between individual and collective.40 Indeed, Rousseau gives a dialectical and critical account of the history of desire from brute instinct in individuals to the desire for the common good. Rousseau’s political system, a revolutionary republicanism, derives from his historical anthropology. Its constituent elements are the history of desire and the history of labour. Our question is, within the ‘polyvalence’ of Rousseau, is his political theory as dynamic and coherent as his anthropology promises? How precisely do his accounts of the human being and the citizen cohere? Rousseau draws a radical distinction between sensibility and reason. In his Discourse on Inequality, he depicts love of self (l’amour de soi-même) and pity as principles anterior to reason. It is only through the activity of passions that our reason is perfected; ‘we seek to know only because we desire to have pleasure; and it is impossible to conceive why one who had neither desires nor fears would go to the trouble of reasoning.’41 It is from the conjunction and combination of these principles that all the rules of natural right flow.42 Love of oneself ‘interests us


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ardently in our well-being and our self-preservation’ and pity ‘inspires in us a natural repugnance to see any sensitive Being perish or suffer, principally like ourselves.’43 These principles, being anterior to reason, are interior impulses, immanent to human nature. Love of self is assigned priority of place, followed by pity. Pity moderates ‘the desire for self-preservation.’44 Pity, moreover, is ‘a feeling that puts us in the position of him who suffers,’ and thus comprises a basis for identification. But even though ‘this identification must have been infinitely closer in the state of nature than in the state of reasoning,’45 it cannot have been absolute, given that it coexists, and commingles, with love of self. Practical reason and virtue are based on these two basic principles, and together they generate the synthetic principle ‘Do what is good for you with the least possible harm to others.’46 The two basic principles have a mutually moderating effect, without there being any need for intervention by reason, or for the suspension of desire, as in Locke. Of course, the relationship between pity and love of self is not immune to criticism as potentially contradictory. Katrin Froese identifies a paradoxical element in Rousseau’s anthropology: on the one hand, the human being is centred on himself as a ‘windowless monad,’ and on the other, he is open to others.47 However, this is a productive paradox or tension for the history of philosophy. In the Discourse on Inequality, the tension appears without the calculations of reason and it is abstractly removed from the antagonistic relations of bourgeois society. An argument that appeals to sentiments prior to both reason and social antagonism allows Rousseau to exclude the need to account for destructive human behaviour on the ground of natural sentiments. The argument in favour of man’s natural goodness is, in turn, strengthened through Rousseau’s experiment of drawing radical distinctions between sentiments and reason. The causes of destructiveness must therefore be sought in civilization while the grounds of ethical social relationships must be found in natural sentiment. In Rousseau’s view, such virtues as generosity, clemency, humanity, benevolence, and even friendship are ultimately products of pity.48 Rousseau’s moral theory is typically represented as anti-intellectual, in contradistinction to Socratic teachings. He writes: ‘Although it may behove Socrates and Minds of his stamp to acquire virtue through reason, the human Race would have perished long ago if its preservation had depended only on the reasonings of its members.’49 His basic premise could be formulated as follows: in place of the clear mind and clear

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ideas, the clear sentiment expresses principles of natural right. Even though serious critical questions have been raised in relation to the grounding and the character of morality in Rousseau, as Mark Blackell notes, it could be argued that Rousseauian morality appears grounded in natural right, which is expressed in sentiment and at a very basic level demands protection of life and reciprocity between individuals.50 In the preface to the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau argues that ‘reason is later forced to re-establish upon other foundations’ the principles of love of self and pity ‘when, by its successive developments, it has succeeded in stifling Nature.’51 This seems to prefigure his view that when reason intervenes in established society it does not come into conflict with sentiments but rather develops and restores natural feelings. This becomes clear in Emile, where Rousseau further expounds his views on pity and, as we shall see, arrives at conclusions in no way contrary to those of the Discourse on Inequality. In Emile, while endeavouring to determine the subject and object of sentiment, Rousseau summarizes the characteristics of pity in three maxims. According to the first, ‘It is not in the human heart to put ourselves in the place of people who are happier than we, but only in that of those who are more pitiable.’52 This maxim defines the object of pity, limiting it to cases of misery. It does not expand indiscriminately to cover all objects and people, but covers ‘those who are more pitiable.’ The second maxim defines the subject of pity in such a way as to exclude the upper classes: ‘One pities in others only those from which one does not feel oneself exempt.’53 On the basis of this proviso, he who feels pity perceives that he has something in common with the person who suffers. Monarchs and the economically powerful are not recognized as subjects of this sentiment: ‘Why are the rich so hard toward the poor? It is because they have no fear of becoming poor.’54 In Rousseau, pity reaches its highest point and attains truly moral expression in a stance of critical distance toward the tribulations of others. According to the third maxim, ‘The pity one has for another’s misfortune is measured not by the quantity of that misfortune but by the sentiment which one attributes to those who suffer it.’55 He adds the remark that ‘it is important to mix the least possible personal interest with these emotions.’56 He also says that ‘to pity another’s misfortune one doubtless needs to know it, but one does not need to feel it.’57 This analysis of pity removes from it all traces of passion and the sense of absolute identification with the other. In the state of nature, as depicted in the Discourse on Inequality, this identification must have


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been infinitely closer than in the state of reasoning,58 such that, notwithstanding the cohabitation of pity with love of self, it must have been difficult to avoid passive identification with the other. In Emile, thanks to the process of proper upbringing, pity does not reach the point of absolute identification with the other, given the intervention of reflection and self-interest. What emerges, given that there has been an evolution of imagination and reason, is a more moderate relationship between self-love and pity. The elaboration of pity in Emile presupposes the formation of a community where unequal social relations predominate, so that there is a possibility of comparing different social situations. Clifford Orwin maintains that Rousseau was ‘the first philosopher to teach the rich to hate themselves.’59 Nevertheless, on the basis of our analysis, pity for Rousseau cannot get to the point of hatred, as there is a moderation of absolute identification with the suffering person and so of the passion, averting intense emotions such as hatred. Conscience as Sentiment Love of self and pity are not merely sentiments. In the Discourse on Inequality and in Emile they are principles of natural law and justice. As Rousseau writes in Emile, ‘It is not true that the precepts of natural law are founded on reason alone. They have a base more solid and sure. Love of men derived from love of self is the principle of human justice.’60 Emile includes an elaboration of Rousseau’s theory of conscience. As already mentioned, Coste translated Locke’s term ‘consciousness’ with the French sentiment intérieur. This term was used by Malebranche and denoted a private and inferior kind of awareness, to be distinguished from knowledge.61 Rousseau interprets consciousness as meaning interior sentiment, associates it with self-consciousness, and situates it in time (as did Locke): ‘strictly speaking, the life of the individual begins’ relatively late, [w]hen … he gains consciousness of himself. Memory extends the sentiment of identity to all the moments of his existence; he becomes truly one, the same, and consequently already capable of happiness or unhappiness. It is important, therefore, to begin to consider him here as a moral being.62

We have seen that in Locke the epistemological dimension of consciousness is distinguished from moral conscience which, in accord-

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ance with Locke’s second definition of the person, results in persons as ‘intelligent Agents capable of Law, and Happiness and Misery.’63 In Rousseau, memory plays a role in self-awareness, thanks to which a person may acquire possession of himself and his history over time. But self-awareness appears to be associated with the moral dimension of the actor, who is ‘capable of happiness or unhappiness.’ Identity comprises sentiment and consciousness and is analysed in terms of feelings, as I shall try to show. Following Descartes and Locke, Rousseau reintroduces the question ‘Who, or perhaps what, am I?’ His answer: ‘I exist and I have senses by which I am affected.’64 This is the primary truth, he argues. But Rousseau’s ‘I exist’ is supplemented by another assertion suggesting that the existing self is at the same time passive. What looks at first sight like two different types of ego can coexist in the same mind, so that it seems that a man is two persons simultaneously. The ego is not simply identical with itself, since it is also always being affected by sense impressions and by its relations with others. In other words, Rousseau subscribes to the Lockean notion that a man is more than one person, that he is not identical with himself. Rousseau is very much concerned with the divided self. The words of his Savoyard Vicar illustrate this: Constantly caught up in the combat between my natural feelings which spoke for the common interest, and my reason which related everything to me, I would have drifted all my life in this continual alteration – doing the bad, loving the good, always in contradiction with my self – if new lights had not illuminated my heart, and if the truth, which settled my opinions, had not also made my conduct certain and put me in agreement with myself.65

In Rousseau, the active thinking ego is not at the centre, for ‘not only do I exist, but there exist other beings.’ Error can originate as much from reason taken in isolation as from the senses taken in isolation. Thus Rousseau believes, on the one hand, in the existence of a distinct and active intelligence,66 and on the other, in the anteriority of sensibility: ‘To exist, for us, is to sense.’67 This is to posit a new kind of sensuous ego emerging out of a balance between activity and passivity. While these two different ‘voices,’ the active and the passive, are distinct, they possess a channel of communication in the form of sincerity of heart. Rousseau sees this as self-evidently the case: ‘an easy and simple


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rule.’68 The moral conscience Rousseau speaks of is something he sees as ‘natural and innate.’ Above, we saw that the division of self postulated by Locke might find its solution in the suspension of desires, but that division legitimized both the intervention of the will and the need for the hypothetical outside arbitrator or judge to underwrite a person’s identity. In Rousseau, the intrinsic conflict between inner sentiment and the empire of passions finds its solution in conscience, comprehended as enlightened religious sentiment. In the ‘Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar’ there is acknowledgment of ‘a basic duality, two divergent principles in man, one raising him to the pursuit of eternal truths, the other dragging him downwards within himself, rendering him a slave to his passions.’69 Rousseau is also convinced that the universe cannot be sufficiently explained in terms of mechanical physics, but that it requires the teleological explanation of ‘divine will,’ as in Locke. Conscience for Rousseau is a sentiment, and indeed a divine sentiment: ‘Conscience, conscience! Divine instinct, immortal and celestial voice, certain guide of a being that is ignorant and limited but intelligent and free.’70 This consecration of sentiment becomes possible because of its being made distinct both from reason, as can be seen in the Discourse on Inequality, and from the passions. Through this purification, sentiment is corroborated, acquiring the status of a principle. Rousseau’s sentient ‘I’ is not science’s principle of certainty. It is an ethical principle. Through his method of purification Rousseau disproves the notion that ‘conscience is the work of prejudices.’71 We perceive that the two ‘I’s, the active and the passive, coexist in dialogue. The ‘I’ is not cut off from the community to which it belongs, and from which it is in receipt of affections that it is in a position to evaluate purely and simply on the basis of its sentiments. Rousseau purges each sentiment of the admixture of passions (such as personal interest, vanity, emulation, and glory).72 Thanks to this purge, the pure sentiment is reliable and can provide a basis for judgment. There is a requirement that passions be silenced so that the voice of conscience may be heard as the proper guide to action. We perceive that the two ‘I’s’ signify the internalized relationship between judge and judged, and given that a person has the ability to be his own judge, this makes possible the preservation of his autonomy and his coherence as a person. As indicated, in Emile Rousseau seeks to refute the notion that ‘conscience is the work of prejudices’ and to uphold the certainty that a person can trust his conscience when it comes to behaving properly. Nevertheless, in the

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Geneva Manuscript, he voices the doubt as to the status and reliability of conscience: ‘Will he listen to the inner voice? But it is said that this voice is formed only by the habit of judging and feeling within society and according to its laws. It cannot serve, therefore, to establish them.’73 At first sight this seems to present a contradiction. Conscience is the basis for ethical action by an individual, whereas the state must be founded on a different basis, that of the general will, whose object is the common good. The state cannot be established on the same basis as individual ethics, because then it would be comprised of individual wills. It is however possible to draw an analogy between conscience and the general will. Conscience, as we have indicated, internalizes the judge, so that a person includes the dimensions of both judge and judged. But Rousseau’s social contract also presents the following innovation: there is a questioning of the notion that the contract is concluded between the people and the leaders it chooses.74 Each contract, as in Hobbes and Locke, presupposes a contractual guarantor, a judge. Rousseau, however, revokes the distinction between the sovereign and the people: his identification of the people with the sovereign amounts to an internalization of the ‘third party,’ the judge and guarantor of the contract. In the Social Contract, it is indeed the community as a whole that takes precedence, but the inner voice or conscience of the citizen is required to be active: ‘In order for the general will to be well expressed, it is therefore important that there be no partial society in the State, and that each Citizen give only his own opinion.’75 Clearly, if the citizen is to express a valid opinion, he must have faith in the dictates of his conscience. Personal achievement of general will gives the citizen a greater awareness and ensures greater security for society. The general will, whose object is the common good, is in no way counter to selfprotection, individual well-being, and the preservation of the species as manifested in the sentiments of love of self and pity. Nevertheless, as indicated by Rousseau in the Discourse on Inequality, ‘reason is later forced to re-establish’ these principles or sentiments ‘upon other foundations.’76 Locke grounded politics in an understanding of self-interest, but for Rousseau, republics demand virtuous citizens, people with the capacity to link their own interests to the public good. For Locke representative government is legitimate when it is based on popular consent and it seeks the good of the members of society.77 This involves the replacement of people’s capacity for judgment by that of their rulers; in effect, their judgment is suspended in political society and remains inoperative. In the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau makes a cogent


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critique of the contract on which civil society is based and by means of which society is divided into rulers and ruled – there is always the real threat of a return to the state of nature as a state of war. As he formulates it more clearly in the Social Contract, Rousseau explains that the only genuine form of consent is active participation.78 Active citizenship is attributable, to a great extent, to the unity of conscience, which successfully links personal interest, self-love, and love of freedom with the common good; the citizen may thus defend the common interest as if it were his own personal affair. In his Essay, Locke posed a serious question: how can one human being be many persons, play different roles, and also retain his coherence? In our analysis of what should constitute his answer, we had to link his epistemological to his moral sense of the person. The requirement that the two be linked is a crucial issue. In Rousseau’s view, a person can retain his coherence and take proper decisions, in spite of the influences to which he may be subjected, thanks to his inner sentiment. It is because of this that the judge and guarantor of the coherence of a person can be internalized. This criterion is also of practical importance in the face of instances of breakdown of personal identity. In Rousseau, morality has priority with respect to knowledge. Thanks to his moral sentiments, a person is able to maintain his coherence, keep his promises, and make proper decisions. As I have tried to argue, Locke’s theory attributes priority to consciousness, to the epistemological dimension of the conscious self. Rousseau’s approach is the opposite: he attributes priority to the sentient self, which is able to interiorize the other. It thus seems that God, or the judge, is immanent to moral sentiments.

NOTES 1 Taylor, Plato, 414. I am indebted to the editors of this volume. I am also grateful to D. Garber and A. Nehemas for their remarks, to the Hellenic Studies Program at Princeton University for supporting my research, and last, but not least, to S. Virvidakis (University of Athens). 2 Descartes was one of its most notable opponents. See Gaukroger, The Soft Underbelly of Reason, 6. 3 John Duncan, ‘Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality,’ in this volume.

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23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39


Yolton, A Locke Dictionary, 161. Ibid., 309. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding II, xxi, § 31, 251. Ibid., II, xx, § 6, 230 (emphasis in original). Ibid., II, xxi, § 33, 252. Ibid., II, xxi, § 29, 249. Schouls, Reasoned Freedom, 133. Locke, Essay II, xxi, § 45, 262. See ibid., II, xxi, § 63, 275. Locke provides an excellent description of the situation. Ibid., II, xxi, § 35, 253. Ibid., II, xxi, § 64, 277. Ibid., II, xxi, § 63, 275 (emphasis in original). Ibid., II, xxi, § 66, 278. Magri, ‘Locke, Suspension of Desire, and the Remote Good,’ 57–8. Locke, Essay II, xxi, § 47, 263 (emphasis in original). Ibid., II, xxi, § 47, 263. Ibid., II, xxi, § 47, 263. Ibid. Both Epicurus and Lucretius were in agreement that reason can ‘cleanse’ and purify desires by revealing true happiness based on intellectual pleasure. See Lucretius, De rerum natura, 5.43–5.51. Locke, Essay II, xxi, § 47, 263. Ibid., II, xxi, § 46, 262 (emphasis in original). Ibid., II, i, § 18, 115. Ibid., II, xxi, § 53, 268. Davies, Conscience as Consciousness, 3. See ibid., 32. Locke, Essay II, xxvii, § 9, 335. Yolton, The Two Intellectual Worlds of John Locke, 22. Locke, Essay II, xxvii, § 16, 340. Ibid., II, i, § 19, 115. Ibid., II, xxvii, § 13, 338. Ibid., II, xxvii, § 9, 335. Ibid., II, xxvii, § 26, 346 (emphasis in original). Ibid., II, xxvii, § 22, 343. Ibid., II, xxi, § 52, 267; Ayers, Locke, 2:193. Ibid., II, xxvii, § 26, 346. Ibid., 347: ‘the Apostle tells us, that the Great Day, when everyone shall


40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74

Vasiliki Grigoropoulou receive according to his doings, the secrets of all Hearts shall be laid open’ (emphasis in original). Mark Blackell, ‘Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence,’ in this volume. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Collected Works of Rousseau (CWR) III, 27; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) III, 142. Ibid., CWR III, 15; OC III, 126. Ibid. Ibid., CWR 36; OC III, 156. Ibid., CWR III, 37; OC III, 155. Ibid., CWR III, 38; OC III, 156. Katrin Froese, ‘Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau,’ in this volume. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 37; OC III, 155. Ibid., CWR III, 38; OC III, 156–7. Blackell, in this volume. Ibid., CWR III, 15; OC III, 126. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 223; OC IV, 506. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 224; OC IV, 507. Ibid. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 225; OC IV, 508. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 226; OC IV, 510. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 229; OC IV, 514. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 37; OC III, 156. Orwin, ‘Rousseau and the Discovery of Political Compassion,’ 310. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 235; OC IV, 523. See Davies, Conscience as Consciousness, 16. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 78; OC IV, 301. Locke, Essay II, xvii, § 26, 346. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 270; OC IV, 570. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 291; OC IV, 602. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 272; OC IV, 573. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 290; OC IV, 600. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 267–8; OC IV, 570. Israel, Radical Enlightenment, 719. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 272; OC IV, 573. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 267; OC IV, 566. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 226 and 287; OC IV, 510 and 596. Rousseau, Geneva Manuscript, CWR IV, 80; OC III, 286. Rousseau, Social Contract, CWR IV, 195; OC III, 432–3.

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75 Ibid., CWR IV, 147–8; OC III, 372. 76 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 15; OC III, 126. 77 See Locke, Second Treatise, in Two Treatises of Government, § 87, 323–4, and § 171, 381–2. 78 See Horowitz, Rousseau, Nature, and History, 174.

5 Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau katrin froese

The Western tradition since Plato and Aristotle has often upheld a rarefied vision of thought and philosophy in which they are suspended above the world of becoming and nature. In such a universe, desire cannot help but be the enemy of philosophy, and it is viewed with much suspicion. It represents an attachment to a transient world and is thus bound to generate conflict and turbulence within the soul, distracting it from its ultimate quest for a purified truth. A desiring soul is seen as a lost soul. Philosophers especially are to rise above or sublimate desire, for if they succumb to its temptations, they would lose their prized sense of detachment and objectivity. Rousseau’s philosophy challenges the presumptions of the Enlightenment era, which exalted abstract reason above all. According to Rousseau, human beings in pursuit of meaning must not turn away from the world but rather must learn to embrace it through an active and passionate engagement with it. He asserts that human social order could not survive without the passions, maintaining that anyone who believes otherwise suffers from self-delusion: ‘although it may behove Socrates and Minds of his stamp to acquire virtue through reason, the human Race would have perished long ago if its preservation had depended only on the reasonings of its members.’1 And yet, on occasion, like his Enlightenment contemporaries, Rousseau saw nature as something that was primarily mechanical and devoid of meaning until human beings imputed meaning to it through its transformation at their hands. One cannot help but hear the Cartesian echoes in the words of Rousseau: In every animal I see only an ingenious machine to which nature has given sense in order to revitalize itself and guarantee itself, to a certain point,

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from all that tends to destroy or upset it. I perceive precisely the same things in the human machine, with the difference that Nature alone does everything in the operations of a Beast, whereas man contributes to his operations by being a free agent.2

The reference to the human ‘machine’ seems highly paradoxical for a philosopher who recognizes the importance of desire in human relations. The irony that underlies Rousseau’s philosophy is that the desire for others is sparked in part out of a longing for the largely desire-less and contented human machine blissfully living in the state of nature. John Duncan observes that Rousseau’s philosophy is infused throughout with an atemporal essentialism which leaves the core of human nature impervious to social and historical transformations that are played out on the surface.3 If this is indeed the case, it means that desire, as Rousseau conceives of it, cannot allow human beings to truly open up to others. The necessary transition from independent to social being can never take place, because we cannot escape the treadmill of our own desire. This desire is merely a longing for the prehuman completeness of the asocial and not yet human machine which tacitly subverts the very humanization we so desperately require. The other can never satisfy, because built into the logic of Rousseau’s desire is a profound terror of others. Human relations are highly precarious, fuelled by largely asocial impulses. Desire, which is supposed to be the glue that holds society together, also becomes the chisel that hacks it apart. For Rousseau, desire signals the unease of beings who straddle the domain of both nature and ‘civilization’ and are racked with divisions and nostalgia as a result. According to Rousseau, there are two main dimensions to the passions themselves. At first they are propelled primarily by our instinct to survive, but they proliferate with our knowledge.4 In the protohuman animal-like state ‘man’s desires do not exceed his Physical needs.’5 Here Rousseau’s protohuman is completely selfsufficient, because it is mired in immediacy. It is content because it is in complete harmony with nature: ‘There is always the same order ... he does not have the mind to wonder at the greatest marvels ... His soul agitated by nothing, is given over to the sole sentiment of its present existence without any idea of the future, however near it may be, and his projects, as limited as his views, barely extend to the end of the day.’6 Desires in this state are limited to satisfying immediate needs and they dissipate in the moment that need is satisfied. There is no conscious separation of inside and outside. The protohuman was not infected by the unbridled desire typically associated with ‘savage’ man.


Katrin Froese

Such desire demands a departure from nature and signals a burgeoning disequilibrium within the soul. For the social being, desire represents a pull towards something ‘other’ than the self, and thereby poses a direct challenge to the notion of a coherent self. Desire manifests an awareness of self as both separate from and connected to its object. It is therefore not only the consciousness of lack but also the signification of a kind of awareness that what is ‘outside’ is also part of the self. This is why Rousseau eventually makes desire a pillar of the social order. While abstract reason can furnish consent to agreed-upon principles, it cannot foster a sense of belonging. For this reason, desire becomes an indispensable part of any social and political community. And yet, Rousseau offers an ambiguous account of human sociality and therefore also reveals an ambiguous posture toward desire. It becomes clear throughout Rousseau’s opus that the yardstick being used to judge the state of civil society is the independent and completely self-sufficient protohuman. This does not mean that Rousseau wishes us to return to this state, but rather that it is used to judge, as well as precipitate, an amelioration of our present condition. He invokes it to challenge the myth that increasing ‘civilization’ will necessarily free humanity of its troubles, pointing instead to the misery that can ensue from the civilizing process. Rousseau suggests that all of our woes would have been avoided by maintaining ‘the simple, uniform and solitary way of life prescribed to us by Nature.’7 Solitariness is therefore conceived of as somehow primordial. Although Rousseau challenges the Enlightenment’s notion of progress, he shares the liberal Enlightenment ethos of individualism which suggests that the ideal condition would be complete independence from others. Because the act of child-rearing might cast doubt on the naturalness of this scenario, Rousseau describes a protowoman who instinctually cares for her young but whose independence is not undermined in the process. Indeed, she ‘nursed her Children at first for her own need’ and eventually got into the habit of doing so and began to nourish them for their need.8 Thus, Rousseau insists upon making the protowoman’s ‘own needs’ more fundamental, and the propensity to tend to the needs of the child become almost secondary. In this way, Rousseau tries to question the ‘natural’ sociability of human beings, and insists that the act of raising and nurturing children satisfies the natural and independent urges of the mother. That the child’s needs are met during this process is almost presented as coincidental.

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Circumstances eventually forced human beings into closer contact and, as a result, the relentless process of unmooring ourselves from nature began. By forcing human beings to adapt to nature in more creative ways, natural catastrophes precipitated their departure from it. Language initially was a cry of need, and Rousseau implies that the first vocal signals were uttered by babies who demanded the attention of their mothers. This in itself was not enough to create language because their relative isolation allowed no common idioms to develop.9 Further sophistication in language was only made possible when human beings began to live in groups and signalled to each other in moments of crisis. Eventually, closer contact resulted in a proliferation of gestures and signals.10 The establishment of more settled communities allowed more common idioms to arise. Rousseau is rather ambiguous in his account of the birth of desire. On the one hand, reason and the concomitant proclivity to abstract are presented as the essential preconditions of desire. Language is a necessary part of this process, for it is directly linked to our propensity to compare. Only when we begin to compare things can we become aware of both our limitations and possibilities such that divisions in our soul begin to develop. At the same time, we long for the sense of ‘completeness’ of the protohuman. We cannot revert to this stage of primordial bliss because it is impossible to relapse into ignorance and innocence. Therefore, an expanded self, which includes the other, becomes the only way of recapturing our lost wholeness. Rousseau’s philosophy suggests that our desire for another is an offshoot of our latent desire for independence. We covet the recognition of others, thereby seeking compensation for our lost sense of completeness through the other. Rousseau does not openly consider the possibility that our feeling of completeness, both prior to and after our emergence from a mother’s womb, is always through another person. Dependence and connection to another may be more primordial than independence. Yet, at the same time, Rousseau is not completely blind to the ‘primordial’ nature of connection. The centrality that he accords pity in his work suggests that this may indeed be an unspoken assumption in his thought: It is then certain that compassion is a natural feeling, which by moderating the violence of love of self in each individual, contributes to the preservation of the whole species. It is this compassion that hurries without reflection to the relief of those who are in distress, it is this which in a state of


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nature supplies the place of laws, morals, and virtues with the advantage that none are tempted to disobey its gentle voice.11

This hints very strongly at a kind of instinctual connection between all beings in nature which human beings share. Rousseau insists that because human beings’ increasing need for others escalates their separation from nature and natural independence, they require social recognition in order to consolidate the community that becomes their new home. He maintains that a connection to others based on the passions is necessary to consolidate social bonds and minimize our sense of loss. Rousseau points out that during the golden age, individuals sought the recognition of the community in public rituals. He insists that at social gatherings each one ‘began to look at the others’ and wanted ‘to be looked at himself, and public esteem had a value.’12 However, because such recognition was provided by the community as a whole, and egalitarian relationships prevailed within it, the competition for public approval did not weaken social bonds. The purpose of competition was not simply to outdo the other, but to dismantle the divisions between individuals in order to be embraced by the community as a whole. Desire for recognition is not necessarily destructive of the community but becomes so in bourgeois society, according to Rousseau. The inegalitarian relationships that characterize this social order make it impossible to obtain genuine recognition. We seek the recognition of others through property but soon covet property while forgetting the need for recognition. Needs spiral out of control because we are unsuccessful in obtaining the recognition of others that, in Rousseau’s view, is the more basic need. Where inequality establishes relationships of domination and submission, the opening of one’s soul to others becomes a fairly risky prospect: Thus, as the most powerful or most miserable made of their force or their needs a sort of right to the goods of others, equivalent according to them to the right of property, the destruction of equality was followed by the most frightful disorder; thus the usurpations of the rich, the brigandage of the Poor, the unbridled passions of all, stifling natural pity and the as yet weak voice of justice, made man avaricious, ambitious, and evil.13

Others are greeted with suspicion and recognition is superseded by flattery, which merely attempts to curry favour. Desires spiral out of

Openings that Close


control and are expressed through the frenzied pursuit of material objects. Furthermore, these objects are quantifiable, and in a society where genuine human relationships have been enfeebled, abstract markers provide an ‘objective’ yardstick for public approval. Since property secures influence, it becomes the paltry substitute for the genuine recognition of other human beings. It is no coincidence that ‘objectivity’ becomes a prized ideal in civilizations where social relationships have suffered a severe blow. We protect ourselves against others by seeking recognition for our property rather than for ourselves. This contributes to the proliferation of vacuous desires because we can never attain what we really seek, which is the recognition of the self by another. A vicious cycle is set in motion because the emptiness that infects the soul cannot be cured through the acquisition of property. If bourgeois society represents a state in which our desires have gone awry, it is through love that Rousseau hopes to heal some of the wounds that bourgeois society has created. This admission on the part of Rousseau suggests that there can be no fullness of self without the intimate connection to another that is part of the self. Love straddles the domains of both nature and culture and therefore can act as a very cohesive social force if it is properly channelled. Rousseau distinguishes between its physical and moral aspects: ‘The Physical is that general desire which inclines one sex to unite with the other. The moral is that which determines this desire and fixes it exclusively on a single object, or which at least gives it a greater degree of energy for this preferred object.’14 Imagination is necessary to make the transition from physical to moral love, for it requires the belief that another human being can meet the need for personal fulfilment. Love is therefore dependent on a great deal of fiction. Yet, Rousseau’s assumption that desire emerges primarily from a sense of lack within the self means that it will always remain a precarious emotion. Like many Western thinkers, he assumes that love springs from emptiness rather than fullness of the soul. It is no coincidence that the metaphor of devouring our beloved is very common in Western culture. This implies that self-satisfaction takes priority over being open to another through love. Sentiments of jealousy are love’s constant companion in a social order that assumes self-satisfaction is paramount: ‘and the gentlest of the passions receives sacrifices of human blood.’15 According to Rousseau, the love for another always emerges out of a desire for self-love: ‘The source of our passions, the origin and the principle of all the others, the only one born with man and which never


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leaves him so long as he lives is self-love – a primitive, innate passion which is anterior to every other and of which all others are in a sense only modifications. The love of oneself is always good and always in conformity with order.’16 The departure from the state of nature leaves us with a gaping wound, and love, in Rousseau’s view, constitutes a panacea, if not a cure. The paradox of desire is that we open our selves to others because we are filled with nostalgia for the contentment of a completely self-sufficient being. While Rousseau condemns the proliferation of needs and the competitive social relationships endemic to bourgeois society, one could argue that a similar logic of substitution is at work in his account of love. The love of another becomes a kind of substitution for the self-love enjoyed by the protohuman. The analysis of Luce Irigaray can be invoked to cast light on this phenomenon. She argues that there is a difference between paternal and maternal genealogies with respect to the foundation of social order. In her view, the paternal genealogy is based on the notion of substitution and sacrifice. She is critical of the classic Freudian tale of the Oedipus complex whereby the son is compensated for the forced renunciation of maternal love by identifying with his father and by the promise that he too will possess a woman one day. The girl compensates for her ‘lack’ of a penis by turning away from the mother towards the father, eventually bearing a child as a ‘penis-substitute.’ Apart from the obvious masculinist bias of this tale, Irigaray is critical of the logic of substitution at work here. She argues that this version of events obscures a maternal genealogy that is not based on a process of substitution and/or identification but rather on a connection between beings. Instead of seeing another as someone who compensates for a lack, one sees others as contiguous with the self. This does not mean that the other must be identical with the self or must be collapsible into the self. Openness rather than fullness is celebrated. The objective is not to allow the other to cover a gaping wound within the self, but rather to open oneself to the other, and thereby transcend the boundaries of the ego, rather than being enclosed by them. Irigaray invokes the symbol of the vaginal lips, which are contiguous and can also be used to symbolize relationships between human beings. They are two and one at the same time: ‘The one of the form, of the individual, of the (male) sexual organ, of the proper name, of the proper meaning ... supplants, while separating and dividing, that contact of at least two which keeps woman in touch with herself but without any possibility of distinguishing what is touching from what is touched.’17

Openings that Close


Nevertheless, one could argue that Rousseau tacitly, if not directly, begins to undermine the logic of substitution that underpins his philosophy. His insistence that love will function as the primary antidote to the pervasive emptiness of bourgeois society is interesting, for it constitutes an implicit acknowledgment that openness to another is a prerequisite for social harmony. However, Rousseau seems caught between the paternal and maternal genealogies that Irigaray describes. This comes out most starkly in his treatise on education, Emile. Here Rousseau demonstrates the need for desire, while at the same time revealing his unease with it. Rousseau does insist that love create a sense of oneness with another human being: ‘As soon as man has need of a companion, he is no longer an isolated being. His heart is no longer alone. All his relations with his species, all the affection of his soul are born with this one.’18 And yet, he insists that Emile’s love for his ideal woman, Sophie, never undermine the self-sufficiency he had so assiduously cultivated in his student. Thus, Sophie becomes little more than a mirror who augments Emile’s self-love. It is Sophie who praises Emile for acting in all the right ways, and confers her blessing on him for his good behaviour by offering him her hand in marriage. Emile is denied the opportunity to open himself up to another, because Sophie is not allowed to be an other; her whole education becomes a training in ministering to her future husband’s needs. She tempts him into the role of being the proper citizen and father by capitalizing on his desires. Emile’s encounters with other people are never allowed to infringe on his carefully cultivated sense of self-love and independence. Mira Morgenstern points out that Emile is not capable of a genuinely dynamic interchange with other people because he can only interact with those who act as his mirror images. She makes reference to Freud’s notion of the unheimlich or ‘uncanny,’ pointing out that when we vehemently ostracize or spurn the other, we are rejecting the unheimlich within ourselves.19 Unheimlich also has the connotation of that which is not at home. During his upbringing, Emile is carefully sequestered from any encounter with the unheimlich because it would threaten his own sense of self-sufficiency. By equating self-sufficiency with security, Rousseau is cultivating the very insecurity and egoism that he finds so problematic in bourgeois society, making an unconditional opening to another virtually impossible. This has the most dramatic impact on Emile’s relationship with Sophie, whose happiness is to inhere solely in producing Emile’s contentment: ‘she thinks with more satisfaction of the decent man, the man of merit; she feels that she is made for that


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man, that she is worthy of him, that she can return to him the happiness she will receive from him.’20 The fact that Sophie’s existence must be tailored entirely to meeting the needs of another, while an enlightened self-interest is cultivated in Emile, is indicative of the weakness of Rousseau’s position. Because Emile’s self-love is nourished, he requires another who will sacrifice herself for him. Rousseau insists that Sophie’s training in pleasing others is necessary because as a woman she is punished ‘by nature’ and is forced into the undesirable position of needing another. Artificiality is therefore ‘necessary’ for her in a way that it is not for Emile. In Rousseau’s view, a woman’s distinct needs differentiate her from men: The male is male only at a certain moment. The female is female her whole life … everything constantly recalls her sex to her; and, to fulfill its functions well, she needs a constitution which corresponds to it. She needs care during pregnancy; she needs rest at the time of childbirth; she needs a soft and sedentary life to suckle her children. She serves as the link between them and their father; she alone makes him love them and gives him the confidence to call them his own.21

Women should be taught to please men and so should be ‘coquettish.’22 Sophie’s dependence makes Emile’s independence possible. Indeed, because Rousseau considers dependence to be an unnatural state, Sophie must ensure that Emile’s dependence on her is camouflaged. She is able to lure him into the fold of the family by playing on his desires, but she must never directly challenge his position of authority. He must always appear to be in control: ‘Woman’s empire is an empire of gentleness, skill and obligingness; her orders are caresses, her threats are tears. She ought to reign in the home as a minister does in a state– by getting herself commanded to do what she wants to do.’23 Because Rousseau assumes that independence is the natural state of human beings, it is only possible for him to allow one of the two sexes to appear fulfilled and complete. A great deal of deception and trickery is needed to achieve this result. Desire for another is allowed in Emile only in so far as it buttresses, rather than undermines, his precious independence. Brian Duff points out that Emile was written partly out of the nagging guilt that lingered with Rousseau for abandoning his own five children to an orphanage. He surmises that Rousseau’s fear of betrayal by his own children may have been a crucial factor in his decision to simply excise them from his life. A kind of double-mirroring occurs in Emile. If

Openings that Close


Emile loves Sophie only as a mirror in which he can stare unrelentingly at his own self-image, he also serves as a mirror for Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the fictitious father. As Duff points out, Rousseau admitted that several of his books were written to fill the void in his life.24 This is precisely the kind of reasoning which leads desire to suffocate in its own energies. The other exists as a means of plugging up the void in the self, or as a substitute for an empty self. Ironically, this emptiness may stem from the very desire for self-sufficiency that motivates the subject’s impelling desire to propagate the emptiness it is trying to alleviate. Rousseau’s individual does not want to encounter the unexpected through the other; rather he wants to gaze perpetually at himself. Irigaray uses the image of the speculum in order to question this kind of mirroring. The speculum has obvious gynaecological connotations that enable one to see the curves and differences of the female body, as opposed to the flat mirror which cannot possibly capture these differences.25 Thus, the speculum becomes a mirror for alterity that allows us to turn the corner of the unexpected. It brings us out of ourselves rather than effecting a stifling and boring eternal return. Rousseau’s philosophy chokes on his own flat mirrors. Rousseau’s Social Contract is infected by a similar narcissism. Here Rousseau tries to reconcile the self’s desire for complete independence with the necessity for a strong community which the individual can feel a part of. He sets a seemingly impossible goal for himself with the general will, namely, to ‘find a form of association which defends and protects with all common forces the person and goods of each associate and by means of which each one, while uniting with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before.’26 The oneness with the environment enjoyed by the protohuman is somehow to be replicated, while at the same time each individual is to enjoy an unparalleled independence. The whole, as well as the individuals that comprise it, are to be indivisible: ‘Each of us places his person, and all his or her power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and as one we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.’27 Since each individual is to arrive at the general will as a member of the community, each one has set the conditions for his own subjugation. On the one hand, this appears to be a way of intertwining my fate with yours, since I have to cooperate with you in order to protect myself against social inequalities. Therefore, Rousseau underscores the need of opening oneself to the other while making it conducive to individual independence. Yet, at the same time, Rousseau wants to ensure that this sense of social


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‘wholeness’ is also an expression of self-identity since each individual must come up with the general will on his own. In this way, Rousseau ensures that each individual virtually becomes the whole that includes him and thereby universalizes himself. As Mark Blackell points out in his essay, virtue in Rousseau is essentially divided from itself, oscillating between the need for external and internal sources of legitimacy.28 The reason for such a profound schism is that Rousseau demarcates so sharply the presocial protohuman, completely self-sufficient and independent, and the postsocial being dependent upon others. He is reluctant to blend the two worlds, even though he recognizes that they must be combined. Rousseau acknowledges the need for alterity which is at the same time the wellspring of his greatest fears. A fear of the other is clearly manifested when Rousseau unveils the logistics that are to facilitate the formation of the general will. The general will is to be arrived at by reflection into the self, rather than through a forum where discussion and exchange of ideas takes place. While one purpose of this is to protect against abuses of power, it also imbues the individual with the sense that he alone has arrived at the general will, without undue interference by others. Rousseau’s ambivalence with respect to opening the self to another is also evident in his elucidation of the general will. To a certain extent, it demands a kind of abstract recognition of the other that precludes a direct opening. Since Rousseau assumes that the general will emerges from the entrails of bourgeois society, he is left with no other choice. Distrust and hypocrisy prevail, and so abstract laws provide the necessary bulwark against such an atmosphere of suspicion. At the same time, one could argue that this abstract, mediated relationship to the other could also facilitate openings by providing an atmosphere of equality. Only the recognition of others as autonomous and self-constituting beings can foster an environment conducive to the expression of particularity. Rousseau does not wish to make heteronomous desires irrelevant in a Kantian manner, but rather to ensure that my desires do not result in the subordination of another. Thus, one could argue that the general will is a transitional phase that allows individuals to transcend their deeply entrenched bourgeois mistrust. Because of the suspicion we harbour for others in bourgeois society, Rousseau maintains that desire within the family be invoked to shore up the social order and provide the intimacy that would otherwise be lacking in a community such as that envisaged by the general will. Perhaps Rousseau’s hope is that the affective bonds cultivated there can

Openings that Close


eventually give rise to further openings to others. At the very least, the need to protect his family is to force Emile into the role of responsible citizen. Rousseau’s analysis of desire and his account of the development of social relationships reveal a very ambiguous posture toward the other. On the one hand, he acknowledges that what is missing in bourgeois society is the ability to open ourselves to others. At the same time, such an opening, in Rousseau’s view, reveals a latent desire to return to the completeness of the solitary and independent protohuman. A desire for others is therefore propelled by nostalgia for a state in which we allegedly do not need others. This is why desire is always fraught with tension and the other that is its ‘object’ cannot be purged of suspicion. In the sequel to Emile, Les Solitaires, Emile is quick to sever his ties with Sophie once she goes astray and betrays him in Paris. A love that does not yield self-satisfaction is empty for him. Despite these paradoxes, the centrality that Rousseau accords to love in his writings, and his insistence that the passions assume an important role in cementing social order suggest that he also acknowledges the need for opening oneself to another. The problem with his work is that such an opening almost always reflects a kind of mourning for the self-sufficient being.

NOTES 1 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Collected Works of Rousseau (CWR) III, 38; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) III, 156–7. 2 Ibid., CWR III, 25; OC III, 141. 3 John Duncan ‘Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality,’ in this volume, 22. 4 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 27; OC III, 143. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid., CWR III, 28; OC III, 144. 7 Ibid., CWR III, 23; OC III, 138. 8 Ibid., CWR III, 30; OC III, 147. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., CWR III, 31; OC III, 148. 11 Ibid., CWR III, 37; OC III, 156. 12 Ibid., CWR III, 47; OC III, 169. 13 Ibid., CWR III, 52; OC III, 176. 14 Ibid., CWR III, 38; OC III, 157–8.

116 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Katrin Froese Ibid., CWR III, 47, OC III, 169. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 214; OC IV, 493. Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One, 26 (emphasis in original). Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 214; OC IV, 493. Mira Morgenstern, ‘Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,’ in this volume, 176. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 397–8; OC IV, 752. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 361; OC IV, 697. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 365; OC IV, 703. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 408; OC IV, 766. Brian Duff, ‘“The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men”: Rousseau on Desire and the Child,’ in this volume, 153. See Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman. Rousseau, Social Contract, CWR IV, 139; OC III, 361. Ibid. Mark Blackell, ‘Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence,’ in this volume, 129.

6 Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence mark blackell

Benjamin Constant admired Rousseau’s critique of the artificial needs of modern society and the loss of spontaneous, authentic feeling that emerges from such needs. He also admired Rousseau as the ‘first to make sense of our own rights popular.’1 At the same time, he was highly critical of the illiberality of Rousseau’s insistence on the absolute identity of individual and general will. Living in the aftermath of the terror and in the midst of Napoleon’s reign, Constant was aware of the manner in which the non-divisible power of the general will too easily became embodied in some agent in political society. His constitutional writings, which we shall examine below, attempt to redress what he saw as the excesses of Rousseau’s political thought. It would be a mistake, however, to see Constant’s liberalism as simply a break from Rousseau, and so I shall present in this chapter the outlines of a reading of Rousseau’s thought as pointing toward a certain strain of nineteenthcentury liberal democratic thought. I would like to show a development in the conception of civic virtue as we move from Rousseau to Constant. I shall begin by first highlighting what I see as ambivalence over the source of virtue in Rousseau’s thought. Virtue is the sentiment underlying the bond of the social contract and the ambivalence about the source of virtue is, I argue, part and parcel of the ambivalence of the ideal political bond, the general will as a form of desire. I read Benjamin Constant’s thought as an implicit post-revolutionary inversion and yet completion of this ambivalence of virtue in Rousseau. Constant’s thought suggests that ambivalence is a symptom of modern democratic citizenship and that a reflective engagement with this ambivalence is an embryonic virtue. If Rousseau can be read as implicitly concerned with the ambivalence of virtue, then Constant is concerned with the


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virtue of ambivalence; and this latter self-reflective concern is an extension of a fundamental modern democratic trajectory that has Rousseau as its point of origin. The General Will as a Form of Desire Rousseau’s social contract theory is not unique in affirming that sovereignty resides with the people, an idea with a prior history. It is unique in the degree to which it asserts the absolute integrity and cohesion of this general will. ‘Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.’2 This contract is described as taking place both between individuals and within each individual such that ‘each individual, contracting with himself so to speak, finds himself engaged in a double relation, namely toward private individuals as a member of the Sovereign and towards the Sovereign as a member of the State.’3 The general will is both invoked and formed by the social contract and, in the process, becomes the basis of all political legitimacy. But this general will is located in the individuals of the society, who are fundamentally equal in the manner in which they participate in it. The autonomy of political society is carried to an extreme both through the central notion of the general will and through the principle of absolute equality between individuals in relation to that will. In Rousseau’s logic, sovereign and individual are identical and the entity formed, or rather unearthed, through the contract is radically autonomous. This fundamental identification of the individual with the general will (which, pace Hobbes, makes alienation and renunciation of sovereignty destructive of the general will) creates a seamless unity between citizen and sovereign authority. But does this mean that in Rousseau’s political thought there is no division whatsoever between the political order and the individual? While Rousseau strives to create such a unity in The Social Contract, the tension between the political order and the individual is, at least in part, displaced onto the individual political subject and her will. Rousseau’s theory of the social contract sets up a division in the individual between her private will, which is moved by private interests, and the part of her will which is general and aspires to the common interest. From the point of view of the general will, forcing an individual to fuse any division that might be experienced between these two wills is, indeed, forcing that individual to be free and autono-

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mous because she is made coherent. At the level of the pure ideal, the general will is identical to true self-interest. At the level of political institutionalization, however, what the general will looks like and how it comes to be is much less clear. As we have seen, the general will cannot be a will which is inherently arbitrary and thus potentially at odds with the collective good. But, as Rousseau makes clear, the public will can be corrupted by particular wills. It can be misguided in its generation of laws, which are merely the expression of the general will, and thus needs to be corrected and enlightened. Rousseau writes: The general will is always right, but the judgement that guides it is not always enlightened. It must be made to see objects as they are, or sometimes as they should appear to be; shown the good path it seeks; safeguarded against the seduction of private wills; shown how to assimilate considerations of time and place; taught to weigh the attraction of present, tangible advantages against the danger of remote, hidden ills. Private individuals see the good they reject; the public wants the good it does not see. All are equally in need of guides. The former must be obligated to make their wills conform to their reason. The latter must be taught to know what it wants. Then public enlightenment results in the union of understanding and will in the social body; hence the complete cooperation of the parts, and finally the greatest force of the whole. From this arises the necessity for a legislator.4

This is a revealing passage. A legislator with an extra-social, quasi-metaphysical source of authority is needed initially to direct individuals through the formation of mores, traditions, and the constitution of the state. If individuals, with their particular wills, are guided to use their reason, they will see the identity of their individual interests and the common interests expressed in the general will. Individuals are motivated by a rational self-interest that must be persuaded to conform to the general will by being shown a more expansive self-interest. The public, however, also has a will – or rather, individuals also have public wills and these public wills make up the public will. This public will must also be guided to the general will but from a different direction. Now, if we think about the relationship between the public will and the general will, a difficulty arises. Clearly, as the general will is infallible, it cannot be equated with the public will, which can be misguided.


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But the general will must still somehow be related to the public will, or to the public part of each individual’s will, for if this were not the case, then the general will could be wholly derived from the legislator, from some enlightened source that would no longer need to be merely a guide, but would be sovereign. Rousseau makes it very clear, however, that the legislator’s function is ‘not magistracy, it is not sovereignty.’5 The legislator’s creativity lies in setting up the constitution, not in being a part of it. There must be some innate connection between the public and the general will if the legislator can shift the former to the latter without simply adding the latter to the mix. What, then, connects the public to the general will? Looking at the quotation above, we can see that a solution presents itself: the public will, which we all contribute to and partake of, is tied to the general will not in its content but precisely as a desire. In other words, in so far as the practical expressions of political, public will partake of the general will, they do so as desires for the collective good. In practice, the general will is not wholly contained by the expansiveness of individual rational self-interest (as it is in the pure ideal). In practice, the general will needs to be linked to the public will. As well, in practice, the public will differs from the self-interested aspect of the individual’s will in that it is driven not by interested reason but by desire for the collective good. It is, one might say, pure desire for the public good, although it may not know what that good is and thus may not be able to will it. At the level of practical institutionalization, then, individual interests and the general will cannot simply be asserted as rationally identical. A middle term is needed and it is desire – desire for the general good which is, according to Rousseau, found inherent in the public will and lacking merely in guidance. At the practical level, in other words, the social contract which forms the general will is in part a social bond of desire. Understanding the general will as a form of desire complicates the view of Rousseau as merely a critic of modern desire. As the essays in this volume point out, Rousseau presents modern social existence in terms of a false proliferation of desires, pleasures, needs, and vanities. Desires are corrupted in inegalitarian societies; our pity is masked over; our simple pleasure in existence is deformed to become the manifold pleasures of domination. But the solution to such a state lies in the movement from the corruptible public will, as present in all, to the incorruptible general will; such a movement is made possible by harnessing the desire for the public good as the basis for the general will. While the multiplication of desires lies at the root of Rousseau’s portrait

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of unhappy moderns, the promise of justice in society, through the social contract, is indebted to a form of desire. The Dilemma of the Democratic Bond So far I have described the social contract in Rousseau’s thought as a move that cannot be fully contained by the core idea of a rationally recognizable identity of individual and collective interests. The institutionalization of the contract requires that the private individual’s desire be acted upon. The individual’s desire must be formed so that she will want the general good she sees. At the same time, in so far as this individual is also a member of the public, her desire for the general good is merely unearthed and directed toward an adequate object. This immanent, yet shaped, desire in the social contract has the general will as its object but the location of this will is ambiguous. Rousseau pushes the equality of popular sovereignty such that all individuals are united and identical through their participation in the general will. As a result of this move, certain questions inevitably emerge: is this a desire for something essentially outside of the self or for something that resides within the self? To what degree is this desire that accrues to the social bond open to alterity? To what degree is it generated from within the individual? When it comes to the pure logic of the social contract, these questions are meaningless as the interests of the individual and the collective, private and public wills, and even desire and knowledge are said to be identical. However, once the spectre of the social contract as a form of political institutionalization of desire appears, these questions emerge. Moreover, ambivalence over the object of political attachment appears. We can see this implicit ambivalence in Rousseau’s ambivalent critique of political representation. In the latter half of the Social Contract, Rousseau attacks the notion of representation. The general will alone is the legitimate legislative voice. It alone is formed by the contract. Given this concept of sovereignty, Rousseau vehemently rejects the idea of representative democracy as both a renunciation of freedom and an alienation of the will that negates the social contract.6 Rousseau’s renunciation of political representation is not, however, so clear-cut as this well-known argument suggests. He makes a curious comparison when treating political representation in the Social Contract: The idea of Representatives is modern. We get it from feudal Government,


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that wicked and absurd Government in which the human species is degraded and the name of man is dishonoured. In the ancient republics and even in monarchies, the people never had representatives. The word itself was unknown. It is quite remarkable that in Rome where the tribunes were so sacred, no one even imagined that they could usurp the functions of the people, and that in the midst of such a great multitude, they never tried to pass a single plebiscite on their own authority.7

Why is representation feudal and yet modern? What does Rousseau mean by ‘representation’ that it should be formulated in such terms?8 Rousseau is in part responding to Montesquieu’s account of modern representation as having its origins in the ‘Gothic government’ of the Germanic tribes. For Montesquieu, the modern idea of the representation of social powers in the estates has its origin in this Germanic departure from the ancients who did not know of ‘government founded on a legislative body formed of representatives of a nation.’ Montesquieu sees this as a ‘well-tempered’ form of government that allows for a balance of powers between commons, nobility, clergy, and kings; indeed, he refers to it as ‘the best kind of government men have been able to devise.’9 Unlike Montesquieu, Rousseau refuses to accept a conception of legitimizing power as divided; the alienation of the general will presupposes a divided source of authority and the general will cannot be divided. Representation in the legislative body is modern and feudal in that it assumes the legitimacy of divisions between social groups or classes. We can interpret Rousseau as also understanding representation as modern and feudal in a related but somewhat different fashion: representation diminishes the metaphysical presence of the general will. Rousseau is making a point about the manner in which sovereign will, with its divisions, is symbolically incorporated in feudal, representative government. The feudal monarch, or prince’s rule, can be seen as ‘representing’ the people. But in such ‘representation,’ the will of the people is symbolically encapsulated or incorporated in the will of the monarch. The monarch has a metaphysical status in the great chain of being that enables him to fully incorporate the will of the people into his will with its higher status of being. According to this political-cultural logic, the actions of the feudal prince can be said to be the actions of the people. This is ‘representation’ in the sense of an a priori incorporation of the represented will into the monarchical will. I am suggesting that Rousseau has such a conception of representation in mind when he

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criticizes the representation of the people by election of members to the English Parliament. Rousseau sees electoral representation as a temporally limited version of feudal representation-as-embodiment. Representative government is modern, and not classical, because it uses a form of metaphysical presencing of power particular to modern absolutism that is, in many ways, a response to the possibility of legitimate division as suggested above. In other words, Rousseau implicitly sees representation as involving a kind of diminution of the general will’s pure metaphysical presence. It is a re-presencing which is illegitimate because, by the absolute and identificatory logic of the social contract, there can be no moment of loss of presence of the general will to itself. This is not to say that the kinship between Rousseau’s political thought and democracy lies in any theory of governmental form. Government is not something that emerges out of the social contract, according to Rousseau. If it is to be legitimate, government is always merely an executive power, executing the sovereign or general will, and not embodying the will coming out of any contract between people. The flip side of this separation of the general will and government is that legitimate government may take different forms depending on historical circumstances and on conditions particular to the nation, and, of all the governmental forms, pure democracy is impractical: a government suited to gods ruling over themselves and not for fallible humans.10 Even though Rousseau rejects pure democracy as a form of government in which all take part in the daily executive activities, we must not lose sight of the fact that democracy does have a privileged place in Rousseau’s understanding of the institutionalization of government as it is outlined in chapter 17 of the third book of the Social Contract. All legitimate government, whether it is monarchy, aristocracy, or some form of impure democracy, must pass through an ever-so-brief stage of pure democracy as it is institutionalized. For the general will – located in the public – to legitimate a government as its executive, there must be a moment when the sovereign steps into the shoes of the prince and acts as magistrate. This action is precisely what characterizes democracy. In other words, there is an inevitable democratic gesture in the practice of instituting government. Despite its impossibility as a pure form of government, an essential democracy lies at the origins of various governments in so far as they are legitimate – including what Rousseau calls elective aristocracy, something that sounds close to modern representative democracy. What matters is that whatever form of government is instituted must be built upon a brief appearance of the full presence of


Mark Blackell

the general will in political society. It is acceptable and necessary that this general will then retreats into the background in the day-to-day executions of the law, provided that it is always ready and capable of reasserting its presence. So, curiously, the full presence of the general will, which in Rousseau’s critique of representation is seen as vital, seems to be limited in the institutionalization of government. Other works by Rousseau, such as The Government of Poland, appear to be more forgiving of ‘representative’ institutions. Addressing Poland’s history of electing foreign kings, Rousseau proposes instead that three Polish candidates be selected by lot and that there be a final election of the king-for-life before the people’s representative assembly. Rousseau actually proposes what looks like a form of political representation precisely in order to curb representation in the sense, described above, of metaphysical re-presencing of power. He does so through recommendations designed to instil the ‘spirit of emulation’ in the people and thus a basic identification between ruler and ruled. For example, he expresses great confidence that the institution of the elective monarchy will foster individual excellence amongst public servants, despite the fact that such officials have life-long tenure so that fear of removal can no longer motivate them. These civil servants will be motivated by their desire to be elected to the position of king, a desire that makes them want to be seen as excellent and virtuous in the eyes of the people. This spirit of emulation is a form of desire that instils virtue in citizens. We see in this one instant of concern with a particular practical problem that desire operates as a middle term that articulates individual and collective interests. This desire for emulation is also Rousseau’s way of mitigating the inegalitarian potential of the elective monarchy and the distinctions it contains. It is crucial that there be some avenue of psychological identification opened up between elected monarch and people as this allows for an equality of identity to be maintained. The spirit of emulation suggests that the monarch is never categorically, or metaphysically, different. In other words, this form of governance is not ‘representation’ in the feudal sense of metaphysical embodiment of political will, which, as we have seen above, is how Rousseau understands representation. Along with the spirit of emulation, the rule of public opinion also operates to equalize political subjects. Even the elected king, with no fear of removal from the throne, is given pause to think about how he lives in the eyes of others. Desire for the collective good must also be instilled

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in the very mortal king; this is accomplished through a post-mortem exercise of popular judgment on his reign, which is to determine whether his family will receive distinctions and money and whether his name will be honoured in the annals of history or simply be expunged from the historical record. The office of the monarch in The Government of Poland is an object of both emulation/identification and critical judgment. It is a site within political society to which citizen/subjects may attach themselves as something both external to themselves and yet integrally connected to themselves. There is an emerging play with the internal/ external nature of the social bond that is not found in the pure logic of the social contract. At the level of the pure ideal, the citizen/subject’s attachment to the political order is simultaneously both an attachment to herself and something beyond herself. With the concern with institutionalization, this division between internal and external not only finds expression, but also becomes a tension, demanding political address. In other words, the solution of the elective monarch in this one practical piece of Rousseau’s writing is an implicit attempted solution to the problem of the ambivalence of the democratic bond, given the fundamental move to assert the identity of individual will and social/political whole. We might not think that it is an adequate solution. However, I think that there is an underlying recognition in Rousseau of the ambivalence of the modern political subject’s attachment to the political order, given the fundamental democratic move to absolute theoretical autonomy, self-sufficiency, and self-presence of the general will. The practical encounter with ambivalence of the modern political subject’s attachment to the social and political order is inevitable for no other reason than that the inquiry into the object of political/social attachment immediately produces two answers: oneself and the collective. Vasiliki Grigoropoulou examines a related division in Rousseau’s thought between the passive or social self and a more active and solitary one. She goes quite far in suggesting the means for the fusing of these moments, at least at rare moments in which sincerity of heart bridges the gap and allows for a disinterested authentic desire that plays out in the social world.11 Presumably such rare instances would need to be brought into being by Rousseau’s legislator. As Mira Morgenstern argues, the Rousseauian ideal of authentic politics is, in practice, complex, difficult, and even paradoxical. Once instituted, the identity of self and social world may be built upon certain disunities and foreign elements.12


Mark Blackell

The Ambivalence of Rousseau’s Language of Virtue In this section I want to show that Rousseau’s ethical thought operates across a tension between virtue as a voice that emerges from some inner source of nature, and virtue as what we might call an other-directed, intersubjective construct. Many of the essays in this collection examine a similar or related tension or ambiguity using different terms. My specific argument here is that this ambiguity or tension implicit in Rousseau’s language of virtue is a symptom of the dilemma of the social-political, democratic bond presented in the last section. In other words, the move toward political/moral autonomy that Rousseau pushes to unprecedented levels in the Social Contract has the paradoxical effect of making the language of morality, in Rousseau’s case the language of virtue, betray a certain ambivalence over its source. Virtue, which becomes the sentiment of the social bond, is divided in its object. In his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Rousseau contrasts the arts and sciences with the development of virtue in society in what turns out to be a curiously ambivalent critique. On one level, Rousseau sees the arts and sciences as corrupting virtue through a loss of concern with duty. In a society that fosters the arts and sciences there is a ‘contagion of vain knowledge,’ which is ‘useless’ not so much in the sense of materially unproductive as in the sense of being unable to foster the development of virtue. A society that emphasizes talents does not have the time to develop, nor to appreciate, virtue in its citizens and in politics and moral philosophy. Such a society develops talented people that are ‘useless’ citizens from the point of view of the bond of virtue, and, according to Rousseau, ‘every useless citizen may be considered a pernicious man.’13 The forms of incentive in a society of talents develop in people a sense of greed and luxury and an inevitable decline in qualities of military strength – all of which are seen to have a detrimental effect on the citizenry’s allegiance to, and valuation of, its civic duties. In the process of making this critique, Rousseau is effectively presenting the arts and sciences in terms of their impact on people’s orientation towards the social/political whole rather than strictly in terms of a means to knowledge. Moreover, implicit in this critique of a society of talents is an equation of virtue with the allegiance to one’s duties. That is to say, this critique implies an outwardly directed account of what ‘virtue’ is. On another level, the arts and sciences are criticized for fostering a love of appearances that erodes virtue. A society of talents formed by

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fostering the arts and sciences is inevitably more concerned with social appearances, with discourse and displays of wit, and is thus more likely to encourage social dissimulation in the presentation of self. The taste for ostentation and grandeur fostered by a society of talents is never combined with the taste for honesty, a taste that, according to Rousseau, is crucial for the preservation of virtue. Honesty, sincerity, and authentic being-in-the-world stand in opposition to the ways of being fostered by talents based on the arts and the sciences. Note that, at this level, the critique has shifted. Implicit in Rousseau’s concern over dissimulation and inauthenticity is the threat to a form of virtue that is inner-directed, or rather, that is derived from some authentic, inner source. Virtue is here equated with being-in-the-world in a way that is true to oneself, to one’s nature. That is to say, it is an inwardly directed formulation of ‘virtue.’ Rousseau’s understanding of what virtue is, and how we know it, is early on in his writing stretched across two poles of concern – a concern with the recognition of virtue by others, by its external, social validation on the one hand, and a concern with the self-contained, autonomous nature of virtue on the other.14 The question of how virtue is determined to be virtue seems to be simultaneously answered in two very different fashions. This ambivalence over the source of virtue and how virtue provides moral meaning is not exclusive to the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality is commonly read as an attempt to provide some form of an ethical and political Archimedean point that will allow for a radical critique of civil society: the primal consciousness of natural man. But from the perspective of Rousseau’s ethical thought as a whole, the natural consciousness of the Discourse on Inequality reveals itself, as we shall see, to be a problematic Archimedean point. Rousseau’s explanation of how virtue emerges out of natural consciousness never fully situates virtue in nature. Ethical consciousness retains an excess, a remainder that cannot be contained by the natural consciousness, which is its explicit source. This is the implicit remainder of alterity in Rousseau’s account of ethical consciousness. In response to Hobbes, Locke, and other early Enlightenment thinkers, Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality attempts to paint a picture of the state of nature that is in no way indebted to the principle of human sociability, nor to the principle of natural reason. Self-love (amour de soi-même), in the sense of an impulse of self-preservation, and pity, in the sense of an immediate identification with the sufferings of another,


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are the core natural characteristics of humans. They are presocial, instinctual feelings, which automatically emerge given the right external conditions. They are also, however, the ultimate source of true civic and social virtue. In the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau emphasizes pity as a natural feeling from which ‘alone flow all the social virtues … Benevolence and even Friendship are, rightly understood, the products of a constant pity fixed on a particular object: for is desiring that someone not suffer anything but desiring that he be happy?’15 But then, how does natural pity, which is even exhibited by animals when they pass by a dead animal of their own species, form the source of virtue? Rousseau notes that pity does not inspire the principle of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Rather, pity ‘inspires all Men with this other maxim of natural goodness, much less perfect but perhaps more useful than the preceding one: Do what is good for you with the least possible harm to others.’16 But certain questions immediately arise: What is the relation between this ‘good for me,’ defined in terms of the passions arising out of self-preservation, and the understanding of the consciousness of the other? How do self-love and pity cross over into the realm of ethics? Elsewhere Rousseau will emphasize the role of imagination in this movement toward virtue. In his Essay on the Origin of Languages Rousseau writes: Pity, although natural to man’s heart would remain forever inactive without the imagination, to set it in motion. How do we let ourselves be moved to pity? By transporting ourselves outside ourselves; by identifying with the suffering being. We suffer only to the extent that we judge him to suffer; it is not in ourselves that we suffer ... He who imagines nothing feels only himself: in the midst of mankind he is alone.17

Natural pity is a kind of raw feeling that requires imagination to function properly. Imagination is the capacity to step outside of ourselves and see the other’s suffering as another’s suffering and yet to identify with it. Pure pity, conceived of without any imagination present in it, seems to be no more than the mere capacity to feel pain without any actual physical stimulus causing pain. By itself, pity would entail the lonely enterprise of feeling another’s pain not as another’s pain but merely as an extension of one’s own. Pity and imagination must be analytically separated even if they are the two sides of a coin: pity is

Rousseau, Constant, and Ambivalence


the monadic, self-contained, inner-directed side while imagination is the other-directed, externalizing side. It may be that in the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau’s account of pity already contains this element of imagination. But this analytic distinction moves us toward an account of the indebtedness of one’s ethical consciousness to the consciousness of the other in a fashion that is absent from the Discourse on Inequality. It also complicates the view of the natural source of virtue as a fully inner-directed one, for imagination is here a response to an external being who is brought into the psyche through identification as a distinct being. The other is both me and not me, identified with and yet different. Thus while the source of virtue in pity seems at first glance to be an inner natural source in the individual which then moves outward, we can see that even at its origins, this source is ‘contaminated’ by alterity. The language of ‘natural virtue’ in Rousseau remains ambivalent.18 Civic virtue has its origin in natural sentiments with divided sources. The sources of virtue are neither unitary nor entirely contained within the natural individual. Rousseau’s social contract, which takes men as they are and laws as they might be, presents us with a subject/citizen who, at least in theory, has fused the division between inner moral authority and external political authority. We see, however, in Rousseau’s concern with political institutionalization, a reopening of this division and tension between the internal and the external sources of moral and political legitimacy. I have suggested that this tension is, somewhat paradoxically, a result of Rousseau’s central postulation of political and moral self-determination, which is part and parcel of modernity. This shift in understanding of political legitimacy, authority, and power opens up a chain of necessary questions, which he seems never able to answer. Is political attachment, as an attachment to something that the political actor constitutes, essentially an attachment to oneself? Or, is it an attachment to something outside of oneself? If both of these forms of attachment are necessary, how are they brought together? The demand for moral self-determinacy opens up corollary questions about the object of moral duty. To what or to whom does one owe duty? To oneself? To others? How are these different loci of conscience to be brought together? The language of the citizen/subject’s attachment to the general will in Rousseau is virtue. Virtue as the subjective orientation to civic duty is divided in its source just as desire is divided in its object, given the logic of the social contract.


Mark Blackell

Constant’s Reflective Engagement with Modern Ambivalence Constant, as I mentioned at the outset, was critical of Rousseau’s absolute identification of individual and general will, even as he welcomed the shift to self-foundational rule. Constant’s criticisms of Rousseau tend to focus on the tyrannical consequences that can follow from carrying out in practice the absolute logic of the social contract. For example, in his Principles of Politics, Constant argues that Rousseau ‘overlooked’ the truth that majority assent cannot legitimize all acts and that ‘there are acts that nothing could possibly sanction.’19 He also criticizes Rousseau’s notion of civil religion, with its intolerance that ‘is more unjust’ than religious intolerance ‘because the evil it causes is not the product of duty but of calculation.’20 Rousseau and others, such as the Abbé de Mably, were guilty of transporting ‘an extent of social power, of collective sovereignty’ that belonged ‘to previous centuries’ and, in so doing, they ‘furnished deadly pretexts for more than one kind of tyranny.’21 Rousseau is held responsible for providing the intellectual justification of some of the worst aspects of the French Revolution. In Constant’s experience, the leaders of the revolution ‘believed that everything should give before collective will and that all restrictions on individual rights would be amply compensated by participation in social power.’22 Constant shared these criticisms of Rousseau with many more conservative critics of the French Revolution, and yet he explicitly did not want to be seen as joining the ranks of Rousseau’s numerous critics, leaving us to wonder how we should position him vis-à-vis the eloquent Genevan that many felt was the author of the French Revolution. What separates Constant from the conservative critics of Rousseau that wrote during his time is that Constant takes up what was implicit in Rousseau: the ambivalence of attachment to the political order. While Constant may not have read Rousseau precisely in the fashion that this essay has, I think we can better understand Constant’s criticism, and appreciation, of Rousseau in terms of a continuation, and shift, in the understanding of political ambivalence as we move from the pre-revolutionary Rousseau to the post-revolutionary writings of Constant. Constant is deeply indebted to Rousseau most centrally because Rousseau presented political thought with a problem of modern democratic political attachment that became pressing after the French Revolution and that required, in Constant’s eyes, a new response. This response was both constitutional and psychological. Constant’s constitutionalist attempts to balance the presence of democratic will with the

Rousseau, Constant, and Ambivalence


preservation of liberty took the shape of a search for a neutral power in a constitutional monarchy that could ‘float above the anxieties’ of ordinary citizens.23 The phrasing here reveals Constant’s concern with the nature of the modern democratic subject; he tried to make sense of modern representative democracy in a fashion that paid particular attention to the emotional and moral resources available to modern political subjects. In the process, I argue, Constant develops the ambivalence implicit in Rousseau’s thought and makes it an explicit part of the modern political subject. Political virtue now comes to be seen as tied up with ambivalence, or rather, with a reflective engagement with a fundamental ambivalence.24 Constant begins his speech, ‘The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns,’ delivered to the Athénée Royal in 1818, by contrasting the liberty of the moderns with that of the ancients in terms of expectations. Moderns expect their rights to be respected, from the right to freedom of vocation, association, worship, and speech, to the right to influence government by elections or ‘through representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more or less compelled to pay heed.’ Expectations over realms of individual autonomy were very different for the ancients, for whom collective political freedom was seen as compatible with ‘the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community.’ Moreover, expectations about the exercise of sovereignty are also radically different, according to Constant. If moderns have high expectations of respect for rights, their expectations of exercising democratic sovereignty are inherently limited. While sovereignty is seen as absolute in ancient republics, the individual in the modern republic is sovereign ‘only in appearance. His sovereignty is restricted and almost always suspended. If, at fixed and rare intervals, in which he is again surrounded by precautions and obstacles, he exercises this sovereignty, it is always only to renounce it.’25 For the ancients, as Constant makes clear in ‘The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation and Their Relation to European Civilization’: ‘The share of the individual in national sovereignty was by no means, as it is now, an abstract supposition.’ In modern nations, citizens ‘are called at most to exercise sovereignty through representation, that is to say in a fictitious manner.’26 This sounds almost like Rousseau’s critique of the English Parliament, except that Constant, who accepts this shift from the liberty of the ancients to the liberty of the moderns as historically inevitable, has a somewhat different understanding of what is taking place in representation.


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There is a melancholic tone in Constant’s identification of this inevitable loss of the full presence of sovereignty as central to political modernity. What really makes the liberty of the ancients, which consisted of ‘an active and constant participation in collective power,’ undesirable today is that we would feel the loss of our individual liberty or independence without being able to gain the emotional compensation for not having individual autonomy, the compensation of ‘a vivid and repeated pleasure’ which ancient citizens were willing to make great sacrifices to preserve. We moderns have gained new material pleasures and a greater diversity of pleasures through the growth of the commercial tendency. But, except through our reading about the great men of antiquity, we have lost the daily access in political life to ‘an indefinable and special emotion, which nothing modern can possibly arouse.’27 While political life is still of value to us moderns (and it certainly was for Constant himself) we seem to be unable to enjoy the passion and enthusiasm of public life to the same degree due to a loss of a distinct type of pleasure. In losing the certainty of this political pleasure we moderns are, in Constant’s assessment, deeply touched by political ambivalence. Constant notes that in modernity, We have lost in imagination what we have gained in knowledge; as a result, we are even incapable of lasting emotions ... we are always dragging behind us some sort of after-thought, which is born from experience, and which defeats enthusiasm. The first condition for enthusiasm is not to observe oneself too acutely. Yet we are so afraid of being fools, and above all of looking like fools, that we are always watching ourselves even in our most violent thoughts. The ancients had a complete conviction in all matters; we have only a weak and fluctuating conviction about almost everything, to the inadequacy of which we seek in vain to make ourselves blind.28

This passage conveys not only the ambivalence in Constant’s assessment of political modernity but also his understanding of the ambivalence that is part and parcel of modern political subjectivity. Modernity is defined, at least in part, in terms of self-reflexivity. This inescapable self-consciousness is the cause of our loss of the compensations of moral imagination and political enthusiasm. However, even our self-consciousness or self-reflexivity, standing at the root of this loss of imagination, is not entirely bad. Even in our ‘most violent thoughts’ we are ‘watching’ and hence tempering ourselves, something that Con-

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stant, indeed much of France and Europe, would have desired after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. Constant is suggesting that political modernity is constitutively ambivalent. Moderns have replaced the political and moral enthusiasm and civic virtue of the ancients with ambivalence. As democratic citizens, modern subjects tend to be plagued by both weakness of conviction and fluctuating conviction, that is, by ambivalence of political attachment. Note that this ambivalence is not the same as apathy, or, the absence of passion; it is rather the inconstancy of passion. This fluctuating, ambivalent desire in the modern political subject is part and parcel of an ambivalent attachment to the political order and to the centrality of democratic will which underlies the understanding of legitimate government following the French Revolution. If the modern democratic subject must confront a loss, how she does so matters. In his speech, Constant notes that it is less the actual loss of the ancients’ political enthusiasm that cripples us modern political actors than it is a certain orientation to that loss: regret. We moderns are crippled by our regret, for regret leads to a dangerous imitation.29 Constant notes that ‘it is difficult not to regret the time when the faculties of man developed ... in so wide a career, so strong in their own powers, with such a feeling of energy and dignity. Once we abandon ourselves to this regret, it is impossible not to wish to imitate what we regret.’30 Regret is an unmediated, non-reflective orientation to loss. With psychological astuteness, Constant observes this modern political regret in the mimetic desire to be like those ancients who were flush with republican civic virtue and its concomitant pleasure. In the process, is Constant presenting us with a new virtue? Is his not a distinct account of a political virtue in terms of an acceptance and reflective orientation toward our fundamental political ambivalence? While one of the symptoms of our melancholic condition is the self-reflective and painful awareness of our lack, such self-reflexivity also provides the means to mitigate potential disasters following that loss. What turns out to be the worst potential disaster in modernity – the anachronistic imitation of the ancients – is thus a modern response to that loss that is a part of modernity. Paradoxically, such a response is an attempt to avert that same self-reflexivity which causes such pain and dissatisfaction. And Constant is asking that we be vigilant against such dubious ‘remedies.’ He is asking that we live with a certain painful self-reflexivity and awareness of loss. Modern democrats are constitutively ambivalent and ought to be reflective of this condition.


Mark Blackell

It is tempting to read Constant’s thought as a complete liberal departure from Rousseau’s radicalism, but such a reading would be a mistake. This shift from Rousseau’s implicit treatment of political and moral ambivalence to Constant’s explicit engagement with ambivalence marks, I think, a deepening of a very particular concern rather than a departure. Virtue for Constant, and for a strain of liberal democratic thought, is rooted in a sentiment at the core of the modern democratic bond, a desire that is fundamentally ambivalent. The essential dynamic of that ambivalence involves oscillation between identification with an object that the citizen constitutes (the general will or ‘the people’) and rejection of particular attempts to manifest or embody that object in political society. This dynamic is familiar to modern democratic citizens and the problems that emanate from it are of great concern to democratic theorists today. But in the aftermath of the French Revolution and what might be seen as a failure of reflective containment by democratic actors, Constant sought a kind of virtue in a reflective ambivalence. Rousseau’s influence on this aspect of Constant’s thought can be traced to his inability to fully present the object of virtue to his reader: the openended and ambivalent quality of virtue in Rousseau is dynamically related to the virtue of reflective ambivalence in Constant. Of course, the dangers of ambivalence remain and Constant was well aware of them: the failure of desire and the paralysis of ambivalence was Constant’s main concern in his novel Adolphe. Rousseau danced around the problem of political institutionalization of the general will, and in so doing, he has desire reveal itself as the vital middle term in the equation of the individual with the collective. The problem of political desire in modernity owes much to Rousseau, but it also undergoes a dramatic reformulation after the French Revolution. In Constant’s political thought, the question of the nature of political desire has been restated to be the following: what form of desire can sustain an attachment to a political order that enshrines ambivalence? Such a question is important today as political allegiance becomes increasingly divided between nation-state and international or cosmopolitan concerns that are not adequately instituted in national or even international bodies. Political commitment along the model of a republican civic virtue that accrues to the homeland is increasingly replaced by divided loyalties and strengthened attachments to non-embodied causes, such as global environmental sustainability. In such a situation, undivided commitment to national interests and identity presents itself as a problem; a certain amount of ambivalence in our political attach-

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ment becomes vital. At the same time, that ambivalence is in danger of simply leading to weak political commitment and a failure of desire and collective action. ‘Civic virtue’ in a cosmopolitan context seems to require a political desire and will that can sustain different forms of commitment without their cancelling each other out. As with the postrevolutionary era Constant was concerned with, we have inherited a problem of reformulating civic virtue and our constitutive ambivalence is, once again, both part of the solution and part of the problem.

NOTES 1 Constant, ‘The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation,’ in Constant: Political Writings, 106, n.1. 2 Rousseau, The Social Contract: Collected Writings of Rousseau (CWR) IV, 139; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) III, 361; Basic Political Writings (BPW), 148 (emphasis in original). 3 Ibid., CWR IV, 139–40; OC III, 362; BPW, 149. 4 Ibid., CWR IV, 154; OC III, 380; BPW, 162 (emphasis added). 5 Ibid., CWR IV, 155; OC III, 382; BPW, 163. 6 Ibid., CWR IV, 194; OC III, 431; BPW, 199. The election of members of the English Parliament is, for Rousseau, but a moment of freedom of the people interspersed with long periods of slavery. And when a people gives itself representatives, according to Rousseau’s logic of the general will’s self-referencing autonomy, it not only loses its freedom, it also ‘no longer exists’ as it is no longer constituting itself. 7 Ibid., CWR IV, 192–3; OC III, 430; BPW, 198. 8 One might think that representatives in representative democracy are characterized more by a dual role of acting out their constituents’ wills and of guiding them through independent judgment and will, through their political ‘leadership.’ This relationship of the democratic leader to the people seems to have a greater level of connectedness with the will of the people than does feudal ‘rulership,’ which suggests the dominance and even an omnipotence of the will of the monarch, or feudal lord; see Manin, The Principles of Representative Government. We can forgive Rousseau for not being open to this distinction in the political sociology of modern democracy, but the question remains, why this insistence on the feudal nature of representation? 9 Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, 167–8. I am indebted to Simon Kow for pointing out this connection.


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10 Curiously, Rousseau’s objection to modern, feudal representative government is immediately followed by his almost off-hand comment about the practical difficulty of ancient, non-representative government: ‘However, we can size up the difficulties that were sometimes caused by the crowd by what took place in the time of the Gracchi, when part of the citizenry voted from the rooftops’ (Social Contract: CWR IV, 193; OC III, 430; BPW, 198). 11 Vasiliki Grigoropoulou, ‘Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau,’ in this volume, 85–103. 12 Mira Morgenstern, ‘Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,’ in this volume, 165–86. 13 Rousseau, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, CWR II, 13; OC III, 18; BPW, 12. 14 It is tempting to suggest that there are two different ‘virtues’ at work here: the virtue of dutifulness and the virtue of moral autonomy. The virtue of dutifulness would necessarily be linked with external judgment and the opinion of others while the virtue of moral autonomy would be isolated from such external opinion. But the arts and sciences are blamed for their corruption of ‘virtue’ in the singular and one does not get the sense that Rousseau is aware of, or willing to accept, any ambiguity in his use of the word. Rousseau is not concerned with a table of virtues in the plural. His writing derives a certain moral force through the singular use of the word virtue: it carries the weight of a single moral source. In the process, of course, such a rhetorical strategy raises the problem of the nature of the virtue which these apparently different virtues share. 15 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 37; OC III, 155; BPW, 54. 16 Ibid., CWR III, 37–8; OC III, 156; BPW, 55 (emphasis in original). 17 Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, CWR VII, 306; OC V, 395–6. 18 In making this argument, I am suggesting that Rousseau fits into the history of eighteenth-century accounts of virtue in a more complex fashion than that presented by Alistair MacIntyre in After Virtue. MacIntyre argues that there was a crucial linguistic shift in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries away from the Aristotelian and medieval concern with the tables of virtues, in the plural, toward a singular notion of virtue. Eventually, for MacIntyre, virtue came to be defined in terms of sentiments and then as sentiments that were regulated by higher order moral principles. This, for MacIntyre, is an unfortunate departure from the Aristotelian scheme wherein ‘moral virtue’ was not a tautological expression, but was one of the virtues which needed to be seen in context: in an ethos, a community with a shared vision of the good out of which specific practices – and their

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virtues – emerge. As I have already noted, Rousseau certainly departs from the notion of a table of virtues. But the move toward virtue as a sentiment, in which MacIntyre sees Rousseau as central, is not as unitary, not as undivided, as MacIntyre’s account of emotivism suggests. Constant, ‘Principles of Politics Applicable to All Representative Government,’ in Constant: Political Writings, 177. Ibid., 275. Constant, ‘Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns,’ in Constant: Political Writings, 318. Ibid., 320. Constant, ‘Principles of Politics Applicable to All Representative Government,’ 187. I very briefly deal with Constant’s treatment of the ambivalent nature of the citizen’s attachment to modern democracy in ‘Lefort and the Problem of Democratic Citizenship.’ Constant, ‘Liberty of the Ancients,’ 311–12. Constant, ‘The Spirit of Conquest,’ 102. Constant, ‘Liberty of the Ancients,’ 316–17. Constant, ‘The Spirit of Conquest,’ 104–5 (emphasis added). The psychological dynamics of regret, identification with another, ambivalent attachment, and neurotic, paralysing self-reflexivity receive brilliant treatment in Constant’s novel Adolphe. While I cannot go into detail here, his novel can be read as an examination of the dangerous symptoms of modernity and as recognition of the complexity of the moral and political condition of the tension-ridden modern subject. Constant, ‘Liberty of the Ancients,’ 317. This, according to Constant, was the error of the leaders of the French Revolution, who identified with, and sought to emulate, the passionate republican virtue of antiquity. ‘They wished to exercise political power as they had learnt from their guides it had once been in the free states. They believed that everything should give way before collective will, and that all restrictions on individual rights would be amply compensated by participation in social power’ (ibid., 320). In other words, the failure of the leaders of the French Revolution lay precisely in the manner in which they oriented to a moral and emotional loss: they sought to regain it, one might say, in an obsessive fashion, rather than reflectively acknowledging it as an irretrievable loss which could not provide the compensations it once did.

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PART THREE Sex, Kids, Love, and the City

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7 ‘The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men’: Rousseau on Desire and the Child brian duff

The first thing Jean-Jacques Rousseau ever did was kill his mother. Of course he could know nothing about it at the time, and intention is never an issue with new-borns. But the occasionally maudlin sentiments of Rousseau’s father, Isaac, ensured that the son would feel the loss deeply. He believed he saw her again in me, without being able to forget that I deprived him of her; he never hugged me without me feeling from his sighs, from his convulsive embraces, that a bitter regret was mixed with his caresses ... ‘Ah!’ he said moaning, ‘Give her back to me, console me for her; fill the void she has left in my soul.’1

With such a beginning it was perhaps inevitable that Rousseau would attempt to use his political theory to gain mastery over the process of parturition that began his life in tragedy. But, despite heroic attempts in widely disparate projects, he would never succeed. Rousseau would go to his grave suspecting that the best way to salvage a worthwhile human life from the corruption of modern society was to reproduce in the right way, and further convinced that he had never discovered just how it could be done. On his way to that sad end, Rousseau would attempt to redefine the meaning that was given to the whole experience of procreation – from the first stirrings of desire, through the full experience of sexuality, through the experience (and spectacle) of pregnancy and nursing, and onward. Throughout his oeuvre Rousseau repeatedly insisted that the proper development of passion and desire toward procreation plays a crucial role in determining whether people will experience their own


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way of living as enchanted, and thus whether they can live contentedly and possess the sentiments and the virtue appropriate to a republican citizen. But Rousseau’s intertwined stories about procreation and politics suggest that the extreme importance Rousseau placed upon reproducing in the right way contributed to his despair regarding the possibility that his political vision could ever come to fruition, or that he could find a practical way to contribute to the creation of a virtuous republic. Considered as a whole, Rousseau’s political thought suggests that modern citizens are most likely to attempt to find fulfilment in families at the expense of politics, rather than in support of the more virtuous democratic republic that was his ideal. This reading of Rousseau will introduce the following dilemma regarding contemporary secular-liberal democracy: on the one hand, Rousseau’s earnest conception of engaged democratic citizenship continues to offer an ideal against which to identify the failings of our contemporary politics. Yet at the same time, Rousseau’s own ideas about and experience with parenthood suggest that the depth to which Rousseau’s conception of fulfilment through reproduction and the sentimental family has penetrated the popular imagination might encourage resignation from the responsibilities of citizenship rather than democratic engagement. Whatever their psychological origins, the mature Rousseau’s concerns about the meaning given to procreation stemmed most prominently from his perception that by the mid-eighteenth century the withdrawal of religious meaning had left vacant an important cultural role – a role which he wanted procreation to step into and reestablish. Many commentators have noted that, as William Connolly puts it, the key to Rousseau’s modernity lies ‘in accepting the demise of the world of miracles, divine texts, and sacred signs inscribed in custom ... and seeking substitutes for those losses that appear too threatening.’2 Seeking a new language that would stir the sentiments and enchant the inhabitants of a disenchanted world, Rousseau turned again and again to the dangers and the potentials of the passions that surround ‘the pleasures attached to the reproduction of men.’3 Rousseau did so with such success, particularly in his two novels, that he helped transform Europe with his romantic vision of the sentimental family. As Judith Shklar declared in her classic study Men and Citizens, ‘the child-centred family was undeniably born on the pages of [Rousseau’s] Emile and La Nouvelle Heloise.’4 More important but rarely noted are Rousseau’s misgivings about the difficulty of using the desires associated with parenthood, desire both for a partner and for a child, to transform the modern individual

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into a more virtuous citizen. In the final measure, it is not the parents’ desire for a child, but the child’s desire to imitate the parent that matters most to Rousseau. While Rousseau’s ideas about channelling romantic desire may be implausible, it was ultimately the relationship with a child that he found impossible to face. The paradoxical effect is that Rousseau’s immense popularity, and the intense personal reactions that his readers had to his words, resulted in a long-term legacy – a legacy whose influence on the family-centred political rhetoric we encounter today would be hard to overestimate – that is, in many ways, a near perfect perversion of what his texts really implied about the actions and conditions necessary for cultivating the political potential of procreation. Ultimately, it is the virtual impossibility of entering into and sustaining the procreative project in the right way that indicates Rousseau’s pessimism about the possibility of redemption, political or otherwise, in a corrupt and disenchanted world. Emile, Sophie, and the Procreative Education Rousseau’s five children were as motherless as he. But their mother did not die in childbirth, as Rousseau’s had. Rather, they were, one by one, whisked away as new-borns by a midwife carefully chosen for her discretion, and delivered to a Parisian foundling home. It was a decision Rousseau would defend to his death, and yet one that he admitted he came profoundly to regret. Rousseau eventually felt the need to atone for this transgression. Just as his star was rising, in the aftermath of Julie, to the heights of European celebrity, he was promising his friends that he would give up writing after completing one last task. ‘There remains an old sin to expiate in print; after that the public will never hear of me again.’5 The result was Rousseau’s Emile, or On Education – a novel/treatise that chronicles the raising of the title character from infancy to imminent fatherhood by a governor named Jean-Jacques. The first three books of Emile describe a negative education, in which the governor is constantly preventing the development in his pupil of any desires or inclinations beyond those necessary for survival, for ‘Our unhappiness consists ... in the disproportion between our desires and our faculties.’6 While the reason for this approach is simple, the unavoidable onset of new urges looms over these early sections of Emile. The governor’s education of Emile, which began practically at Emile’s birth, is forced virtually to start over again when Emile reaches puberty, since ‘we are, so to speak, born twice: once to exist and once to live;


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once for our species and once for our sex ... It is now that man is truly born to life ... This period, when ordinary educations end, is properly the one when ours ought to begin.’7 Emile’s emerging desires must be crafted into a passion for virtue. But this cannot be simply a passion for virtue in the abstract. As Christopher Kelly points out, Rousseau was convinced that a purely conceptual love of virtue is insufficient to overcome other desires – particularly the passion of love. Rousseau wondered if, in a moment when a man’s ‘intoxicated senses are ready to yield themselves to [a forbidden affair], will this abstract image of virtue come to dispute over his heart with the real object which strikes it?’ Kelly explains that ‘some additional source of strength would be needed. Virtue, by itself, may be loveable, but it is not loveable enough to supply its own strength.’8 Emile will be taught to borrow strength from the passion of love itself. Only if the governor makes his lesson felt viscerally will he ‘engrave it in his memory in such a way that it will never be effaced.’9 Jean-Jacques decides that he will ‘speak to [Emile] of love, of women, of pleasures ... and I shall make him moderate by making him fall in love.’10 So the governor has Emile conjure in his imagination a woman to desire – a woman who truly suits Emile and merits his love. JeanJacques describes to his pupil all of her charms, her virtues, and even her faults, which only serve to please him more. He gives her a name, Sophie, and ensures that the vision of her will dominate Emile’s imagination. Every temptation will be compared to her, and every temptation will be found wanting. Thus the most stirring of Emile’s passions is welded to a love of virtue. But the most important work is not yet done. Emile’s love of virtue must be firmly grounded in a worldly existence rather than fantasies. For this reason, his passions must begin to be associated directly with the desire for a virtuous family. Sophie exists in the flesh and has long been known to the governor. She has been given an education in virtue, but her education could not be more different from Emile’s. Where the young Emile never felt constraint, Sophie has felt it constantly from an early age. While no idea was introduced to Emile before he could understand it, the responsibilities of womanhood were drilled into Sophie from the beginning. On the reasons for the difference, Rousseau is remarkably consistent. Not long after she is born, Sophie’s destiny is guided by her potential to give birth one day. She is taught modesty because it is the best way to arouse a man to the procreative act. Her other qualities must be appropriate to the results. ‘Everything recalls

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her sex to her; and, to fulfil its functions well, she needs a constitution which corresponds to it ... She needs patience and gentleness, a zeal and an affection that nothing can rebuff in order to raise her children.’11 So when Sophie’s parents ‘perceive the first restlessness of youth in her’ they urge her to ‘think about getting married. You must think about it early, for the destiny of life depends on marriage, and there is never too much time to think about it.’12 Her education ensures that in learning to desire Sophie, Emile will come to desire a child. To this end Emile cannot be allowed to let his love for an ideal of feminine virtue guide him for perpetuity. Although his love of an illusion will serve him well for a time, he must develop what Rousseau calls a ‘true love.’ A young man must either love or be debauched ... Countless young people will be cited who are said to live very chastely without love. But let someone name to me a grown man who is truly a man and who says in good faith that he spent his youth that way.13

Of course, upon meeting Sophie and hearing her name, Emile realizes that she is the true love he has been hoping for, and Sophie realizes the same about Emile. Strangely, while the expectation of their marriage guides the last parts of the novel, Jean-Jacques has almost nothing to say about what will happen to the couple once they have had a child. His best advice, it seems, was to maintain the outlook of lovers for as long as possible, and to think and feel like parents only when it becomes absolutely necessary. After advising Sophie on how to keep Emile’s passion alive, Jean-Jacques admits: Nevertheless, do not believe that even this art can serve you forever ... Children form a relationship between those who have given them life that is no less sweet and is often stronger than love itself. When you stop being Emile’s beloved, you will be his wife and friend. You will be the mother of his children.14

And that is all Rousseau had to say about the effect on the parents of actually having a child. The announcement of Sophie’s pregnancy ends the novel. Rousseau admitted the temptation to depict their union further, but he did not do so because ‘these details might be pleasing without being useful.’15


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The Matter of the Child (Does the Child Matter?) ‘Without being useful’? Has the child no importance in this? It is somewhat remarkable how little time Rousseau spent, in Emile or elsewhere, actually discussing the pleasures that parents can take in their children after they are born. Emile, for all appearances, has no mother or father once he has been handed over to his governor. Even Rousseau’s novel of letters, Julie, filled with many moving descriptions of domestic bliss, hardly engages the children of the household.16 It is not entirely clear, then, how much it mattered to Rousseau that a child is the likely result from these ‘pleasures attached to the reproduction of men’17 which he made so central to his ideal education. Perhaps he simply made the association automatically, without really giving much consideration to the question of why it matters that a child is produced. But Rousseau was well aware that sexual pleasures could be indulged and the ‘natural result’ avoided, that consummated desire could be decoupled from parenthood, and he seemed horrified by the possibility. In both his Second Discourse and Emile he attacked contraception and abortion with fury – remarking that these practices would help to make a desert of Europe and leave it ‘peopled with ferocious beasts.’18 Rousseau was careful to describe in his Confessions how quickly he rejected the homosexual advances he encountered as a delicately featured young man seeking shelter among the priests and monks of Europe. Masturbation was a constant bother to him. Emile could not be allowed to sleep alone during the critical years for fear he might indulge in it and ‘suffer until his death the sad effects of this habit, the most fatal to which a man can be subjected.’19 Rousseau periodically scolded himself in the Confessions for engaging in ‘the compensatory vice.’20 Once, when Rousseau arranged an appointment with Giulietta, the most captivating prostitute in Europe (and a woman who must have known a thing or two about preventing conception), he studied her to find the flaw that revealed her to be a worthless slut rather than nature’s perfection. Tellingly, he found that flaw right a-tip the unmaternal breast: I perceived that she had a malformed nipple. I beat my brow, looked harder, and made certain that this nipple did not match the other. Then I started wondering about the reason for this malformation. I was struck by the thought that it resulted from some remarkable imperfection of Nature and, after turning this idea over in my head, I saw as clear as daylight that instead of the most charming creature I could possibly imagine I held in my arms some kind of monster, rejected by Nature, men, and love.21

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Rousseau was even prone to find such monsters in the garden. In a letter to Mme Delessert regarding botany, he cautioned her about reading too much into the plants she finds in her kitchen plot: ‘These double flowers that people admire in flower-beds are monsters deprived of the faculty of producing their like which nature has endowed all organized beings.’22 While non-reproductive sexuality did not appeal to Rousseau, a commitment to celibacy hardly struck him as a much better option. The country priest who offers ‘The Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar’ admits at once that his suffering in life was due to his vow of celibacy. It is hard, he explains, to forbid oneself ‘what well-ordered nature permits us, and all the more so for what it prescribes to us.’23 If a life-long commitment to celibacy in the name of God is not a good option, there is always celibacy in the name of a passion for virtue specifically rooted in desire. Remember that Emile and Sophie had learned to channel their passions into a love of virtue long before they had reached the marital bed. Must things be consummated in cases like these? This question is explored in Rousseau’s novel Julie. The title character’s young tutor, Saint-Preux, swears off consummation in one of his first love letters to his pupil, exclaiming, ‘My flame and its object will together preserve an incorruptible purity. I would shudder to lay a hand on your virgin charms, more than I would at the vilest incest, and your surety is not more inviolate with your father than with your lover.’24 But the young schoolmaster soon realizes that even in the name of love, one should not entertain priestly vows. ‘I feel I have assumed an obligation that exceeds my strength. Julie, take back your own guardianship.’25 The youngsters play out their commitment to chastity like a game of hot-potato – passing it back and forth in order to keep it alive – until a kiss is granted that changes the game forever. That chaste kiss is the point of no return, the beginning of a synthesis to this dialectic of desire and virtue. The consummate moment soon arrives despite the fact that Julie’s aristocratic father will not approve her marriage to a tutor. Julie reports: I had to deliver the death blow to those who gave me life, to my lover, or to myself. Without knowing what I was doing I chose my own demise. I forgot everything and remembered only love. So it is that a moment’s distraction has undone me forever. I have fallen into the abyss of infamy from which a maiden can never return; and if I live, it is only to be more unhappy.26


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But something develops in the midst of these death blows, these demises and undoings, which allows an affirmation of life to emerge. Julie’s despair is real, but still her health returns, and her mood improves. Having forfeited her virtue, she resolves to merge her being entirely with her lover’s, so that whatever honour and virtue he possesses will be hers as well. And a means is perhaps in gestation, which might grant all this spiritual talk of merged souls a worldly manifestation. ‘Ah! If only my faults could give birth to some means of atoning for them!’27 In the remarkable events that follow, the clandestine lovers’ chance for a happy life is always associated with the possibility of a child. As the tangible effect of their love, the child takes all the concepts they have batted back and forth – virtue, love, passion – and transforms them into something that is undeniably ‘real’ and ‘true,’ something that demands a way of life beyond transports and regret. One would never expect illicit lovers to hope for pregnancy, of all things, and yet Julie insists: Our love’s first fruit was to confirm this tender bond. I begged it of Heaven as token of my return to virtue and of our common happiness; I desired it as another in my stead would have feared it; the spell of tender love ... consoled me for my weakness through the result I was expecting from it, and made of such a cherished expectation the charm and hope of my life.28

Her pregnancy promises to make the ineffable liveable – it resolves all tensions, or at least it demands that a way be found to resolve them. The tension between virtue and desire is transformed into a tender and true love. The tension between Julie’s love for Saint-Preux and her father’s plans to marry her to his friend Wolmar will be resolved by this expediency as well. Julie planned that when she could no longer hide her condition, she would make a public declaration of her love before her preacher and her family. ‘I knew my father would give me death or my lover ... and, one way or the other, I anticipated that this step would put an end to all my woes.’29 The means found to keep this tension from achieving its resolution too early (we are still in book one of six) is classically Rousseauian. Julie’s father flies into a rage when he is confronted with Julie’s love for Saint-Preux. Though he is still unaware of her pregnancy, and never suspects that his daughter would have sunk so low, he nonetheless beats Julie ‘mercilessly,’ forcing her to stumble, fall, and finally miscarry. That spells the end of hope for Julie and Saint-Preux. Julie despairs that ‘all is finished for me; all my expectations abandon me at the

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same time ... The accident ... destroyed, along with the seed I bore in my womb, my hope’s last foundation.’30 Saint-Preux recognizes as well that what Julie and he have lost is the chance to give their other-worldly passion a foundation in the real world. On hearing that Julie is not carrying their child, Saint-Preux’s hopes are devastated. ‘Thus ... there will remain on earth no monument to my happiness; it has disappeared like a dream that never had any reality.’31 Children, Hatred, and Betrayal So the first half of Julie reveals one way in which the child may figure in the centrality that Rousseau gives to the passions he associated with reproduction. The possibility of a child represents for the lovers the tangible synthesis of their dialectic of virtue and desire. The promise of a birth forces the tensions between duty and love to find a resolution – either in a contented life or in death. But Rousseau has obviously constructed a dramatic set of circumstances in Julie. What role might the child play in the deployment of the passions in the absence of the sort of life-or-death crisis introduced by Julie’s father – and what role might a child play if it were born? One place to turn for an answer is Rousseau’s account of his own disastrous fatherhood (the impetus for Emile), and of the role that the passion for love played in his own life. Rousseau describes many loves in his Confessions. But Rousseau’s longest affair – with Thérèse Levasseur – never became, for Rousseau anyway, an affair of love.32 Nevertheless, their union managed to produce what Julie and Saint-Preux could not manage: a child, or rather five. What happened to those five children hardly matches Julie and Saint-Preux’s vision of childbirth, in which love is made material and brought down to earth, transforming the lovers’ relationship by giving them a new world to hold in common. Instead, Rousseau cajoled his pregnant mistress into allowing each of their children to be delivered straight to the Parisian foundling home.33 I do not bring up this sad story to scold or deride Rousseau. Rather, it is useful to consider because the darkly obscure fate of Rousseau and Levasseur’s children is emblematic of the way in which Rousseau weaved ideas about parenthood into his political thought. The most important reason why Rousseau’s stories about having children – the stories he lived and the ones he wrote about (and the ones he wrote about the ones he lived) – are so problematic is that he saw much at stake in the procreative project. It is because procreative concerns carry political burdens


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that in an age of political corruption, such as the one in which Rousseau believed he lived, those concerns could involve all but unbearable burdens. Near the beginning of Emile, Rousseau was already fielding objections that the responsibilities he assigns to those who would have children are beyond what any parent can accomplish. Rousseau did not deny it: ‘This objection is strong and solid. But did I tell you that a natural education was an easy undertaking? O men, is it my fault that you have made everything good difficult? I sense these difficulties; I agree they are difficulties. Perhaps they are insurmountable.’34 One of the most important obstacles that Rousseau diagnosed in corrupt times was that it could be impossible to meet and develop feelings for the right kind of spouse. Indeed, the steps to which Emile’s governor must go to find and cultivate a young girl to serve as a spouse, and the steps he takes to have the young couple meet and court at the right time and in the right way, are implausibly remarkable. Even while he was with Thérèse, Rousseau began to believe that he would never find the person who would inspire him truly to experience this emotion – despite the fact that he felt he was born to experience it. ‘How could it be that with such inflammable senses with a heart entirely full of love I had not at least one time burned with its flame for a specific object? Devoured with the need to love without ever having been able to satisfy it very well, I saw myself reaching the gateway of old age without ever having lived.’35 Just what was wrong with Rousseau’s relationship with Thérèse – the relationship that he insisted ‘settled my moral being’?36 At least for a time, Rousseau and Thérèse enjoyed ‘the most perfect domestic happiness that human weakness can allow. My Thérèse’s heart was that of an angel: our attachment increased with our intimacy, and each day we felt more how much we were made for each other.’37 But Rousseau never qualified his insistence that he ‘always felt some void.’38 At least for a while, Rousseau hoped he and Thérèse might achieve true love and a virtuous domestic contentment. ‘I believed that the moment had come when I should feel [the void] no longer.’39 But the Levasseur family continually got in the way, unsettling Rousseau and his mistress with their greed and their nefarious advice. Still, hopeful and stubborn, Rousseau struggled on. He tried to save Thérèse from these baser influences, and thus salvage the potential of their relationship, but her family always managed to ‘hinder in great part the effect of the good maxims I made efforts to inspire in her.’40 This struggle continued, in one way or another, for all of Rousseau’s productive years and for the better part of his life.

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Like any struggle, this one had its decisive moments – moments where Rousseau had to confront the probability that he would never come out ahead and to doubt whether the void in his heart would ever be filled. The birth of Rousseau’s children was the most consequential of these. It was not simply love itself that might have filled the hole in Rousseau’s heart, but the channelling of that love, through becoming parents, into a virtuous domestic life appropriate to republican citizens.41 As Rousseau describes it, ‘children came, who might have filled [the void in my heart]; but that made things even worse. I trembled at the thought of entrusting them to that badly brought up family, to be brought up even more badly.’42 These were Faustian moments for Rousseau. Looking back, he describes the decision to deliver that first child to the foundling home as ‘fatal conduct,’ which would impose itself ‘in my manner of thinking and also in my destiny.’43 According to the Confessions, it was not until their third child was conceived that Rousseau would subject his conduct toward his children and his mistress to the judgment of his morals and his sentiments. These reflections caught up with Rousseau when he was informed that his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences had won the prize at Dijon. Rousseau testified that it was this symbol of public affirmation, this gratification of amour-propre, that ‘reawakened’ his ideas from that essay, and ‘animated them with a new strength.’44 As fate would have it, Rousseau’s moral and philosophical insemination was accompanied by a physical one for Thérèse – her third pregnancy.45 This coincidence of pregnancy and philosophy led to a self-examination that is remarkable enough to quote at length: Being too sincere with myself, too proud inside to want to make my actions give lie to my principles, I began to examine the destination of my children and my connection to their mother according to the laws of nature, justice, and reason ... If I were one of those low-born men, deaf to the gentle voice of Nature, inside of whom no true feeling of justice and humanity ever sprouts, this hardening would be very simple to explain. But that warmth of heart ... that innate good will for my fellows, that ardent love of the great, the true, the beautiful, the just; my horror of evil of every sort; that impossibility of hating, of doing harm, and of even wanting to; that pity, that lively and sweet emotion that I feel at the sight of all that is virtuous, generous, loveable; can all this ever be reconciled in the same soul with the depravity which caused the sweetest of duties to be trampled underfoot without scruple? No, I feel it and say it boldly; that is not possible. Never for a single instant of his life could J.-J. have been a man


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without feeling, without innermost emotions, a denatured father. I might have deceived myself, but not hardened myself.46

In truth, this declaration seems less than bold. Nor was Rousseau’s subsequent ‘general statement’ that by giving his children over to the state to be raised for lives as ‘workers and peasants’ he believed he was ‘acting as a citizen and a father, and looked upon [himself] as a member of Plato’s Republic.’47 Still, it is a remarkable list of personal qualities and convictions that Rousseau had to reconcile with that decision, made five times over, to have his child taken away to who knows what fate, indicating that procreative questions lead directly to an examination of the qualities most crucial to virtuous manhood and citizenship. While he strongly implied that the ‘most determinant’48 issue was Thérèse’s family, Rousseau never elaborated on his reasoning at the time. He claimed, ‘if I stated my reasons, I would be saying too much about them. Since they were able to seduce me they would seduce many others.’49 Rousseau offered one justification for his decision in the Confessions – the last one he mentioned – that stands out: because it is so speculative, one wonders why he would bother to include it. Rousseau wondered what might have happened if he had kept his children, and if ‘at a later date’ one of his rich friends, Mme d’Epinay or Mme de Luxembourg, had offered to take care of his children for him. Of course, Rousseau would then have had regular contact with his progeny without condemning them and himself to the ravages of financial hardship. He might even have played the part of governor, the role in which he would later cast himself in Emile. Rousseau seemed to harbour a fear, however, that he would have been unable to impart to his children the value of the ideas and principles that he held most dear and to which he had devoted his life. In fact, Rousseau was ‘sure that they would have been brought to hate, perhaps to betray, their parents: it was a hundred times better that they never knew them.’50 Here is Rousseau, at the moment of birth, at the inception of new life, the moment for which Emile and Sophie were carefully prepared, the moment that Julie and Saint-Preux prayed to reach, and he is haunted by the image of himself hated and betrayed by the child he has helped to create. Faced with a child of his own, Rousseau could only think of that child imitating his enemies and others less worthy than he. How could this be? Was Rousseau’s ‘innate goodwill for [his] fellows’ not more compelling than the greed and manipulation that he associated

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with Thérèse’s family? Was his ‘ardent love of the great, the true, the beautiful, the just’ not a more shining example than the gossip and dishonesty he saw in the social circles of Mme d’Epinay and Mme de Luxembourg? He would write books and create characters that inspired thousands to recreate themselves – yet he suspected that his own way of living would not inspire one child to imitate him. Like those monstrous double flowers one finds in kitchen gardens, Rousseau believed he could not produce his like. The Circle of Imitation: Vicious or Virtuous? Mark Blackell’s, Katrin Froese’s and Mira Morgenstern’s chapters in this volume explore Rousseau’s misgivings about an overproliferation of desires. In particular, these authors find that it is the desire for recognition from others that threatens to multiply uncontrollably. The importance that Rousseau gives to parenthood in his thought seems to be a strategy to limit this need for recognition – to concentrate it into a particular relationship that is more deeply felt, more easily controlled, and more profoundly revealing of the self. It is these qualities that caused Rousseau to place so much emphasis on parenthood. But focusing such great importance upon one relationship also creates tremendous pressures. Rousseau’s decision regarding his own children reveals a suspicion of his own unworthiness – a failure to have been successfully transformed through the sort of life-long development of passions culminating in parenthood as (almost) described in Emile. His relationship with Thérèse failed to epitomize the union of desire with virtue, and to channel that synthesis into a true and stable love. Thus this love could not be embodied, through procreation, in a child that would give it a worldly manifestation and enchant the rest of their days. It is the dual aspects of this failure that inspired his two great novels. Rousseau says it was the inability to achieve a love that would fill the void in his heart that drove him to write Julie.51 ‘I identified myself with [Saint-Preux] as much as I could; but I made him loveable and young, into the bargain giving him the virtues and flaws I felt in myself.’52 Emile, of course, was Rousseau’s response to his decision regarding his children, and he placed himself in that novel quite explicitly in the role of the governor Jean-Jacques. It is interesting to reconsider these two books briefly from this new perspective, starting with Emile and paying special attention to what the novel implies about the governor Jean-Jacques. Jean-Jacques is, first


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and foremost, what Emile must become. ‘Remember that before daring to undertake the formation of a man, one must have made oneself a man. One must find within oneself the example the pupil ought to take for his own.’ Petty relatives and gossipy friends will not be a problem for the fictional Jean-Jacques as they were for Rousseau: ‘Make yourself respectable to everyone. Begin by making yourself loved so that each will seek to please you. You will not be the child’s master if you are not the master of all that surrounds him; and this authority will never be sufficient if it is not founded on the esteem for virtue.’53 By giving the fictional governor qualities that he felt he did not possess, Rousseau ensured that there was no chance that Jean-Jacques would face hatred and betrayal at the hands of Emile. The governor Jean-Jacques is not himself a father (as far as we are told), and this makes him a special case. Rousseau has not forgotten that it is an immersion in the alchemy of desire leading to parenthood that allows for the forging of a virtuous life, and he reminds us that ‘in truth, to make a man, one must be a father or more than a man oneself.’54 But Emile’s governor, starting off as more than a man, will end as a father after all. When first he receives the infant Emile, they are pupil and governor and nothing more. But at the critical juncture where Emile’s desire must be bound tight to the ideal of virtuous femininity – a chimera given the name of Sophie – the language of paternity must be adopted. The shift is dramatic, and Rousseau carefully sets the scene, even describing ‘the rocks, the woods, and the mountains’ that will mark the spot for the first fatherly conversation. ‘What surprise, what agitation I am going to cause him by suddenly changing language! ... I shall say to him “You are my property, my child, my work. It is from your happiness that I expect my own.”’55 At this point, Jean-Jacques is setting scenes and taking on the role of father for instrumental reasons. But conjuring an imaginary Sophie is one thing, while preparing Emile for the real Sophie is another. The former may be done by a governor masquerading as a father, but the latter calls for true paternity. So, at the moment when Emile is ready to encounter his spouse, Jean-Jacques finally declares in earnest: ‘I am Emile’s true father; I made him a man. I would have refused to raise him if I had not been the master of marrying him to the woman of his choice – that is, of my choice. Only the pleasure of making a happy man can pay for what it costs to put him in a position to become happy.’56 Emile could hardly disagree, embracing Sophie eagerly and thereafter referring to Jean-Jacques as ‘my father.’57

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Rousseau counselled that in order to be a governor, one must ‘find within oneself’ the example that would guide the pupil. And so in navigating his pupil successfully through the virtuous development of his procreative passions to the verge of fatherhood, Jean-Jacques has made himself worthy of the name father. The ultimate proof is Emile’s words to his governor/father in the speech that closes the book: ‘My master, congratulate your child. He hopes soon to have the honour of being a father ... As long as I live, I shall need you. I need you more than ever now that my functions as a man begin. You have fulfilled yours. Guide me so that I can imitate you.’58 In this system imagined by Rousseau, you transform yourself into an example worthy of being followed by the long process of creating a person to follow it. And the test of whether you have succeeded is your worthiness of imitation when you emerge from the process. The desire that matters the most, ultimately, is the desire of the child to be like the parent. Despite the fact that Rousseau had claimed proudly that Emile would ‘cut out his own road to happiness, following in no one else’s tracks,’ Emile must imitate Jean-Jacques by himself becoming worthy of imitation by his own child; and so on, ad infinitum.59 Some version of this works for the female sex as well. For Sophie and other virtuous mothers, their dearest wish and greatest reward will be ‘the pleasure of seeing themselves one day imitated by their own daughters.’60 Thus Emile develops a more personal version of the ‘spirit of emulation’ that Mark Blackell, in his chapter in this volume, explores in Rousseau’s political writings on Poland and the social contract. The cycle of imitation is one of the ways that the seemingly personal politics presented in Emile were intended to have public consequences. When Emile declares that he does not care where he lives as long as he is with Sophie, Jean-Jacques praises his detachment, but offers a correction. He reminds Emile that he does owe something to his homeland because in becoming a worthy father he has become a worthy example to his fellows. Jean-Jacques tells Emile to ‘go and live in [his countrymen’s] midst, cultivate their friendship in sweet association, be their benefactor and their model. Your example will serve them better than all our books, and the good they see you do will touch them more than all our vain speeches.’61 With ‘our books’ and ‘our vain speeches,’ Rousseau was getting in a dig at himself, whom he had interjected earlier in the paragraph. The caveat he inserted reads: ‘there are circumstances in which a man can be more useful to his fellow citizens outside of his fatherland than if


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he were living in its bosom.’ In the case of Rousseau, we have discovered what the most important of those circumstances was: his inability to transform his burning desires into a project of virtuous procreation. Thus he had not earned the role of father – the only role worth having for a man in his ‘worthiest and best’ work. So while Emile can achieve a sort of effective citizenship (as did Jean-Jacques before him, whose magical effect on those who meet him Rousseau is careful to note), Rousseau is left to the diminished role of social critic. Rousseau’s considerations regarding the quality of Emile’s citizenship also touch upon the concepts developed in the political treatise The Social Contract, which Rousseau worked on in the same period as Emile and published the same year. When Emile is ready to marry his Sophie, Jean-Jacques intercedes to send him on a political journey. Emile examines several foreign political systems in order to decide which is best for the sort of virtuous family he and Sophie will create. He returns having discovered a set of principles that characterize the best sort of government – principles that closely resemble those developed in The Social Contract – but convinced that there was no society that successfully embodied them. He concludes that he can best serve as citizen by being an example in his own land. Emile might be the sort of individual ready for the right sort of laws, but this is only thanks to his miraculous governor. So Emile is a citizen mostly alone. This mirrors a dilemma embedded in The Social Contract. The lawgiver, the foreigner who must bestow the proper laws upon the people, must be either a genius or a god – a man whose ‘great soul is the true miracle.’62 Of course, such men must be as hard to find as the sort who might serve as Emile’s governor, and their origins just as mysterious. But there is the additional complication that if the lawgiver is to succeed, he must find the people already prepared to receive what he has to offer. ‘The wise lawgiver begins not by laying down laws good in themselves, but by finding out whether the people for whom the laws are intended is able to support them.’63 For the social contract to succeed, the people must be ready to embrace not just laws, but a faith, a civic religion, that feels as natural to them as if they were born with it. The lawmaker must speak wholly in terms of this faith, rather than in terms of the political principles laid out by Rousseau. The effort to make the right sort of laws feel natural is, of course, what Jean-Jacques sought to do with Emile from the beginning. So ‘Rousseau’s foreignfounder is like the good father,’64 as Bonnie Honig notes, but his work also requires that good fathers have preceded him.

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The alternative traces the backward-looking circle of imitation that Rousseau presented regarding Emile’s governor – in which the governor must have been perfectly raised himself, by another, also perfectly raised, ad infinitum. In order for the lawgiver to succeed in convincing a people of the rightness of the laws by reason when the people were not already prepared by faith, the effect would have to become the cause; the social spirit which must be the product of social institutions would have to preside over the setting up of those institutions; men would have to have already become before the advent of the law that which they become as a result of the law.65

William Connolly has suggested that it is this aspect of Rousseau’s Social Contract, that the general will can only preside ‘over a fortunate people whose basic traditions already dispose them to it,’ that makes Rousseau’s theory ‘a nihilistic theory’ that ‘devalues the political dimension of life.’66 Furthermore, the relationship between Jean-Jacques and Emile suggests that even as a father, it is not certain Emile is ready for citizenship. It was only the mature Emile’s readiness to dedicate his life to imitating Jean-Jacques, his governor, that once and for all confirmed the worthiness of Jean-Jacques for his task. So while Emile, too, seems to bear all the necessary qualities for citizenship, he must also carry the burden of uncertainty until his children are grown. It is a dilemma that Rousseau develops through the character of Wolmar in the second half of his novel Julie. The common understanding is that Rousseau’s Emile is about education, and his Julie is about love. But the question of how Julie’s children will be educated, and whom they might come to imitate, becomes central to the second half of the latter novel. In the first half of Julie, she and Saint-Preux are worthy of imitation by dint of their passionate virtue. Because they are ‘souls of a certain temper ... they so to speak transform others into themselves ... [O]ne cannot know them without wanting to imitate them.’67 By introducing the question of the education of Julie’s children into the second half of the novel, Rousseau also inserts the dilemma of fatherhood and imitation, the dilemma suggested by the story he tells about his own fatherhood in the Confessions. When the second half of the novel begins, Julie has married and had children with her father’s friend Wolmar, while Saint-Preux has spent years travelling the world by sea. In the intervening years Wolmar and Julie appear to


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have created the perfect domestic arrangements. Wolmar himself is far superior to these slave fathers [who] do not live for themselves, but for their children; forgetting that they are not fathers only, but men, and that they owe their children the example of the life of man and of the happiness that goes with wisdom ... One of the main duties of a good paterfamilias is not only to make his home cheerful so that his children will thrive [there], but to live himself in an agreeable and easy life, so that they will feel that one is happy living as he does, and will not be tempted to adopt for that purpose a conduct opposed to his.68

Happy sounds nice, and perhaps even worth imitating, but as we know, the indispensable part of education deals with the passions, and this is where Wolmar and Julie are bound to run into trouble. Julie’s passions were stifled by her father, and though she believes she has calmed her love for Saint-Preux, she develops none for Wolmar. In fact she tries to embrace love’s absence, musing: ‘The thing that long deluded me ... is the idea that love is essential to a happy marriage. My friend, this is an error.’69 Wolmar himself is depicted as a passionless man, with ‘a tranquil soul and a cold heart.’70 So, though every character in the novel praises Wolmar’s qualities nearly every time they speak of him, no one believes he should educate his own children. The proper cultivation of the passions, their channelling toward a love for virtue and eventually a project of virtuous procreation, can hardly be a job for a man whose only passion is ‘slight.’ Wolmar is far too perceptive not to recognize his own shortcomings. He confesses to Claire: [my] plan is to charge [Saint-Preux] with my children’s education ... [SaintPreux] appeared to me to possess in combination all the suitable qualities, and if I have well compassed his soul, I imagine no greater felicity for him than to accomplish their mother’s in these dear children.71

If only Wolmar had read those letters from the first half of Julie, then he would understand that there is a much greater felicity and that Julie and Saint-Preux have already tasted it – and though this felicity had been aborted, it could never be fully forgotten.72 Soon enough we find Julie practically begging Saint-Preux to have sex:

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Man is not made for celibacy, and it is very unlikely that a state so contrary to nature will fail to lead to some public or hidden disorder. How can one forever escape the enemy one constantly carries within? ... [B]ecause [the celibate] have disdained humanity, they debase themselves beneath it.73

Of course, she is not asking him to have sex with her, but rather to marry her cousin Claire. Still, the reader senses that though she claims to want to protect St Preux from himself, she doth protest too much. A mere thirty pages later, Julie is dead. She is not sorry to die, because she realizes that she had deluded herself in thinking her passion for Saint-Preux had faded. ‘Aye, however much I wanted to stifle the first sentiment that brought me alive, it crystallized into my heart.’ How could she have borne the spectacle of the man who by right of his passion should be the father of her children performing a ‘father’s first duty’? If her sons became St Preux’s children, as Emile became the son of Jean-Jacques, how could she not become Saint-Preux’s wife? ‘Who knows whether seeing myself so near the abyss, I would not be drawn into it? ... One more day, perhaps, and I was a criminal!’74 And so by dint of having the wrong father, her children must lose their mother. Conclusion In his book Rousseau as Author, Christopher Kelly demonstrates that virtue is never independent of the passions for Rousseau; in fact, virtue often is a function of a surplus of passion, which allows a passion to overcome itself. Managing this surplus can be a difficult burden, and in order for amour propre to be joined to virtue, and thus make it worth the struggle, a witness to our virtue must always be supposed. When virtue seemed most painful and most unrecognized, Rousseau could fall back on the existence of God to provide this witness. But, Kelly goes on to demonstrate, even this is not always enough, and Rousseau ultimately concedes that there are cases where without the further expectation of a life to come, virtue would have no rewards. Rousseau’s procreative politics work along analogous lines. In Emile, Julie, and the Confessions, Rousseau explores a formula for the cultivation of virtuous lives in corrupt times. The characters in these works attempt to forge enchanted lives by binding the love of virtue to the development and realization of the procreative passions. By its nature, this process creates witnesses in the form of the children that result. These witnesses may even


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promise some version of a life to come – but that’s the rub. Only those parents who have correctly negotiated the deployment of their procreative passions will be worthy of their child’s desire to imitate them, and only they will have the pleasure of seeing the essence of themselves projected into the future. In Rousseau’s depiction, this result is hard to achieve. Saint-Preux and Julie have their hopes for a virtuous love and their potential for happiness sacrificed to her father’s aristocratic values. Emile, for whom everything was perfectly arranged, loses his way as soon as his tutor leaves him. Rousseau’s sequel Emile and Sophie depicts the couple’s fall from grace in the frivolities of city life, the cooling of their passion, Sophie’s unfaithfulness, and ultimately the death of Sophie and their children. Emile ends up alone.75 The Confessions depicts Rousseau’s own coming to grips with the role that passion and procreation played in his life. Rousseau strove to transform his passions into a virtuous love, but he could not face the witnesses he and Thérèse produced. For reasons he never fully revealed, he judged himself, and found himself wanting. This is ultimately the measure of the trouble with Rousseau’s politics of procreation: it is hardly difficult to produce a witness, but it is nigh impossible not to produce a witness for the prosecution.

NOTES 1 Rousseau, The Confessions, Collected Works of Rousseau (CWR) V, 7; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) I, 7. 2 Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity , 42. See also Strong, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 149–50; and Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 234. 3 Rousseau, Julie, CWR VI, 619; OC II, 759. 4 Shklar, Men and Citizens, 24. 5 This statement, from a letter Rousseau wrote to his friend Toussaint-Pierre Lenieps, is cited in Cranston, The Noble Savage, 246. 6 Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 80; OC IV, 303. 7 Ibid., ed. Bloom, 211–12; OC IV, 489–90. 8 Kelly, ‘Rousseau on Passion and the Empty Phantom of Virtue,’ 8. Kelly is quoting from Rousseau’s ‘Letter to Franquieres,’ CWR VIII, 267. 9 Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 321; OC IV, 645. 10 Ibid., ed. Bloom, 327; OC IV, 653–4. 11 Ibid., ed. Bloom, 361; OC IV, 697. Even Sophie’s belief in God is grounded entirely in her role in the cycle of life. Rousseau outlines the beginning of

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12 13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20 21

22 23 24


a catechism for girls, an effort which, if it were completed, ‘would perhaps be the most useful book ever written.’ After some initial back and forth, Rousseau’s example of how the catechism should begin ends thus: ‘Nurse: Who was alive before you? Little Girl: My father and my mother. Nurse: Who was alive before them? Little Girl: Their father and their mother. Nurse: Who will be alive after you? Little Girl: My children. Nurse: Who will be alive after them? Little Girl: Their children, etc.’ (Ibid., ed. Bloom, 380; OC IV, 727). Ibid., ed. Bloom, 399; OC IV, 754–5. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 470; OC IV, 853. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 479; OC IV, 866. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 475; OC IV, 860. Perhaps the most Rousseau offers in this regard are his depictions in the Confessions of himself as a child reading with his father, or of the two of them discussing Rousseau’s mother – though they knew they were ‘sure to cry’ (Confessions, CWR V, 7; OC I, 7). This is hardly a cheerful scene, and Rousseau’s attempts to depict Isaac as ‘the best of fathers,’ despite his leaving Rousseau behind at a young age, and making only half-hearted attempts to locate him later, only add a poignancy to Rousseau’s loneliness. Rousseau, Julie, CWR VI, 619; OC II, 759. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 45; OC IV, 256. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 334; OC IV, 663. Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 672; OC I, 594. I have used Cohen’s translation here at p. 549. Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 672; OC I, 594. One might read Rousseau’s account of his encounter with Giulietta as a reaction to his inability to control his ‘sexual nature’ generally speaking. I read it as part of Rousseau’s commitment to channelling sexuality in one direction in particular: toward virtuous parenthood. There is another example of Rousseau’s aversion to sexuality decoupled from procreation that is too perverse to exclude completely. When Rousseau was in Italy and purchased, along with a friend, a ‘little girl of eleven or twelve’ to share, he did not think of touching her until she had reached puberty. He did not stay in Italy long enough to see her mature, but he believed his growing paternal affection for her would have made him a ‘guardian of her innocence’ (303). Rousseau, Botanical Writings, CWR VIII, 156; OC IV, 1188. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 267; OC IV, 566. Rousseau, Julie, CWR VI, 34; OC II, 42. This last comment means considerably less once we see how carefully Rousseau crafts sexual tension between Julie and her father. This aspect of the novel is explored in Tanner, Adultery in the Novel, and Fermon, Domesticating Passions.

162 25 26 27 28 29

30 31 32


34 35 36 37 38

39 40 41

Brian Duff Rousseau, Julie, CWR VI, 39; OC II, 49. Ibid., CWR VI, 78–9; OC II, 96. Ibid., CWR VI, 86; OC II, 105. Ibid., CWR VI, 283; OC II, 344. Ibid., CWR VI, 283; OC II, 345. So central to her plans is her hope for a child that when she realizes she is not pregnant she plans a ‘reckless tryst’ – and sneaks her lover into her room. Stealthy and fecund, Julie and SaintPreux elude her parents, and soon Julie finds herself again in the condition that promises their worldly salvation. Of course, the threat of the father still looms, and the tension may still end in a sudden death rather than a contented life. Ibid., CWR VI, 146; OC II, 178; CWR VI, 284; OC II, 345. Ibid., CWR VI, 152; OC II, 186. Nor, for that matter, did his other long affair, with the matronly figure Mme de Warens. See Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 348; OC I, 414–15, where Rousseau compares the two women in this regard. Rousseau argued that given his circumstances – he was poor and entangled with Thérèse’s hopelessly corrupt family – the state would provide a better upbringing for his children than he would. But evidence supports the common opinion in Rousseau’s time that the foundling home was no safe place for new-borns. For example, in 1741, five years before the birth of Rousseau’s first child, 68 per cent of the foundlings in Paris orphanages died in infancy (Cranston, Jean-Jacques, 245). To be fair, one should note that a high percentage of infants died in eighteenth-century Paris, whether they were in a foundling home or not. No one knows what became of Thérèse and Jean-Jacques’s five children. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 94–5; OC IV, 325. Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 358; OC I, 426. Ibid., CWR V, 347; OC I, 413. Ibid., CWR V, 296–7; OC I, 353–4. Ibid., CWR V, 348; OC I, 414. Rousseau’s choice of language is especially interesting when we remember the words his father used when he would embrace the son who cost him a wife (‘fill the void she left in my soul’). Ibid., CWR V, 348; OC I, 414. In this instance I have again quoted Cohen’s translation, 387. Ibid., CWR V, 349; OC I, 415. It could be objected that Rousseau’s frustration regarding a life appropriate to republican citizenship was primarily a result of living in France during most of the years when it was possible that he and Thérèse might start a family. Of course, Rousseau never thought of France as anything ap-

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42 43 44 45 46 47

48 49 50 51 52 53 54

55 56 57 58


proaching a virtuous republic. He never thought of republican citizenship as an option for the subjects of a country whose morals, manners, music, theatre, philosophy, and even language, he had laboured to demonstrate, were debased. It might be hard, therefore, to imagine that the domestic hopes Rousseau entertained in these years were complemented by political ones. What this objection ignores is that throughout this part of his life Rousseau not only entertained the possibility of leaving France for his patrie Geneva, he was fairly obsessed with the idea (Cranston, The Noble Savage). Rousseau’s pride in his citizenship there would be hard to exaggerate, and is clearly demonstrated in his dedication of The Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, and in his Letter to D’Alembert, as well as throughout his correspondence. The issue that poisoned this plan for Rousseau (before Voltaire got to Geneva and poisoned the whole Republic in Rousseau’s mind) was the same issue that convinced him to give away his children – Thérèse’s family and the question of what to do about them. Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 349; OC I, 415. Again quoting the Cohen translation, 387. Ibid., CWR V, 289; OC I, 345. Ibid., CWR V, 298; OC I, 356. Her third at least. Rousseau does not describe any miscarriages in the Confessions, but there is much about Thérèse that he does not describe. Ibid., CWR V, 299; OC I, 356–7. Following Cohen, I have used ‘boldly’ where Kelly uses ‘loudly.’ Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 299; OC I, 357. Cranston opines that this explanation of Rousseau’s is ‘one of the least compelling passages in [The Confessions]’ (Jean-Jacques, 239). Rousseau, Confessions, CWR V, 301; OC I, 358. Ibid., CWR V, 299; OC I, 357. Ibid., CWR V, 300; OC I, 357. Ibid., CWR V, 359; OC I, 427. Ibid., CWR V, 362; OC I, 430. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 95; OC IV, 325. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 49–50; OC IV, 263. In a similar vein, Julie reminds Milord Edward, ‘do you not sense that only a father can have the right to counsel the children of others?’ (Julie, CWR VI, 171). Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 323; OC IV, 648–9. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 407; OC IV, 765 (emphasis added). Ibid., ed. Bloom, 472; OC IV, 857, for example. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 480; OC IV, 867–8 (emphasis added). This reading of Emile confirms Froese’s understanding, in ‘Openings that Close,’ in this volume,


59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72

73 74 75

Brian Duff 104–16, of Rousseau in which love for another emerges out of a desire for self-love. Froese emphasizes Emile’s need to encounter only those who will provide him with a ‘mirror image’ (in this volume, 111–13). I argue that the same quality applies to Jean-Jacques. While Emile seeks out his mirror images, his first social function is to be the mirror image that validates his governor/father. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 223; OC IV, 507. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 46; OC IV, 259. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 474; OC IV, 859. Rousseau, The Social Contract, CWR IV, 157; OC III, 384. Ibid., CWR IV, 157; OC III, 384–5. Honig, Democracy and the Foreigner, 27–8. Rousseau, The Social Contract, CWR IV, 156; OC III, 383. Connolly, Political Theory and Modernity, 59, 65–6. Rousseau, Julie, CWR VI, 167; OC II, 204. Ibid., CWR VI, 434–5; OC II, 530. Ibid., CWR VI, 306; OC II, 372. Ibid., CWR VI, 402; OC II, 490. Ibid., CWR VI, 416; OC II, 507. Rousseau makes it clear that Wolmar knows Julie and Saint-Preux were once in love. But Wolmar never appears to know that Julie and Saint-Preux were lovers. Ibid., CWR VI, 549; OC II, 668. Ibid., CWR VI, 608–9; OC II, 741. Unfortunately, I did not have room to analyse Emile and Sophie in this chapter. Shklar believed this darker tone was closer to Rousseau’s heart. Many thanks to Professor Christopher Kelly for helping me locate a translation of this fascinating work. A translation by Alice Harvey appears in Finding a New Feminism.

8 Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity, and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau mira morgenstern

Introduction Many philosophers have traditionally relegated the consideration of desire to one or another specific area of human interests, viewing desire alternately as either the bane or the delight of human existence. For Rousseau, by contrast, the energy of desire manifests itself in every facet of life, ranging from the personal to the political. In characterizing desire as the central dynamic in all human relations, Rousseau evaluates desire as a complex element, changing and itself being altered by the structures of human existence with which it interacts. Thus, for Rousseau, the essence of desire is complicated by the interaction that it spawns between the material location of the social and political structures within which it operates and the people whose desires are played out within these precincts. Rousseau is particularly intrigued by the relationship between the modern milieu of the eighteenth-century city and man’s ability to remain true to his essential self. At first glance, the nature of this interaction seems to elicit only negative assessments from Rousseau, as he castigates the city for alienating individuals as well as society as a whole from the essence of their own humanity. However, Rousseau also presents arguments that indicate the city’s central role in developing the positive connotations of human desire. For Rousseau, an important goal of the desire to live in dynamic community with one other person or many other people is to be part of a whole that is both larger than the sum of its individual parts and intimately invested in bringing these individual members to fruition.1 With the accelerated pace of urbanization in the modern world, Rousseau’s thoughts on the conflicted but also energizing nature of city life provide important ways for us to


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conceptualize the possibilities for a fully democratic life in a milieu that often seems bent on stamping its inhabitants with the seal of industrial uniformity. Unlike the traditional understanding of Rousseau’s view of the city, which faults urban life for its alienating and anomic effects on its denizens, this essay proposes an alternate way of viewing the place of the city in Rousseau’s political thought, with implications that are both ambiguous and energizing. The City and Alienation ‘J’entre avec une secrette horreur dans ce vast desert du monde’:2 with these words, Saint-Preux begins to record his slow (moral) disintegration in Paris. At one level, this statement appears to reflect no more than the psychological dislocation that obtains when things are not what they appear to be. Anticipating Kant’s 1793 essay,3 Saint-Preux rails against the necessity presented by the plethora of activity available in Paris to divide his life into mutually impenetrable spheres of theory and practice.4 Unfortunately, this false division results in placing his true self under lock and key,5 such that he remains in total contradiction with himself.6 Even worse for a philosopher is that nobody says what he really means:7 it is even expected that an author will disavow his written words.8 In effect, Saint-Preux’s horror at the unbreakable code9 that he finds in Paris shocks him to the core. Confronted with this torrent of impenetrable signs,10 Saint-Preux finds that he has become a stranger to himself. His bizarre reactions eventually extend to participating in an encounter at a house of ill-repute, which he shamefacedly confesses to Julie (who, for her part, maintains her executive role in the relationship by overlooking this temporary fall from grace).11 The psychological dislocation that Saint-Preux evinces was already analysed by Rousseau in his earlier essays. In Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750), Rousseau notes the extent to which the development of the arts and sciences reflects the paradoxes that they engender. People grasp at the opportunity that the arts and sciences present to distinguish themselves individually.12 In the end, however, the development of the arts and sciences leads to servile uniformity13 because the applause that one desires soon becomes the reaction that one needs. This, as Rousseau demonstrates later in Discourse on Inequality (1755), makes the aspiring individual dependent on – and therefore subject to – the very person whose adulation is coveted. As a result, this desiring/aspiring individual becomes at once master and slave.14

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These contradictory outcomes are reflected as well in the doubled effects of the arts and sciences on individual and social development. Commenting on the growth of civilization, Rousseau demonstrates that the development of arts and culture, as reflected by the competition in song and dance, leads to the flourishing of vice on the individual level and inequality on the social level. Vice becomes an inextricable part of one’s personal life15 even in the bucolic state of nature because – foreshadowing the dance of appearance and reality that takes hold later in the urban milieu – one has to lie already in the state of nature in order to make oneself appear to be better than one really is.16 Similarly, inequality takes hold on the social level because the process of competition, which now dominates social life, creates inequality as the primary byproduct of its existence. The inequality that is the social legacy of the arts and sciences allows a minority whether of wealth (Discourse on Inequality) or of power (Discourse on the Arts and Sciences) to manipulate everybody else. Thus, Rousseau notes that the advantage of the arts and sciences is that they render men more sociable and eager to please. The functional tone of the word ‘advantage’17 (Rousseau could have used a word with moral overtones such as ‘preference’ or ‘superiority’) also reveals Rousseau’s grasp of art’s (and science’s) politically manipulative possibilities. The polish of politesse that people need to get ahead in the competitive commerce of talent, and that paradoxically sucks them into a vortex of mass homogenization (as people in the city frantically try to raise their level of uniqueness), enables despotism to flourish on the political level: rulers cynically manipulate the people’s desire to be exceptional through the arts and sciences, utilizing the arts and sciences as ‘garlands of flowers’18 to mask the brutal reality of political oppression. The aesthetic appearance of these bonds explains the happiness with which Rousseau depicts the people as ‘embracing their chains.’19 At the same time, the voluntary, if duped, basis under which the people assume this burden also accounts for the unperceived – and therefore impregnable – nature of their enslavement.20 The rulers’ conscious exploitation of human qualities like perfectibility21 to dominate their subjects more completely is manifest not only on the aesthetic level, but also on the intellectual level. In this regard, the leaders utilize human pride in intellectual achievement to disguise and institutionalize the means of social control.22 Seamlessly integrating the nascent (bourgeois/capitalist) innovation of the division of labour,23 the rulers relegate the job of thinking to a select few, such that a small


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number of people do the thinking for all of society.24 The implication for proponents of authoritarian government is clear: it is much easier to control thinking if only a few people are actually engaged in this task. Consequently, the ruler of a society structured so as to minimize the number of people actually involved in this potentially sensitive work can easily further restrict thinking to only one person: himself. Thus, in a footnote to Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Rousseau urges contemporary rulers to support the arts which nourish the ‘littleness of mind which is proper to slavery’ and thereby to ensure the perpetuation of their own power.25 More specifically, Rousseau notes that the emphasis on privacy,26 fostered by the valorization of the quality of individual achievement engendered by the arts and sciences, leaves society as a whole fragmented.27 As a result, claims Rousseau, people remain insensitive to their common homeland, leading to a dearth of patriotic feeling.28 In a very literal sense, Rousseau finds that a society which valorizes only individual, privately engendered production – as exemplified in self-serving art and vain science – cannot value the public thing, the res publica. What procedures do authoritarian despots utilize to alienate the people from their own country, thus ensuring the populace’s quiescence and the rulers’ political stability? Rousseau provides a chilling depiction of this process in Saint-Preux’s letters from Paris.29 The rulers cleverly manipulate society’s different tiers to promote class divisions among the people rather than champion their common humanity. In a society that valorizes art (and fetishizes the individual artist),30 regular workers, such as shopkeepers and carriage drivers, don’t count.31 Consequently – and in order to be of consequence – denizens of this city, much like the inhabitants of the advanced golden age depicted in Discourse on Inequality, constrain themselves to appear to be what in fact they are not.32 Therefore, ‘the wife of the schoolmaster will strive to be attired like that of the Chief Magistrate.’33 People become invested in their possessions, which are treated less as objects than as extensions of the self, winding up in their turn justifying the existence of that self. Thus, ‘a carriage is less necessary for driving than for existing.’34 As described by Rousseau, desire is transformed in the modern city from the life-force that expands human existence into an artefact of economic possession that reduces humanity to a one-dimensional existence.35 Thus, in the contemporary city, man’s very uniqueness is turned against him, transforming his individual creativity into the means of his imprisonment; creating economic chains that he does not even recognize as such, and which he therefore embraces rather than destroys.

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Emile as Amiable Stranger Can this situation be remedied? Is an authentic life possible when people embrace their chains? Rousseau thinks that redemption from inauthenticity36 might occur if conditions were to be perfectly calibrated, and if an individual capable of recognizing the possibilities inherent in those conditions were to be carefully nurtured toward that goal. Rousseau presents the results of this great thought experiment in Emile, which we will consider here in the context of Emile’s relationship to the city that, in being assiduously avoided or (reluctantly) embraced, may be said to form the unacknowledged (geographic) centre of Emile’s life.37 At first glance, Emile’s relationship to the city (Paris) appears to conform closely to the tone set by Rousseau in his earlier evocation of the city (cited above): castigation and avoidance. Emile is raised outside of the city,38 and from the context of this statement, it seems clear that Rousseau equates this relative geographic isolation with the unconventional (for the eighteenth century) education that Emile is offered: an ‘éducation de nature’ as opposed to an ‘éducation publique’; a practical education based on sense-experience rather than rote memorization.39 In this context, it seems strange that as a young adult, Emile is taken purposefully to Paris in order to educate him in the ways of sociey.40 This move appears counterintuitive because Emile’s education is supposed to be untainted by the ‘black mores’ of the city.41 Rousseau justifies his action by pointing to the larger goal of Emile’s education, which is to ‘live with his fellows.’42 Rousseau considers that Emile must know how to deal with his ‘semblables’ in their own environment – to be friendly but not fawning43 – without losing sight of the uniqueness that allows him to be wholly at one with himself. This new expression of Emile’s raison d’être, identifying the most important skill for the individual with that required by the citizen as well, gives the lie to the opposition that Rousseau sets up at the beginning of Emile between making (i.e., educating) a man and a citizen.44 Still, the question persists, if only because Rousseau’s conceptions of the individual and of the citizen seem at absolute – i.e., mathematical – loggerheads with each other: ‘Natural Man is entirely for himself ... civil man is just a fractional unity.’45 The response that Rousseau offers is that Emile will be an ‘amiable foreigner.’46 In other words, Emile will be in, not of, the city: he will participate in the activities of society without being defined by them. Why does Rousseau need to make this theoretical move? On one level, this is done in order to accomplish Emile’s goal of transforming


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inauthentic (contemporary) society into one that is not oppressive for either the individual or for the community as a whole. This approach to the theoretical novelty presented by the text of Emile is supported by Rousseau’s description of the projected life of Emile and Sophie that will transform the surrounding society, such that ‘it [the golden age] seems to be already reborn around Sophie’s dwelling.’47 At the same time, on another level, the city plays a more important role than remaining just the flawed background against which the young man may gain a measure of social polish. Paradoxically, the same city that is viewed as destroying one’s sense of personal coherence is also depicted as necessary for the discovery of the deepest recesses of one’s being. Thus, in Rousseau’s writings, both self-conscious seekers of authenticity – Saint-Preux and Emile – express their affection most deeply to their respective love-interests only after sojourning in Paris. For Saint-Preux, the disorienting tensions of Paris confirm him in his own philosophical approach to life, and, although he chides Julie for demanding a description of Parisian women, Saint-Preux’s sojourn in Paris validates his love for Julie as well.48 In Emile’s case, the role of Paris is even more pronounced: Emile does not even meet Sophie – which is to say, he is not capable even of recognizing Sophie – until he has spent some time in the big city. The apparent discord in Rousseau’s presentation of certain positive aspects in urban life while castigating the city for its essential inhumanity can be resolved in different ways. Most facilely, one can advocate the arithmetic approach, contending that Rousseau continues to abhor the city while allowing that the urban experience still might be able to provide certain advantages when these are taken in small, measured doses.49 But that approach fails to take account of Rousseau’s strong appreciation of cities and the positive contributions that cities make to the possibilities for self-development offered by politics. Thus, for example, in certain of his theoretical works, Rousseau presents historical examples of cities – like Sparta, for example – that did, in his estimation, encourage the full expression of love of country.50 In addition, Rousseau emphasizes the central role that the city plays as the locus of the republic in the formation of the authentic citizens of the social contract.51 Furthermore, the ambivalent approach to the advantages of urban life fails to take account of Emile’s complex situation, as opposed to the more pedestrian circumstances of Saint-Preux, when facing their respective experiences in Paris. Unlike Saint-Preux,52 Emile has an important socio-political function, as well as a specific individual goal, to

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fulfil in Paris.53 Emile’s sojourn in Paris – engineered specifically for him to get to know his fellow man – has as its goal more than just the development of Emile’s personal self-knowledge. In addition, Emile is to introduce society to a more authentic form of politics. This point is significant because it relates Emile’s personal education to the fulfilment of his political goals. Thus, Emile’s seemingly passive stay in the morally dangerous precincts of Paris is an integral part of the political future envisioned for him as the founder of a new and authentic political society. Emile’s function as political founder has important antecedents in political theory, and this development forms the subject of Bonnie Honig’s Democracy and the Foreigner. In this work, Honig points out that the action of state-founding in democratic theory often takes place through the person of a foreigner. Although at first glance this may seem nothing more than a trivial conceit, Honig carefully analyses the specific political function that the foreign-founder fulfils in democratic theory. Honig points out that placing the establishment of the political state in the hands of a foreigner reveals that founding is not just a movement that settles a new political order. Rather, the act of founding is also a profoundly unsettling movement, specifically in relationship to the old order that it overturns. Consequently, the foreignness of the founder is a good way to explain the provenance of the new system (of politics) that follows, including built-in arguments for either its continued survival or its immediate demise. On the positive side, the alien roots of the foreign-founder can justify the details of the new system by imputing impartiality and clear judgment to the founder’s ‘strangeness.’ On the other hand, the foreign origins of the founder may be adduced as the justification to scapegoat the founder if things do not work out, thus leaving the original polity and its denizens with a feeling of ingrained righteousness and ‘purity.’54 Rousseau already hints at Emile’s identity as a foreign-founder by openly calling him a ‘foreigner’ and by providing him with the function of founding an authentic political society. This nomenclature is not trivial: it allows us to reconceptualize Emile’s relationship to the city. As a foreign-founder, Emile approaches the city not just as a travel opportunity, but expressly views the city as the raw material for his future political project. The ‘raw’ quality of this urban material is important for Rousseau because founding, for him, is a complex process whose procedure is never formulaic since its outcome is never assured. In this context, it is fair to inquire about Emile’s success in developing this nascent opportunity. Despite the seeming simplicity of the


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question, differing conclusions may be drawn. At one level, one can argue that it all works out perfectly, as Emile and Sophie do, in fact, establish a haven reminiscent of the golden age, which is supposed to serve as a dynamic example of authenticity for the rest of society. But a more realistic reading notes that in the pages of Emile itself, Emile and Sophie do not really enjoy their anticipated success. Emile ends not with the actual achievement, but with the incipient hope of an authentic future: the news of Sophie’s pregnancy. On a darker note, one may view the sequel to Emile, Emile et Sophie ou les solitaires, as an indication that Emile does not succeed in his (double) project at all.55 What emerges from this ambiguity of the text is what Honig calls the undecidability of what the foreign-founder accomplishes. Honig suggests that the lack of information and knowledge about the figure of the foreigner-founder – who is s/he? where is s/he from? what does s/he accomplish? – allows the citizens of the state to disclaim responsibility for the violence and discipline that the foreign-founder must display in order to found an authentic political state. The consequent infantilism for these citizens echoes in strange ways the plea for guidance that Emile extends to his tutor even as he proclaims his impending fatherhood (i.e., his sexual and personal independence).56 The very indeterminacy of the foreign-founder, problematic as it may be, does set up a politics of refounding in which to retell, and thereby constantly to renew, the attachment to the polis.57 This is important because Rousseau is well aware that, in most circumstances,58 it is not always possible to establish a new governmental structure from scratch. As a result, what happens generally is that political change is framed as an act of refounding (and not as a completely new origin of the state), taking into account the previous political structure existing in the relevant geographic land base.59 Honig explicates what is implicit in Rousseau’s texts: the politics of refounding can often be more divisive than the original movement founding the polis. The disruption engendered by refounding reflects the discordance inherent in this movement by admitting, at least by implication, that the first attempt at founding was, at least partially, a failure (otherwise there would be no need for a second founding). As a result, the politics of refounding may generate two sets of enemies: those who are against challenges to their existing position of authority under the old system of politics, and those who in principle resent the implication that the previous political system carried with it the aura of failure. The complicated outcomes of the incomplete achievements of political founding are played out on the literary

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level in Derrida’s analysis of the process and meaning of (Rousseau’s) writing.60 Derrida understands writing as a ‘trace’ which both replaces (and therefore in a sense destroys) and also evokes (and thus revives) the original article(s) to which it alludes.61 In other words, the ‘trace’ of the experience that writing aims to recapture and make present is realized, but only partially, in the act of writing, and is, to that (partial) extent, a failure. Yet this ‘noble’ failure remains the only possibility of representation at all. Paradoxically, in the (futile) act of evocation,62 writing can become transformative, and hence, potentially revolutionary. In his Letter to d’Alembert, Rousseau utilizes this notion of evocation to make use of the otherwise suspect category of representation. In so doing, Rousseau revives what he considers to be the alienating theatre of his time to become a transformative encounter that would release the pent-up forces that would allow society to recreate itself anew.63 That is why the new, authentic theatre does not ‘show’ anything, for that sort of representation would force the people back into their old, alienating roles. Instead, the people themselves become the show and in that way reimagine the act of representation as one that embodies their humanity instead of alienating it. Thus, the people actively re-present – which is to say, they revitalize by presenting afresh – what they wish to express. These theatrical activities are portrayed by Rousseau as a re-presentation – that is, a presentation anew – of community.64 By their channelling of public action, these fêtes recreate the historical moment of the people’s arrival at a self-conscious identity and hence the beginning of political community: that is to say, the (re)birth of authentic discourse.65 By redeeming the urban theatres of yore, these fêtes are presented as potentially reconstituting contemporary political life as well. Unfortunately, this transformation does not actually take place. Even in Rousseau’s theoretical depictions of these fêtes, the text reveals the presence of many of the same inauthentic aspects that, by Rousseau’s account, afflict the inauthentic theatre. For example, at the marriage ball, one such instance of ‘authentic fête’ presented by Rousseau,66 there is a clear division between the spectators (the older generation) and the actors (the marriageable candidates) who feel constrained by the behavioural standards set for them by their audience/supervisors. The entire ball is presided over by a magistrate, whose silent presence is aimed at not permitting the people to forget themselves and their relationship with their rulers.67 Rather than a re-presentation of the people’s freedom, the fête as conceived here merely serves to remind


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the people to keep to their places in the social/political order. Ironically, this fête has again become the occasion for setting limits instead of going beyond them. It turns out that building the spectator into the structure of the fête does not make his/her activity vis-à-vis the actors in the fête any less alienating. Similarly, the presence of the people at the fête does not, in and of itself, guarantee their liberty. Rousseau is certainly aware of the ability of authoritarian control to masquerade as freedom, for he freely admits that these intermittent, carefully programmed episodes of ‘letting go’ ensure the continued stability of the class system, which is to say, the ingrained presence of inequality in social and political life.68 But in the case of Emile, even this failed attempt to (re)establish an authentic political discourse does not occur. Emile’s sojourn in Paris ends with no effort at all by him to change anything there. Emile simply leaves Paris, eventually to set up house with Sophie in the countryside, in the attempt to exemplify the authentic lifestyle for the rural folk. Still, in terms of the (far larger number of) people in the city, Emile’s retreat to the countryside amounts to a missed opportunity on his part to accomplish the revolutionary act of refounding in a significant manner. As readers of the text, we are entitled to ask why Rousseau chooses to present Emile’s actions in this manner. Why does not or cannot Emile actualize his capacity as foreign-founder? One way of answering this question is to adopt Honig’s approach, which understands this situation to be the result of Emile’s own involvement with Sophie (traditional patriarchalism would express it as being encumbered by her). Since the foreign-founder is characterized by the lack of personal connection that guarantees his impartiality, Emile’s personal entanglements become a convenient way to ascribe failure to the actions/presence of a woman (cherchez la femme). Extending the logic of this point of view, feminist analysis inverts this traditional patriarchal reading to reveal that the reason for Emile’s failure to achieve any of his own goals is his inability to deal with people who are unlike himself.69 Thus, Rousseau tells us that even in Paris, Emile especially loves ‘those who resemble him the most.’70 Interestingly enough, this phenomenon manifests itself with men as well as with women, in the city as well as in the countryside. But to the extent that Emile can interact successfully only with people who are his mirror images, Emile proves himself incapable of engaging in dynamic interchange with them. Thus, Emile cannot deal with the multiple possibilities that city life presents to him because he ultimately

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understands desire to actualize primarily his own capabilities as an expression of his will to dominance.71 By loving only what is like himself, and failing to understand what is dissimilar, Emile becomes incapable of truly comparing available alternatives. Therefore, according to Rousseau, he cannot fully engage in the dynamic of love. This is later echoed in the relationship between Emile and Sophie. Emile is drawn to Sophie because she makes Emile ‘all the more himself.’72 In other words, Sophie sets the seal on Emile’s authenticity as a human being and guarantees the fulfilment of his future task as exemplar to and founder of an authentic society. However, the very ease of their relationship warns of a fundamental philosophical imbalance at its centre. This lack of struggle is problematic because, as Rousseau depicts the process of love even during the golden age, it turns out that a fundamental part of achieving growth in the process of loving is the ability to come to terms with the complex and at times contradictory elements of love, especially as they reflect the often antagonistic forces of amour de soi-même and amour-propre. This is a difficult point, because amour de soi-même and amour-propre both presuppose and negate each other. As described by Rousseau in Discourse on Inequality, even the ‘good’ amour de soi-même contains traces of the self-regarding and other-fixated amour-propre, because amour de soi-même first comes into existence only once the individual is capable of conceptualizing himself: that is to say, to view himself from the outside, as if he were another person.73 At the same time, amour de soi-même and amour-propre operationally express fundamentally different conceptions of love: the former enacting otherdirected love, with the latter remaining self-referential. The opposition between these two embodiments of love is reflected in Julie’s fear that love inevitably entails being subsumed within the other person.74 This forms the philosophical struggle that marks Julie as she battles with the implications of her love for Saint-Preux. By contrast, there seems to be no such struggle within Emile (or within Sophie). Emile does not have to worry about being subsumed by Sophie when he loves her, precisely because Sophie is not allowed to have a distinctive self.75 But this lack of struggle also reveals why their love cannot survive. While Sophie’s education makes her receptive to the outward mechanisms of love, the forcible eradication of Sophie’s individuality76 means that no dynamic relationship between her and Emile is really possible. Emile thus never has to contend with the real-life complexity of another person; but precisely because of that, he never can experience the depths of love, nor is he compelled intel-


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lectually to explore his own innermost recesses. Ironically, Emile’s very self-absorption prevents him from expanding his own self to its utmost capacity, since he never engages the viewpoint of the other person as an integral part of constructing the self. For all the talk of mutuality, no real reciprocity can exist in a relationship between two people when only one of them is truly autonomous. In loving Sophie, Emile is actually loving only an extension of himself inasmuch as it continues to reflect him. When that mirror image shatters, his love disappears. In the end, as the slave of the Bey of Algiers, Emile rejects love altogether in favour of repose. In so doing, Emile chooses not to discover the true meaning of interactive, reciprocal love. At the same time, on the political level, Emile refuses freedom,77 along with the struggles and challenges that accompany it. As a result, both of Emile’s enterprises – the political and the personal – fail. Conclusion Analysis of Emile’s lack of success as the foreign-founder reveals that this failure is based on an inability to see that the personal and the political are mutually implicated. Modern psychoanalytic theory has taken up the complexities of this interconnection, noting the ways in which the deficiencies in dealing with difference on the social level have their origins in concrete (negative) failures in the context of coherent personal development. This forms a central concern in Freud’s celebrated 1919 essay, ‘The Uncanny,’ where Freud analyses the implications on the individual level of the human tendency to ‘eject’ what it considers to be ‘strange,’ only to find, most often, that this ‘uncanny/unheimlich’ element is actually deeply rooted within one’s familiar (‘homely/heimlich’) sense of self.78 More recently, Julia Kristeva has built on Freud’s treatment of these themes to elaborate upon the political ramifications of the psychoanalytic phenomenon of the ‘canny/uncanny//heimlich/unheimlich.’ Kristeva posits that the uncanniness/strangeness of those aspects of ourselves that we want to reject reflects itself in our construction of the identities of those whom we construe as ‘strangers’ in our own society and whom we therefore often fantasize about banishing. In other words, for Kristeva, our attitudes toward the strangers/foreign nationals in our society actually reflect our reactions to the strange/uncanny within our own selves. Kristeva therefore concludes that rejecting the stranger is in effect refusing the uncanny aspect of ourselves. The result, while of momentary

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comfort to the individual, yields a doubly negative effect: retarding not only psychoanalytic closure (that prevents individual development) but also the possibility of establishing a dynamically peaceful and productive society. It is important, however, to note that for Kristeva, the identity between the uncanny/unheimlich within ourselves and the stranger/ foreigner in our society does not mean that our politics must inevitably remain forever impaled on the horns of alienation and division. On the contrary, the acceptance of this complex identity and the integration of difference are indispensable steps toward the establishment of authentically democratic society in the modern world.79 As Rousseau depicts the final estrangement of Emile and Sophie from each other, it becomes evident that (modern) differences in national origin are not the only source of alienation that Rousseau underlines as potentially perilous for the achievement of individual and political authenticity in the modern world. In addition, Rousseau portrays categorical constructions of gender differences as likely to produce even more fundamental interpersonal (and eventually, political) alienation in this androcentric world. By rejecting the strangeness, the difference, the ‘otherness’ of Sophie, it is obvious that Emile is doing more than refusing what is clearly outside of himself. He is also rejecting what is most deeply intertwined with his own individuality. This occurs not just on an emotional level. In addition, Emile fails to recognize the extent to which Sophie’s education mirrors his own intellectual dilemma. We remember that Sophie is given a very truncated education in order to ensure her essential ordinariness, and to guarantee that she will not have an agenda of her own to compete with that of Emile.80 Emile, on the other hand, is given an extensive and well-planned course of study. In the end, however, Emile too remains just an ‘ordinary guy.’81 He does not distinguish himself even in Paris, and he does not stand out among other people his own age.82 That Emile’s projects fail – that he cannot, in the end, actualize his considerable potential – points to Rousseau’s understanding, if not deep analysis, of the paradox of the ordinary man faced with an extraordinary challenge. To be sure, it is possible to argue that Emile’s very ordinariness attests to the feasibility of his mission: after all, if Emile were incapable of accomplishing this job, he would not have been challenged with this assignment. But there is another way to read the evidence. Emile’s very unexceptionality can itself be seen as part of the problem instead of the guarantee of a solution because at times, the very ordinariness of the subject that appears morally to justify the experiment also makes


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it impossible for him/her to accomplish the truly extraordinary task that is demanded. In the end, it is no small feat to introduce authenticity into an inauthentic world, particularly if your own experience does not equip you to deal with the strangeness of others. In this reading, Emile does not fail (just) because of his (perhaps inadvertent) replication of patriarchal structures of oppression vis-à-vis Sophie, rooted in his inability to deal with her ‘strangeness.’ In addition, Emile misses the mark because he does not go beyond his simple rejection of difference to educate himself in its positive utilization.83 Rousseau in his writings gives us only one example of a person who has learned to do this, but this personage does not appear in the pages of Emile. Instead, she figures in La Nouvelle Héloïse. This is Claire d’Orbe, who, as her name suggests, is remarkably clear-sighted. Once she is an independent widow, Claire uses her economic resources and free time to travel and to become acquainted with foreign political systems.84 Claire’s ability to view the foreign in a positive light allows her to break free of those categories which, in the eighteenth century, are perceived either as inevitable (the minimally-acceptive position) and/or ‘natural’ (the strongly-acceptive position). Because Claire understands that no structure is truly transparent, she is able to actualize her freedom as a function of her ability to find (limited) autonomy in the interstices that lie behind the façade of meaning.85 Thus, Claire manages to create a distance between her public persona and her private self.86 In effect, Claire manages to bring about in her life what Richard Harvey Brown recommends for the post-modern sceptic who doubts the attainability of honesty or authenticity on either the personal or political level: the practice of dialectical irony.87 Emile, however, rejects the dialectical irony that Claire embraces, and thus the uncanniness which she – and by implication, other ‘strange’ creatures – embodies. At a certain level, this reaction is understandable: the kind of ironic existence that Claire practices can explode from the force of the contradictions that it attempts to keep in balance. On the other hand, the kind of irony that Claire utilizes allows the subject to interact dynamically with the challenges presented by modernity and the ‘uncanny’ other. It is in the pursuit of this goal that Rousseau places Emile in the city, in the hopes of forcing him (almost despite himself) to confront the uncanny other, and thus also to come to terms with his own internal complexity, mirroring the complications of modern life.88 But Emile chooses to withdraw from the frightening variety of the city, and escapes the necessity of choice in a falsely benign structure of rural

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domesticity. In so doing, Emile opts not to fulfil his potential as an ‘amiable foreigner.’ That Emile can relate only to his own superficial mirror image – his rejection of everything foreign and ‘other’ – causes his projects to fail. But Emile’s failure need not engender our own. For Emile, as for us, the city marks the space in which we can philosophically actualize ourselves both personally and politically by coming to terms with the strangeness within and without. The complexity of the city keeps all options perennially alive: we can allow the deranged spectacle of the city to mirror the theatre of our own souls; or we can recognize the ‘uncanny’ as part of our most innermost selves and integrate its passion in an ever-more variegated mosaic of community. We can choose to remember that the positive fulfilment of desire need not reduce us to chasing after, or even becoming, unidimensional ‘objects of desire,’ in the manner of the carriage (the car?) that Rousseau portrays as defining human individuality in the modern world. Instead, we can utilize the force of desire to inspire us to imagine our individual selves as they could be and our communal enterprise as it might be organized so as to further our personal and common humanity. In the end, the story of Emile and the city is a challenge to all of us to keep both self and community alive in dynamic interaction. In that incarnation, self and politics would no longer be opposed; rural and urban would no longer mutually contradict. The tree would continue to flourish along the highway.89

NOTES 1 Building on the political manifestation of desire, Mark Blackell in ‘Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence,’ in this volume, analyses the desire inherent in citizenship (in this case, to execute the general will). The complex negotiations within and between people in the process of discovering the general will is more fully treated in Morgenstern, ‘Crossing Lines: Rousseau and the Creation of Community.’ 2 Rousseau, Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, pt. 2, letter 14, Collected Works of Rousseau (CWR) VI, 190; Oeuvres Complètes (OC) II, 231. 3 Kant, ‘Concerning the Common Saying: That may be true in theory but does not apply to practice,’ in The Philosophy of Kant. 4 ‘[P]artager sa vie entiere en deux grandes espaces, l’un pour voir, l’autre pour réfléchir’ (Julie, pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 202; OC II, 246). 5 Ibid., CWR VI, 209; OC II, 255.


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6 ‘[C]hacun se met sans cesse en contradiction avec lui-même’ (ibid., pt. 2, letter 14, CWR VI, 192; OC II, 234). 7 Ibid., CWR VI, 192; OC II, 234. 8 Ibid., CWR VI, 193; OC II, 235. 9 Saint-Preux writes, ‘un certain jargon de société dont il faut avoir la clé pour entendre’ (ibid., pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 204; OC II, 248). 10 ‘[T]out est absurde et rien ne choque’ (ibid., pt. 2, letter 14, CWR VI, 193; OC II, 235). 11 Ibid., pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 201–10; OC II, 245–6; ibid., pt. 2, letter 27, CWR VI, 244–50; OC II, 297–306; on Julie’s dominance of the relationship with Saint-Preux, cf. Saint-Preux’s words to Julie in ibid., pt. 2, letter 19, CWR VI, 215; OC II, 262: ‘gronde-moi ... bats-moi.’ 12 Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, CWR II, 15; OC III, 21. 13 ‘[C]e voile uniforme’ (ibid., CWR II, 6; OC III, 9). 14 ‘[L]e voilà ... assujetti ... à ses semblables dont il devient l’esclave en un sens, même en devenant leur maître’ (ibid., CWR III, 51–2; OC III, 175; emphasis added). 15 ‘Celui qui chantoit ou dansoit le mieux ... devint le plus consideré, et ce fut là le premier pas vers l’inégalité et vers le vice en même tems’ (ibid., CWR III, 47; OC III, 169–70; emphasis added). 16 ‘Il falut pour son avantage se montrer autre que ce qu’on étoit en effet. Etre et paroitre devinrent deux choses tout à fait différentes ...’ (Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 51; OC III, 174). 17 [L]‘on commença à sentir le principal avantage du commerce des muses’: Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, CWR II, 5; OC III, 6; emphasis added. 18 Ibid., CWR II, 5n; OC III, 7n. 19 ‘Tous corurent au devans de leurs fers’ (Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 54; OC III, 77). 20 Ibid., CWR III, 54; OC III, 177–8. 21 Ibid., CWR III, 32; OC III, 149. 22 Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, CWR II, 12–14; OC III, 17. 23 On a society-wide basis, division of labour, understood as specialization in function, existed already in eighteenth-century France; this system is mentioned as the physical basis for the state even in Plato’s Republic and is cited by Rousseau as a major turning point in the anthropological development of man during the state of nature (Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 49–51; OC III: 167–75). Its economic manifestation in factory production – i.e., the subdivision of discrete, independent activities into minute and money-saving repetitive movements – was, however, still in its infancy in France at that period of time.

Politics in/of the City 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


32 33 34 35 36


38 39 40 41 42 43


Rousseau, Julie, pt. 2, letter 14, CWR VI, 192; OC II, 234. Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, CWR II, 5n; OC III, 7n. Rousseau speaks of ‘l’ombre du cabinet’ (ibid., CWR II, 16; OC III, 22). Thus, Saint-Preux: ‘c’est un choc perpétuel de brigues et de cabales’ (Julie, pt. 2, letter 14, CWR VI, 192; OC II, 234). Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, CWR II, 18; OC III, 24. Rousseau, Julie, pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 206; OC II, 252. At the same time, it is worth noting that the false quality of the real emotional investment made by the audience in the artists that it observes holds, for Rousseau, a hint of redemption from inauthenticity. One may proclaim Alzire to be Mlle Gaussin, when in fact she is not (ibid., pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 208; OC II, 254), but the ‘simulacra of virtue’ (Préface à Narcisse, CWR II, 196n; OC II, 972n), although false in and of itself, provides the potential template for the eventual recovery of honest emotion and thought (cf. Morgenstern, Rousseau and the Politics of Ambiguity, 52–3). ‘Il y a dans cette grande ville cinq ou six cent mille ames dont il n’est jamais question sur la Scene’ (Julie, pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 206; OC II, 252). This image finds a surreal, if disturbing, echo in Mike Davis’s description of the ‘informal’ economy of urban and exurban slums, whose offthe-books quality ensures the ‘hidden’ exploitation of people who don’t ‘count’ (see Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, especially 178–90). Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CWR III, 51; OC III, 174. Rousseau, Lettre à d’Alembert, ed. Bloom, 63; OC V, 58. Rousseau, Julie, pt. 2, letter 17, CWR VI, 207; OC II, 252. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man. In The Politics of Authenticity, Marshall Berman describes inauthenticity as ‘self-alienation’ (89–144); we might also understand it as that which prevents full and honest self-expression. This may be said to reflect the situation of the young Rousseau, constrained to remain outside Geneva once the gates to the city are shut. As Rousseau’s repeated (if veiled) references to this incident attest, this episode remains a touchstone of his (conscious) existence (Confessions, CWR V, 35; OC I, 41–2 and Pléiade edition notes). Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 95; OC IV, 326. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 40–1; OC IV, 250–1; ibid., 89; OC IV, 316; ibid., 92; OC IV, 321. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 327; OC IV, 654. Cf. also OC IV, 655. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 95; OC IV, 326. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 328; OC IV, 655. ‘Sa maniére de se présenter n’est ni modeste ni vaine, elle est naturelle



45 46

47 48 49

50 51

52 53

Mira Morgenstern et vraye’ (ibid., ed. Bloom, 335; OC IV, 655). ‘[C]e qu’on pense de lui ne l’inquéte guéres, et le ridicule ne lui fait pas le moindre peur ... Il est ferme et non suffisant; ses maniéres sont libres et non dédaigneuses’ (ibid., ed. Bloom, 336–7; OC IV, 667). ‘Il faut opter entre faire un homme ou un citoyen; car on ne peut faire à la fois l’un et l’autre’ (ibid., ed. Bloom, 39; OC IV, 248). But see also, ‘l’art le plus necessaire à l’homme et au citoyen ... est de savoir vivre avec ses semblables’ (ibid., ed. Bloom, 328; OC IV, 655). Ibid., ed. Bloom, 39; OC IV, 249. ‘[U]n aimable étranger’ (ibid., ed. Bloom, 339; OC IV, 670). Much of the discussion in this section is influenced by Marshall Berman’s analysis in The Politics of Authenticity, especially 183–8. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 474; OC IV, 859. Rousseau, Julie, pt. 2, letter 22, CWR VI, 228–9; OC II, 278–80. ‘On peut apprendre à penser dans les lieux où le mauvais goût rêgne; mais il ne faut pas penser comme eux qui ont ce mauvais goût, et il est bien difficile quand on reste avec eux trop longtems’ (Emile, ed. Bloom, 342; OC IV, 674; emphasis added). Cf. the story of the Spartan mother; ibid., ed. Bloom, 40; OC IV, 249. Cf. Rousseau, Social Contract, bk. 1, chap. 6, CWR IV, 138–9; OC III, 360–1, esp. 361, 139n. To say that Rousseau insists that the urban economic structure is not the same thing as a city capable of fostering authentic citizens does not negate the role of the urban setting in the realization of Rousseau’s authentic polis: it merely points out that the urban setting is a necessary though not sufficient element for its realization. On the other hand, Rousseau’s warnings against ‘partial societies’ (what Madison would later term ‘factions’ [Federalist #10]) indicate Rousseau’s figuration of potentially competing societies within a relatively compact geographical area denoting the limits of the polis, revealing what most of us would recognize as a city. Saint-Preux, by contrast, is the citoyen manqué, because he has no desire other than to establish a life with his love, Julie. The aim of Emile’s education is to form the man who can exist at any time and in any situation, and who can, by virtue of that ability, also establish a model of social authenticity for all to follow: ‘Vivre est le métier que je veux lui apprendre’ (Emile, ed. Bloom, 41; OC IV, 252). Also: ‘Vous vous fiez à l’ordre actuel de la société sans songer que cet ordre est sujet à des révolutions inévitables ... Heureux celui qui sait quitter alors l’état qui le quitte, et rester homme en dépit du sort!’ (ibid., ed. Bloom, 194; OC IV, 468–9).

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54 Honig, Democracy and the Foreigner, 32; 33–40. The notion of ‘purity’ cited here is influenced by Mary Douglas’s discussion in Purity and Danger. 55 In this work, Emile writes to his tutor of his disintegrated marriage to Sophie, his divorce from her, and his escape from politics: as slave to the Bey of Algiers, Emile claims to be ‘free in his chains’: a sorry comedown for a person committed to the establishment of an authentic politics (Emile et Sophie ou les solitaires: OC IV, 881–924). 56 ‘Conseillez-nous, gouvernez-nous, nous serons dociles’ (Emile, ed. Bloom, 480; OC IV, 86; emphasis added). Brian Duff’s essay in this volume, ‘The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men,’ analyses the imitation implicit in the generative aspect of fatherhood as an example of the public consequences of private events. 57 Honig, Democracy and the Foreigner, 32. 58 The one exception (thereby proving the rule) is the land of Corsica, which explains Rousseau’s eagerness to write an essay on the governance of this island. 59 Rousseau views this point as very important, even defining a good law as one that relates positively to the concrete situation and people for which it is legislated: ‘Comme avant d’élever un grand édifice l’architecte observe et sonde le sol, pour voir s’il en peut soutenir le poids, le sage instituteur ne commence pas par rédiger de bonnes loix en elles-mêmes, mais il examine auparavant si le peuple auquel il les destine est propre à les supporter’ (Social Contract, bk. 2, chap. 8, CWR IV, 157; OC III, 384–5). 60 Cf. ‘Linguistics and Grammatology,’ in Derrida, Of Grammatology, esp. 44–52. 61 Derrida expresses it this way: ‘Writing represents enjoyment. It ... renders it present and absent’ (ibid., 312, emphasis in original). 62 In other words, by eliminating the alienating division between active and passive ways of living, Rousseau attempts to energize all the people into an authentic existence which would be neither oppressing nor oppressed. Cf. the philosophical uses of evocation in Cooeys, Religious Imagination and the Body, particularly as contrasted to philosophical ‘explanation’ (ibid., 124, 127). 63 ‘Qu’y montrera-t-on? Rien, si l’on veut ... donnez les Spectateurs en spectacle; rendez-les actuerus eux-mêmes; faites que chacun se voye et s’anime dans les autres, afin que tous en soient mieux unis’ (Letter to d’Alembert, CWR X, 343–4; OC V, 115). 64 See Vernes, La ville, la fête, la démocratie, 104–5. 65 In Derrida’s terms, what Rousseau hopes to accomplish with his open-air fêtes is the avoidance of artificial simulations of feeling, encouraging in-


66 67


69 70 71

72 73

74 75

Mira Morgenstern stead a new manifestation of the people’s self-conscious identity and unity. Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, CWR X, 344–5; OC V, 116. Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, CWR X, 346 n.; OC V, 118 n. A similar point is made in the description of these types of fêtes in Considerations on the Government of Poland: ‘Beaucoup de spectacles en plein air, où les rangs sont distinguées avec soin ... pourvu que la subordination soit toujours gardée et qu’il ne se confonde point avec eux’ (CWR XI, 177; OC III, 963–4). Rousseau’s depiction of the fête here recalls Julie’s parties for the servants at Clarens, and the harvest festival there. In both instances, the servants act ‘spontaneously’ while being aware of the limits beyond which they dare not go (Julie, pt. 5, letter 7, CWR VI, 497; OC II, 608). Cf. Morgenstern, Rousseau and the Politics of Ambiguity, esp. 117–18. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 339; OC IV, 671. This reading of Emile’s failure in love can be seen as consonant with the approach of Irigary cited by Froese in ‘Openings that Close,’ in this volume, 110–13. ‘Emile aime Sophie ... il a de nouvelles raisons d’être lui-même’ (Emile, ed. Bloom, 443; OC IV, 801). In Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau notes: ‘Chaque homme en particulier se regardant lui-même comme le seul Spectateur qui l’observe ... il n’est pas possible qu’un sentiment qui prend sa source dans des comparaisons ... puisse germer dans son ame’ (CWR III, 91; OC III, 219, 154 n. 15; emphasis added). Rousseau’s qualifier notwithstanding, even natural man characterized by amour de soi-même is portrayed as possessing one spectator: the subject/object himself. In this connection, see the discussion in Morgenstern, Rousseau and the Politics of Ambiguity, esp. 81–119. This happens because Sophie is denied unadulterated knowledge in her education: she is commanded to accept her husband’s tastes, and her father’s religion (Emile, ed. Bloom, 377; OC IV, 721). She is not given reasons for the code of ethics she must follow (ibid.). While Sophie loves virtue, she does so primarily because it makes other people happy with her (ibid., 397; OC IV, 751). She herself has no deep comprehension of the philosophy that governs her life. As a result, Sophie’s existence is irretrievably torn between two moralities (as Burgelin notes in the Pléiade edition, OC IV, 1647). Her complaisance before Emile easily extends itself to an acceptance of ‘alternate moralities.’ Her tragedy is that she lacks the intellectual skills that would permit her to make a reasoned choice between them. When Sophie is forced to make a choice, she has no self, or inner voice of conscience,

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79 80 81 82 83



86 87 88


to fall back on as a guide. In fact, one sign of the success of her education is the destruction of the self that Sophie has been trained to combat. Lacking an innate moral sense to direct her, Sophie falls prey to the vices from which she was originally supposed to protect her own family. Rousseau speaks of the ‘contrainte perpetuelle’ in which Sophie is raised, in order to prepare her for submission to Emile (Emile, ed. Bloom, 370; OC IV, 710). Rousseau puts this trenchantly in Considerations on the Government of Poland: ‘le repos et la liberté me paroissent incompatibles; il faut opter’ (CWR XI, 170; OC III, 955). Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny,’ in Freud, Writings on Art and Literature, esp. 193–215; Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, esp. 182–8. Cf. also Froese, ‘Openings that Close,’ in this volume, 111. Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, 192; ibid., 187, 191. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 405; OC IV, 763; ibid., 410; OC IV, 770. Ibid., ed. Bloom, 41; OC IV, 252; for more on this topic, cf. Strong, JeanJacques Rousseau, esp. 104–13. Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, 335; OC IV, 665. In this connection, it is worthwhile noting the commentary of Diane JontePace on the Freudian ‘uncanny.’ In Speaking the Unspeakable, Jonte-Pace focuses specifically on how the ‘uncanny’ points to the feminine, particularly to the body of the mother (34–54; 61–70). In analysing what Freud terms the ‘navel,’ i.e., the inexplicable part of the dream, Jonte-Pace points out the clear reference to the uncanniness of the mother’s body, as the navel represents the scar of the individual’s prenatal maternal connection (30). See for example, Claire’s letter on the political system in Geneva and on the situation of women there (Julie, pt. 6, letter 5, CWR VI, 540–5; OC II, 656–64), and the letter she elicits from Saint-Preux on French and Italian music (ibid., pt. 2, letter 23, CWR VI, 230–6; OC II, 280–8). For more on Claire and her unique approach to maintain as much authenticity as possible in an inauthentic world, see Morgenstern, Rousseau and the Politics of Ambiguity, esp. 219–23. Claire herself mentions the ‘coquette’ and the ‘merry widow’ as two parts that she has played (Julie, pt. 4, letter 2, CWR VI, 334; OC II, 407–8). Brown, Society as Text, 172. Essays by Blackell and by Froese, in this volume, also focus on the complexity of politics and the various levels of consciousness and awareness that characterize Rousseau’s understanding of democracy and the self. Regarding Froese’s essay, this is evident in her understanding of desire as


Mira Morgenstern

that which unites and separates. Blackell’s understanding of complexity comes to the fore in his formulation of the instant of ‘pure democracy’ at the inception of every form of government and analysis of the moment of enactment of the general will, and also in his view of the concern with public opinion as a locus of desire. 89 The reference is to Rousseau’s plea to the mother in the first pages of Emile to guard the nascent shrub on the highway: ‘un arbrisseau ... au milieu d’un chemin’ (Emile, ed. Bloom, 37; OC IV, 245). See also Berman’s comments in The Politics of Authenticity, 163–77.


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Mark Blackell teaches in Liberal Studies and Political Science at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia. His research is in democratic theory, and he has published on Freud in relationship to political theory and on the political thought of Claude Lefort. Brian Duff is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of New England. His book Pathologies of the Parent as Citizen will be published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2010. John Duncan is Director of the Ethics, Society, and Law program, and co-founder and academic director of the Humanities for Humanity program at Trinity College, University of Toronto. He is the founding president of the society for the study of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture, and co-founder and an executive editor of the journal PhaenEx. He publishes on the history of philosophy, continental philosophy, and politics. Katrin Froese is an Associate Professor in Philosophy and Religion at the University of Calgary, where she teaches political philosophy and feminist theory. Her book Rousseau and Nietzsche: Toward an Aesthetic Morality (Lexington Books, 2002) examines the moral vision that underlies Nietzsche’s notion of art and the aesthetic understanding prevalent in Rousseau’s moral philosophy. Her current interest lies in examining Eastern and Western philosophical traditions, and she is the author of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Daoist Thought: Crossing Paths In-Between (SUNY Press, 2006).



Vasiliki Grigoropoulou teaches philosophy at the University of Athens. Her area of speciality is early modern philosophy, and she is the author of Knowledge, Passions, and Politics in Spinoza’s Philosophy (Alexandria Press, 1999, in Greek) and Education and Politics in Rousseau (Alexandria Press, 2002, in Greek). She is also the editor of Spinoza’s Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect (Polis Press, 2001, 3rd edition 2005, in Greek), the co-editor of Spinoza: Towards Freedom (Axiologika, 2002, in Greek), and the editor of J.-J. Rousseau, The Social Contract (Polis Press, 2004, 2nd edition 2005, in Greek). She is the author of Geometry and Power: Introduction to Spinoza’s Ethica (Ekkremes, 2009, in Greek) and has published numerous articles on Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau (in Leviathan, Axiologika, Defcalion, Politis, Ippomnema). She has been a visiting scholar in the universities of Pittsburgh, Cambridge, and Princeton. Simon Kow is an Associate Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of King’s College, Halifax. He teaches in and is director of the Early Modern Studies program at King’s. His research interests are in early modern political thought. He has published several articles on the political thought of Hobbes, Milton, and Maistre, and has recently written on Enlightenment conceptions of China. He is currently researching and writing on imperialism in Enlightenment historiography. Mira Morgenstern is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the City College of New York. She has published Rousseau and the Politics of Ambiguity (Pennsylvania State Press, 1996) and Conceiving a Nation: Development of Political Discourse in the Hebrew Bible (Pennsylvania State Press, 2009). She has also published several articles on Rousseau, focusing on the implications of Rousseau’s writings for current feminist and postmodern thought, and on leadership in the Hebrew Bible. She is currently working on an in-depth and multidisciplinary study of Rousseau’s Lévite d’Ephraïm, due to appear in 2010–11. Grace Roosevelt teaches at Metropolitan College of New York. She is the author of Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age (Temple University Press, 1990) and has published articles on Rousseau’s international relations theory in History of Political Thought, European Journal of Political Theory, and Pensée Libre: Proceedings of the North American Association for the Study of Rousseau (now the Rousseau Association). She also col-

Contributors 197

laborated with the Institute of Learning Technologies at Teachers College, Columbia University, to create an annotated online translation of Rousseau’s Emile and wrote the entry on Rousseau for the Encyclopedia of Philosophy Supplement.

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abortion, 146 Adolphe (Constant), 134, 137n29 After Virtue (MacIntyre), 136n18 agriculture, 26–7, 33–4, 37, 55 alienation, 166–8, 176–8, 179; in Emile, 169–76. See also foreigners alterity, 113–15 ambivalence: Constant and, 130–4; about democracy, 121, 125; in politics, 125, 130–1, 132–3; in Social Contract, 121; today, 134–5; about virtue, 117–18, 126–9; of virtue, 117–18, 127–8, 131 amour de soi-même, 3, 68, 69, 93–4, 175. See also self-love amour-propre, 3, 34, 35, 68, 69, 175 arts and sciences, 126–7, 166–8. See also Discourse on the Arts and Sciences attachment (political), 129, 130–1, 133, 134–5. See also social contract automata, 31–2 Barber, Benjamin, 61n43 Bayle, Pierre, 73 birth control, 146 Blackell, Mark, 93, 95, 114, 153, 155

Bonnet, Charles, 31 Born to Buy (Schor), 56 bourgeois society, 62, 108–9, 114–15; love and, 109, 111; Mandeville on, 62, 63–4. See also modernity Brown, Richard Harvey, 178 Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de, 31 celibacy, 147, 159 charity, 66. See also pity children, 56, 143; effects on parents, 145–9; as fruit of love, 148–9; imitation of parents, 155, 159–60; and independence, 106. See also parenthood citizenship, 100, 142–3, 169; in Emile, 155–6, 157 city, 169–76; and alienation, 166–8, 179; positive aspects, 169–71; role, 170–1, 179; and self, 165–6, 170–1 civic duty, 129, 135 civilization, 106 class divisions, 168 communicative competence, 24, 25, 27, 37. See also language compassion. See pity



competition, 108, 167 Condillac, Étienne Bonnot de, 29–30, 31, 32, 39, 65 The Confessions (Rousseau), 146, 149–52, 159, 160 connection, 107–8 Connolly, William, 142, 157 conscience, 86, 92, 96–100. See also ethics; morality consciousness, 86, 89–93, 96–7; and identity, 91–2; moral implications, 91–3 Considerations on the Government of Poland (Rousseau), 55, 124–5 Constant, Benjamin, 117, 130–4, 137n29 Constitutional Project for Corsica (Rousseau), 55–6 Consumed (Barber), 61n43 consumerism, 56, 57 contraception, 146 cosmology, 27 Coste, Pierre, 90, 96 Cranston, Maurice, 18, 20, 21, 30, 32 Crocker, Lester, 30 Cudworth, Ralph, 90 custom, 23–8, 34–5; artificial, 28, 34– 5; natural, 24–8. See also humans Dante Alighieri, 22 Davies, Catherine Glyn, 90 The Deceiver of Seville and the Stone Guest (Tirso de Molina), 31 decline. See humans democracy, 123–4, 131–2, 134; ambivalence about, 121, 125. See also representation Democracy and the Foreigner (Honig), 156, 171, 172, 174

dependence, 53, 107, 112. See also independence Derrida, Jacques, 173 Descartes, René, 18, 30, 31, 100n2 desire, 39, 165; artificial, 35, 36; arts and sciences and, 166–7; in bourgeois society, 114–15; city and, 168; and consciousness, 89–93; definition, 53; in Discourse on Inequality, 47–8, 166–7; and economics, 55–6; in Emile, 51–7; in families, 114–15; and freedom, 39, 88–9; for general good, 120–1, 124–5; and happiness, 52–3, 88–9; and inequality, 35, 36, 108; language and, 64–5, 107; limitation of, 54–5, 56–8; in modern context, 3–4, 62, 72–4, 85–6, 132–4; multiplication of, 35–40, 62, 72–4, 153; natural man and, 38, 47–8, 105, 106; needs vs., 39, 54–5; objects of, 39, 108–9; origins, 107; political, 124, 134; for property, 108; and reason, 86, 89, 107; and social relations, 105, 106, 107–8, 109, 120–1; suspension of, 88–9; as transformative, 142–3; and understanding, 35–6, 38–9; and uneasiness, 87–9, 111, 142–3; and virtue, 144, 147–9. See also needs Diderot, Denis, 29–30, 31, 32 Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (Rousseau), 126, 151, 166, 167–8. See also arts and sciences Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality (Rousseau), 3, 17–18, 99–100, 146; ambivalence about virtue in, 127–8; bourgeois society in, 62; desire in, 47–8, 166–7; free will in, 20–1; Glaucus in, 22–3, 32; independence in, 17,

Index 25, 37, 106; love in, 175; nature in, 21–2, 23, 33, 66; perfectibility in, 20, 21, 27–8; pity in, 93, 129; selflove in, 69, 93–4; sentiment in, 87, 95, 98; Adam Smith on, 49, 50–1; transformation in, 21–2. See also inequality Don Giovanni (Mozart/da Ponte), 31 Don Juan (Molière), 31 Duff, Brian, 112–13 Duncan, John, 62, 87, 105 duty, 147–9; civic, 129, 135 economics, 49, 55–6, 57–8 Economic Sentiments (Rothschild), 58 education: in Emile, 53, 54–5, 169, 171; in Julie, 157–8, 159. See also teachers ego, 97–8 Elements of the Philosophy of Newton (Voltaire), 19, 28 Ellis, Madeleine, 54 Emile, or On Education (Rousseau), 51–7, 143–5, 150, 153–7, 160, 177–9; alienation in, 169–76; citizenship in, 155–6, 157; conscience in, 98; fatherhood in, 154–5; free will in, 20; independence in, 111–12; limitations on desire in, 56–8; love in, 111–13, 174–6; marriage ball in, 173–4; ordinariness in, 177–8; pity in, 95–6; power in, 51–7; sexual matters in, 146; Sophie’s role in, 144–5, 175–6 Emile et Sophie, ou les Solitaires (Rousseau), 115, 160, 172 empiricism, 19, 32 emulation: in Julie, 157–8, 159; of parents, 155, 159–60; political/social, 124, 155–7


enslavement, 167–8 environment, 56–7 Epicurus, 101n22 equality, 118. See also inequality Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Locke), 19, 30–1, 35–6, 90–3, 100 Essay on Manners (Voltaire), 22 An Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge (Condillac), 29–30, 31 Essay on the Origin of Languages (Rousseau), 64, 68, 128 ethics, 94–5, 99. See also morality The Fable of the Bees (Mandeville), 49, 51, 69–70, 76–7; bourgeois society in, 62, 63; language in, 64–5 faith, 156 family, 24, 42n36, 114–15, 142–3. See also children; parenthood fear, 38–9, 114–15 fêtes. See theatre foreigners, 171–2, 174–5, 176–7. See also alienation France, 162n41 freedom, 39, 130–2, 178. See also will, free French Autobiography (Sheringham), 6 French Revolution, 130, 137n30 Freud, Sigmund, 176 Froese, Katrin, 94, 99, 153 gender, 177–8. See also women genealogies, 110, 111 The Geneva Manuscript (Rousseau), 98–9 George, Rolf, 30 Glaucus, 22–3, 29, 31–2 golden age, 70–1, 108; corruption/



loss of, 75–6, 77–8; self-love and, 69–72 goodness, 88, 94–5 government, 73, 122–4, 167–8. See also legislators; monarch; representation; state Grigoropoulou, Vasiliki, 125 Gulliver’s Travels (Swift), 79n18 happiness: consumerism and, 56, 57; and desire, 52–3, 88–9; in Emile, 51–7; source of, 54 Hobbes, Thomas, 18, 30–1, 65, 68; influence on Rousseau, 40, 48; Rousseau on, 46–7, 66 homosexuality, 146 honesty, 127 Honig, Bonnie, 156, 171, 172, 174 honour, 73–4 humans: communicative competence, 24, 25, 27, 37; decline, 28, 33–4, 75; historical transformation, 21–2, 23–7, 38; as machines, 104–5; as perfectible, 20, 21, 34; relationships between, 109–10; social, 48, 72, 106. See also custom; natural man; personhood; society Hume, David, 59n13 Hundert, E.G., 62, 75 identity, 90–3, 97–8, 100 imagination, 53, 55, 128–9 imitation. See emulation independence: in Discourse on Inequality, 17, 25, 33–4, 37, 106; in Emile, 111–12; in Social Contract, 113–14. See also dependence individualism, 99, 106, 118–19, 168, 169 industry, 72. See also metallurgy

inequality, 167; desire and, 35, 36, 108; origins, 75–6; progress of, 33–4, 35. See also Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality; equality Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Smith), 51 Instinct and Intimacy (Ogrodnick), 6 interdependence, 53 Irigaray, Luce, 110, 111, 113 Jack, Malcolm, 62 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (O’Dea), 6 judgment, 88, 89, 91–2, 99, 119; sentiment and, 98, 100 Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (Rousseau), 146, 147–9, 153, 157–9, 160; alienation in, 178; city in, 166, 168, 170; emulation in, 157–8, 159; love in, 158–9, 175 justice, 96 Kavanagh, Thomas M., 6 Kelly, Christopher, 6, 144, 159 Knight, Isabel, 30, 31, 39 knowledge, 36–7. See also understanding Kow, Simon, 47, 56 Kristeva, Julia, 176–7 labour, division of, 51, 60n34 La Mettrie, Julien Offray de, 18, 19 language, 29, 37, 75–6; and desire, 64–5, 107; Mandeville on, 64–5, 74–5; origins, 24, 26, 64–5, 107; and society, 65–6; of virtue, 126–9. See also communicative competence; Essay on the Origin of Languages law, natural, 96

Index legislators, 119, 120, 156. See also government Letter on the Blind (Diderot), 31 Letter to d’Alembert (Rousseau), 173 Levasseur, Thérèse, 149, 150–1, 153 Leviathan (Hobbes), 18, 30–1, 40, 46 liberty. See freedom ‘The Liberty of the Ancients’ (Constant), 131, 132 Locke, John: on desire, 86–93; on divine intervention, 92–3, 98; influence, 19, 29, 30, 32; political theory, 99–100; and Rousseau, 86–7. See also Essay Concerning Human Understanding love, 109–12, 145, 147–9; in Emile, 111–13, 174–6; in Julie, 158–9, 175; Rousseau and, 149, 150–1, 153; self-love and, 109–10, 111–12 Lucretius, 101n22 luxuries, 39 MacIntyre, Alistair, 136n18 Malebranche, Nicolas, 96 Man a Machine (La Mettrie), 18, 19 Mandeville, Bernard, 49, 51, 66–70; influence on Rousseau, 62–4, 76, 77; on language, 64–5, 74–5; on modernity, 72–3; on natural man, 49, 71–2; on virtue, 74, 76 Marx, Karl, 78 masturbation, 146 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (Newton), 19 mechanism, 18–20, 21 Meditations on First Philosophy (Descartes), 18, 30, 31 melancholy, 5 Men and Citizens (Shklar), 142 metallurgy, 26–7, 33–4, 37


Metamorphoses (Ovid), 22 mind, fragmentation of, 85 modernity, 3–4, 63–4, 76, 77; agriculture and, 26–7, 33–4, 37; desire and, 3–4, 62, 72–4, 85–6, 132–3, 134; Mandeville on, 72–3; vs. religion, 142. See also bourgeois society Molière (Jean Baptiste Poquelin), 31 Molyneux, William, 31 monarch, 122–3, 124–5, 131–2 money, 55 monsters, 146–7 Montesquieu, Baron de la Brède et de (Charles Louis de Secondat), 122 morality, 74–5, 91–3, 94–5. See also conscience; ethics Morgenstern, Mira, 111, 125, 153 Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 31 natural man, 21–2, 23, 53, 94; and desire, 38, 47–8, 105, 106; Mandeville on, 49, 71–2; nostalgia for, 63–4; Rousseau on, 71, 78; Smith on, 50, 51; and understanding, 36–7. See also humans; nature nature, 104–5; state of, 66, 70–1, 78, 105; and virtue, 127–8. See also natural man needs, 35, 38, 54–5. See also desire Newton, Isaac, 19 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 78 O’Dea, Michael, 6 Ogrodnick, Margaret, 6 ordinariness, 177–8 Orwin, Clifford, 96 other, 113–15 Ovid, 22 Paradise (Dante), 22



parenthood, 143, 145–9; in Emile, 154–5; in Julie, 157–8, 159; Rousseau and, 112–13, 143, 149–53, 156. See also children; family passions, 38, 39–40, 98, 104, 105; in Julie, 158–9; and reason, 85–6, 93, 104. See also desire; fear; love perfectibility, 34, 36; in Discourse on Inequality, 20, 21, 27–8 personhood, 90–1, 92. See also humans Philebus (Plato), 85 pity, 66–8, 76, 93, 94; and connection, 107–8; in Discourse on Inequality, 93, 129; in Emile, 95–6; self-love and, 66, 68, 95–6; virtue as product of, 94, 127–9 Plato, 22, 23, 29, 85 Poland. See Considerations on the Government of Poland politeness, 75 politics, 99–100, 171–4, 176–7; ambivalence in, 125, 130–1, 132–3; arts and sciences and, 167–8; manipulation of, 73–4; procreation and, 149–50; in Social Contract, 100, 121–2, 123–4; today, 134–5. See also attachment; representation power, 51–7 pregnancy, 148–9 Principles of Politics (Constant), 130 privacy, 168 procreation, 142, 144–5, 149–50. See also sex ‘Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar’ (Rousseau), 97, 98, 147 property, 51, 87, 93, 108–9; as cause of decline, 33–4, 75 public will. See will, public reason, 93–5; and desire, 86, 89, 107;

passions and, 85–6, 93, 104; and sentiment, 94–5, 98 recognition (desire for), 108–9 refounding, 171–3 regret (political), 133 religion, 142, 156 representation, 121–3, 124, 173–4. See also democracy; government Republic (Plato), 22, 85 revolution, 26–7. See also French Revolution Robinson, Christopher, 57 Roosevelt, Grace, 62, 63, 78 Rosenblatt, Helena, 49 Rothschild, Emma, 58 Rousseau, Isaac, 141 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques: childhood, 141; Condillac and, 29–30; as father, 112–13, 143, 149–52, 156; and Hobbes, 40, 46–7, 48, 66; influence of, 78, 130, 134, 142; influences on, 5, 29–30, 32, 86–7; and love, 149, 150–1, 153; Mandeville and, 49, 62–4, 76, 77; and sex, 146, 147; and Thérèse Levasseur, 149, 150–1, 153; as unworthy, 153, 160; works, 5–6. See also specific works Rousseau as Author (Kelly), 6, 144, 159 Savoyard Vicar. See ‘Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar’ Schor, Juliet, 56 Schouls, Peter, 88 sciences. See arts and sciences self, 89–93; city and, 165–6, 170–1. See also consciousness; personhood self-consciousness, 87, 96–8, 132–3. See also consciousness self-control, 86 self-interest, 119

Index selfishness. See amour-propre self-love, 96, 113; and Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality, 69, 93–4; and golden age, 69–72; and love, 109–10, 111–12; as natural, 127–8; and pity, 66, 68, 95–6. See also amour de soi-même sensationalism, 30–1 senses, 36 sensibility, 93–4 sentiment, 86, 93–6, 98; and conscience, 86, 96–100; and consciousness, 90; desire as, 87; in Discourse on Inequality, 87, 95, 98; in Emile, 95–6; general will and, 99; and judgment, 98, 100; and reason, 94–5, 98 sex, 146, 147. See also procreation Sheringham, Michael, 6 Shklar, Judith, 142 Smith, Adam, 48–9, 50–1, 60n23, 62 social contract, 118–19, 121–5, 129. See also attachment; society On the Social Contract (Rousseau), 55, 99, 113–15, 118–24, 156–7; desire in, 120–1; independence in, 113–14; individual in, 118–19; politics in, 100, 121–2, 123–4 society, 72; class divisions in, 168; decline of, 28, 33–4, 75; desire and, 105, 106, 107–8, 109, 120–1; language and, 65–6; Rousseau on, 3–4, 63–4, 77. See also bourgeois society; humans sovereign. See monarch ‘The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation’ (Constant), 131 state: and general will, 119–21; individual vs., 99, 118–19. See also government


‘The State of War’ (Rousseau), 46–7 strangers. See foreigners sustainability (environmental), 56–7 Swift, Jonathan, 79n18 teachers, 52. See also education theatre, 31, 173–4 ‘Theorizing Sustainability’ (Robinson), 57 Theory of Moral Sentiments (Smith), 60n23 Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez), 31 transformation (historical), 21–2, 23–7, 38 Treatise on Sensations (Condillac), 31, 32 Treatise on Systems (Condillac), 29 True Intellectual System of the Universe (Cudworth), 90 tyranny, 28, 167–8 ‘The Uncanny’ (Freud), 176 understanding, 35–9. See also knowledge uneasiness, 87–9, 111, 142–3 unhappiness, 52, 53 unheimlich, 111, 176 Various Thoughts on the Comet (Bayle), 73 vice, 73, 74, 75–7, 167 virtue, 71, 114, 117–18, 126–9, 159; ambivalence of, 117–18, 127–8, 131; arts and sciences and, 126–7; and civic duty, 129, 135; Constant on, 117–18, 134; and desire, 144, 147–9; feminine, 144–5; Mandeville on, 74, 76; nature and, 127–8; pity and, 94, 127–9; political, 131, 133;



sources of, 94, 117, 127–9. See also vice; specific virtues Voltaire (François Marie Arouet), 19, 22, 28, 32, 39

women, 111–12, 146, 174; in Emile, 144–5, 175–6 The World (Descartes), 18 Writing the Truth (Kavanagh), 6

Wealth of Nations (Smith), 51 will: free, 17–21, 39, 88–9; general, 99, 113–14, 118–21, 122–4; public, 118–21, 124–5; sovereign, 122–3

Yolton, John, 90