6. Rousseau on State of Nature and Education

Prof: Then let’s go on
to Jean Jacques Rousseau and Émile.
And interact with me today;
I need your help. I came back from Helsinki,
Finland yesterday. I was sixteen hours on the road.
I went to bed at 1:00 a.m.
So I need your help.
I want you to interact with me.
And Émile is a
good opportunity to interact and get excited because it’s a very
important text. As I pointed out,
there is no educational theory without Rousseau’s
Émile. Everybody who does education
has to read Émile from cover to cover.
Most of them will disagree with
most of his ideas, but will be provoked by his
ideas. He is intentionally
provocative, says things which do upset you,
but makes you think; and don’t dismiss it too easy.
Now before I go into
Émile, there is one more issue I would
like to come back–about Rousseau’s Social
Contract. I made this point briefly in
the last lecture, but let me make it sharper
because in the questions I am asking–
questions about the general will–and I feel I may not have
given enough meat to you about the notion of the general will.
Yeah, before I go–so I have to
come back because there is one more chore, household chore.
One of the teaching fellows
reminded me that the Smith’s Lecture will come at the day
when the test is due. So what to do with this?
What I suggest:
I will do a preview of Smith Thursday,
this week, and I will put my PowerPoints before the lecture
on the internet so you can read the PowerPoints.
That will get you up in speed.
I hope you still will come to
the lecture. Though those of you who are
also in the Varieties of Capitalism course can skip
because, out of the 50 lectures I’m
giving this semester, this is the only one which
overlaps. It is the same lecture what I
was giving in the Varieties of Capitalism course.
I hope you won’t ask for a
discount–that the professor did sell the same product twice.
But anyway, so those who did
that lecture and they feel very comfortable with Smith can miss
the lecture. But I hope everybody else will
come Tuesday. All right, now
Émile. This is something–no,
no, the general will, the general will.
I didn’t finish this one.
So there is an interesting
contrast–development–in Rousseau in The Theory of
Social Contract. Because Rousseau especially
emphasizes that the social contract has to be arrived at by
a universal consent. So he does emphasize that in
arriving to a social contract we actually have to exercise some
popular sovereignty. And this is an idea which is
only an element in Locke. Right?
In some ways Rousseau moves a
big step forward– contractarian theory,
towards democratic theory, popular sovereignty,
and, in fact, universal suffrage.
I mentioned he did not advocate
suffrage for women but advocated otherwise universal
suffrage–what Locke was not willing to do.
But there is an interesting
other idea in Rousseau which has an important kernel of truth,
and a very disturbing idea at the same time,
and this is the idea of the general will.
I talked about this as a good
example of methodological collectivism;
that Rousseau, unlike Hobbes or Locke,
or we will see later on Mill or Adam Smith,
does not believe that studying the individual actions we can
understand what is society and what the need of the society is.
There is a general will over
society which is more than simply adding up all individual
wills. And this idea carried on in
social theory among those whom we will discuss,
particularly by Émile Durkheim.
And there is clearly an element
of truth to it–that there is some universal good,
what is more than just the sum total of individual interest.
When we are talking about
healthcare reform and the needs of governments to provide
healthcare for everybody, when we actually do believe
that it should not be left to individual responsibility
whether they have healthcare insurance.
Or at least some people in this
room probably believe that. Then you believe that there is
a general will–that you have to overrule the individual to make
a decision. And there is this general will
everywhere. When you go to the college,
you have to get certain shots otherwise you are not allowed
into the college. It is not leaving up to you to
decide whether you have certain shots taken.
You have to demonstrate,
to be in residence. There is a general will.
It’s not assumed that every
individual is a rational actor and people will not be foolish
and be irresponsible and not to be properly protected.
You see?
This is a strong case that the
idea of general will makes sense.
There is some collective good.
But we can understand that
individuals occasionally have to be forced to go by this general
will, by the public good. But there is a big problem with
the general will; namely, if there is a general
will as such, where on earth will it come
from? How we will know what the
general will is? And Rousseau is explicit about
this. He confronts it.
That’s why he talks about the
lawgiver. He said, “Smart people
like me, we know what is good for
society and therefore we should figure out what the general will
is, and then the popularly elected
parliament will pass it as a law.
But we are the lawgivers.”
Well this is a very disturbing
idea– a disturbing idea which opens
Rousseau up to a totalitarian interpretation–
that he argues that the government knows better.
And, in fact,
he argues that not the government but we,
the wise philosophers–we, the intellectuals–we know
better what people’s interests are.
“You think this is your
interest? No, I tell you,
this is not your interest. I know what is your
interest.” Well, this is a very disturbing
idea. How on earth do I know what is
in your interest? And, of course,
Rousseau’s notion of general will appealed a great deal to
Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Tse-tung.
They loved the idea that it is
the Central Committee of the Communist Party who knows better
than ordinary Chinese or Russian what their needs are.
There must be a central planner
rather than an individual actor which tells people what their
needs are. So the problem of general will
is highly problematic. Right?
You can make a case for it,
that you need an assumption like that.
As I pointed out,
there are people in this room who believe that there is
general will and the common good.
Are there people here?
Anybody believes that?
Okay, yeah, yeah,
there are people in this room–of course.
And there are others who would
not believe that. If you are an econ major,
I think you got enough in economics to say,
“No, no, no, no, never,
ever.” Okay, now let’s go to
Émile because it actually has something to do,
in a different formulation, with the same idea.
So what is the story about
Émile? It’s, of course–he himself is
Jean Jacques, and he tells us that he’s a
tutor of a boy, Émile,
and educates him from the early ages until reaches adulthood and
finds his wife, Sophie.
I told you, of course,
that this is a very idealized Rousseau,
because he put all of his children into an orphanage–
into a very lousy orphanage–and probably most of
them, or all of them,
very early died in this orphanage.
But he still has ideas–what he
should have done if he would not have been a bastard
>and would not have abandoned
his children. So what is the Table of
Contents? First he says,
“Well we have to rear a civilized savage,
a child born in the state of nature;
infancy and childhood and pre-adolescence is a gradual
transformation from the state of nature into society.
Then when adolescence comes,
then we have a fully formed atomic individual by now,
and we have to bring that person into society.”
And then he has this very
complicated idea that this transition from the atomic
individual and state of nature to civil society is a transition
from amour de soi to amour propre.
Well this is a very complex
concept. Rousseau could have been more
lucid about what the difference is than he was.
Also, from English you think
you understand it more easily than you actually do,
because propre in French does not mean proper.
Propre also means myself;
propre only means myself in consideration with others.
Soi means myself without
consideration of others. Right?
So be careful.
Amour-propre is not
proper love. Right?
It is a self-love,
but of a self-love in which I do take into consideration
alter, not only ego,
to put it with Sigmund Freud. Well and it has to happen,
otherwise we will not have citizens.
He links this idea of amour
propre–I will have to talk about this more–in order to
have citizens. And he makes a crucial
distinction between the citizens and the bourgeois.
This is again the two faces of
Rousseau. One face of Rousseau is a
radical democrat, a deeply democratic individual,
and the other face is a left radical.
And he’s the first really,
as far as I can tell– but I reasonably know the
literature of these times– the first who is using the term
bourgeois in a pejorative way,
and makes this crucial distinction between citizen and
bourgeois. And bourgeois are the selfish
businessmen who want to have money and do not have a
commitment to the collectivity– who do not obey the general
will but pursue selfish, narrow, economic interest.
That’s bourgeois.
In some ways he gives the tool
to Karl Marx, to develop his theory,
as we will see later on. And Marx, of course,
loved Rousseau; not only Marx,
Durkheim loved Rousseau as well.
There are many people who loved
this character, despite his shortcomings of his
character. Well what are the main themes?
The first important theme is
nature is good; society which is corrupt.
A very important proposition,
a very powerful proposition. This is something what Marx
also takes from Rousseau, and this is what Durkheim also
takes from Rousseau. “Fear of death is not
natural,” he continues.
“It is forced on
us–forced on us by priests, philosophers and doctors.
And the first task is negative
education.” Well I will elaborate on this.
I’ll just foreshadow this block
of ideas. The second one is:
well the task is to turn the savages,
noble savages–that’s the noble savage,
a very Rousseauian idea–into social beings,
and from amour de soi to amour propre.
Well but what makes us
social–it’s a lovely idea; provocative,
ironic, and I just love it–what makes us social is
pity. And I will labor on this.
It’s really so wonderful.
And the big question is can we
be citizens without being bourgeois?
What is the distinction?
And then he said,
“What is civilization?”
Well civilization becomes
culture when sex is sublimated into imagination.
It’s very important.
I will labor on it,
and I hope you will be able to relate to it as much as I can.
He said there are really two
processes which makes us social: pity and love.
But not sex.
It is erotic love,
which is in your mind as much as in your sexual drives.
And then he suggests love
develops in three stages. And I think this is absolutely
wonderful. Again, certainly I can relate
to this very well. The first stage is that you are
in love but you don’t know yet with whom.
You are ready for love and you
are looking for somebody to be loved.
But you don’t really know yet,
you did not identify yet. But there is a sense that you
are in love. Well, it happens certainly for
the first time in adolescence. When we are thirteen or
fourteen, and we suddenly realize that there is romantic
stuff but we don’t have the object of our romantic feelings,
we have to find this out. But it happens actually always
when one falls in love. Can I tell you as an old man,
it will happen later to life as well.
There is rarely one love in
life. Right?
Okay, then he says love brings
different people together on the basis of differences.
This is very much a Durkheimian
idea of what binds people together can be their
differences. And he makes a very provocative
argument: men and women are different.
He’s mostly read as a male
chauvinist bastard. But it’s more complicated than
this, and I will show you text what
will make you think, without completely dismissing
him, just on some very damaging quotations–
what I also will show you. All right, so nature good,
society corrupts. Well people in nature are good;
society corrupts. Well this is the opposite
argument to Hobbes. Or, in fact,
Durkheim’s idea that you need more control over society is
also opposed to Rousseau’s fundamental idea.
And he said,
well a child does not know vice and doesn’t know error.
It is introduced to the child
by society. And then he gives–though he
was not much of a believer– he gives a bit of theological
argument: “Everything is good as it leaves the hands of
the author of things and everything degenerates in the
hands of man.” “Man turns everything
upside down. He wants nothing as nature made
it.” We are being told to get rid of
our natural instincts. And this is again lovely, right?
“Man must be trained like
a school horse.” So it’s lovely.
Also I think you sense this
very important distinction between training and education.
Once I had a conversation with
Daniel Bell, a famous social scientist,
and he said– we were talking about graduate
students– and he said,
“My colleagues are always talking about training graduate
students.” He said, “What an outrage.
You educate students,
you don’t train them. You train a dog.”
Now that’s Rousseau’s point.
Training, simply to giving
skills and telling them how to do things is training.
The point is education.
And I hope we try to do in this
course a bit of education. That’s why I don’t emphasize
that you have to go back and memorize the citations from the
authors, come in, and in the blue book
quickly copy in what you memorized and will immediately
forget after the test– what you often are expected to
do. That is training.
Education is the process in
which we force you to think on your own.
That is education.
And he said well the problem is
that there is too much training. Right?
Like cutting back the trees;
a French garden, they cut back everything what
grows to fit what they thought a beautiful image.
It is always non-natural.
And I also like this a great
deal. Many of you will not agree with
this. He said, “Fear of death is
not natural. In nature one accepts it.”
And Rousseau agrees with Hobbes
we are indeed driven by the fear of death, but this is not
natural. He claims that an animal
accepts death. Well whether it is true or not,
that’s another question. You may have seen your dog
dying, and you have seen fear in the eyes of a dog.
So I’m not so sure how correct
Rousseau’s observation is. But there is an element of
truth to it. Right?
That buffaloes when they know
it is time to die, they go on their own and they
lay down and wait for death in a peaceful way.
That’s what he suggests.
He said.
“What is put into
us”– and I think it’s a wonderful,
deep idea– “the fear of death by
philosophers, doctors and priests.”
A great idea. Right?
It’s a very important
idea–that we are ruled by people who monopolize a
different type of knowledge, and the essence,
the power of knowledge is that it put fear of death into us.
The doctors will say,
“Well I will cure you.” Right?
The priest will say,
“You will burn in hell.”
And therefore you will fear of
death. He said naturally we would know
how to suffer and how to die, but we are being sort of
indoctrinated to fear death and have anxieties in my life.
Well this is why we need
negative education. This is a very provocative idea
that became extremely popular in the 1960s and ’70s.
Those of you who do education
probably know Ivan Illich’s work;
he’s pushing it as far as you can.
But in the kind of
counter-cultural educational theories it was very important
that what you need is negative education.
You have to get out of those
silly ideas from people’s mind what society put in there.
And he said–and this is again
a lovely citation– “Our didactic and pedantic
craze is always to teach children what they would learn
much better by themselves and to forget what we alone could teach
them.” Right? So this is again–education is
giving an opportunity for people to use their mind,
rather than indoctrinating them.
“And therefore,”
he said, “the first act of education should be purely
negative.” Right?
“It consists not at all in
teaching virtue and the truth but in securing the heart from
vice and the mind from error.”
Very important. Right?
The task of education,
not training, is not to tell you what the
truth is. The task of education is to
help your brain operate sufficiently to tell what is an
error and to figure out when you are making an error.
That’s why there is no easy
solutions. There is no right answer to the
question. There are competing answers to
every important question. And the task of education is to
consider the pros and cons, to consider what speaks for and
against the evidence, and then to make a judgment
what is the proposition you will accept to try to eliminate
error. That’s what education is all
about. Okay, now another issue is
about command. And he said–and again I love
it–“There shall be no commands.
The words obey and
command will be proscribed from the Lexicon.
And even more so duty
and obligation.” Very provocative,
but again I think very deep. Think about it very hard.
He said what we really should
be, in the process of education do, is to emphasize your
strengths. We emphasize necessity;
we emphasize impotence. We try to figure out what is
outside of our reach, what we cannot do.
We emphasize constraints,
realistic constraints upon our action.
That is really what should
happen in education. So the argument,
this is your duty to do that, is the wrong way to
approach. Right?
It’s not what the educators
should do–to appeal to people’s guilt feelings,
to create guilt in them. We will talk about this more in
Nietzsche–where the guilt feelings is coming from.
No, don’t create guilt.
But, on the other hand,
tell people what is necessary, what are the limitations of
your action. Emphasize what you are capable
of doing. Encourage them to get the best
out of them, but always warn them that, “I don’t see
that you can really go that far. Don’t push yourself too much
because you won’t be able to make it.”
That’s what he believes
education is. Now this is turning savages
into social beings, moving from amour de soi
to amour propre. The love of oneself,
amour de soi, is always good.
There is nothing wrong about
it–what Adam Smith will call self-interest.
Well the child is born with
amour de soi. Takes the toy away,
“It’s mine.” Right?
The other child will say,
“No, this is mine.” Right?
This is amour de soi.
I want it. Right?
Amour de soi,
as we will know from Freud. I want the breast of my mother.
I want to monopolize it;
this is mine. Right? That’s amour de soi.
Well but on the other hand we
have to extend our relationships;
we have to interact with other people.
And amour propre will be
when we realize there is another people who are also led by
amour de soi, and we figure out the way how
to live with them, by interacting with them.
Well there are–where does
sociality then come from; amour propre,
where does it come from? And there are–the first maxim
is, “It is not the human heart
to put ourselves in the place of people who are happier than we,
but only of those who are more pitiable.”
It’s ironic,
but as far as I can tell this is ad hominem.
Think just very honestly about
yourself. When you know somebody was more
successful with you, you can’t–very hard to love
that person. Right?
If somebody is less successful
than you, you feel pity for them.
Suddenly your heart warms up.
Suddenly you feel responsible.
Suddenly you want to help.
The second maxim:
“One pities in the others only those ills from which one
does not feel oneself exempt.”
So we don’t necessarily lead by
love when we see misery what is sort of outside of our possible
experiences. We have love for pitiable
people when we think we can actually end up in the same
situation. That’s when we will have
amour propre. And the third maxim is,
well: “The pity one has for another’s misfortune is
measured not by the quantity of that misfortune but the
sentiment one attributes to those who suffer it.”
So I think that’s a wonderful
idea. And now about compassion and
pity one more time. He said, “We are born
twice, once to exist and the second
time to live”– for species reproduction,
and “the young adult becomes sensitive before knowing
what he’s sensing… It is now that man,
truly born to live” and beginning to experience the
others. So it is actually our weakness
what makes us social, not our strengths.
“It is our common miseries
which turns our hearts to humanity.”
I think really ironic but a
very deep idea. You can disagree with it,
but you have to think about it. There is clearly an element of
truth in the argument. Okay, and I also love the last
sentence here. He said, “Pity is
sweet.” This is one of my favorite
sentences in Rousseau. Right?
It is so sweet to feel pity for
somebody. “Oh, I am so sorry for
you.” Right? Then your heart is overflowing
with love. Right?
Well and then the citizen and
the bourgeois. This is again fantastic.
“Pedaretus runs for
council of 300. He is defeated”–not
elected in the 300 representatives in Sparta.
He goes home delighted there
were 300 men worthier than he to be found in Sparta.
“This is the citizen.”
Are you a citizen when you only
got a B- and there are thirty people in class who got an A?
Do you feel how fortunate I am
that I’m in such a great class that thirty people are better
than I am? Right?
If you feel that way,
then you are a citizen. Right?
When you develop amour
propre; that is his point.
And then another point.
“A Spartan woman had five
sons in the army and was waiting news of the battle.
A Helot arrives,
trembling, she asks him for news.
‘Your five sons were killed.’
And now she answers.
‘Base slave,
did I ask you that?’ ‘We won the victory.’
The mother runs to the temple
and gives thanks to the gods. This is the female
citizen.” Right?
My children died,
but we won– the general will. Well, “He who in a civil
order wants to preserve the primacy of the sentiments of
nature does not know what he wants.
Always in contradiction with
himself…he will never be either man or citizen…he will
be a bourgeois. He will be nothing.”
That’s what Karl Marx loved.
People who just pursue their
own self-interest is not much. Now men, women,
sexuality and love. Well, civilization becomes
culture when sex is sublimated; bodily desire is turned into
imagination. We will see that greatly
inspires Sigmund Freud. There are two mechanisms which
constitute social compassion: pity and love.
And he also adds a very
provocative idea of his time and kind of foreshadows post-modern
thought: Enlightenment demythologizes the world.
Deprived from its meaning,
it’s a cold rational world of the marketplace,
and competitive, isolated individuals;
that’s what modern world Enlightenment produced.
And the world became unerotic,
unpoetic. This is something which will
play a big role in Max Weber’s idea of disenchantment,
or if you know Marcuse’s wonderful book,
Eros and Civilization, comes straight out of Rousseau.
Rousseau wants to bring back
the erotic–not sex, the erotic experience.
Well the love develops in three
stages. As I said quest–first is quest.
You are in love but you don’t
know yet with whom. Again think back:
you were thirteen or fourteen, you began to search for
somebody to love. Then comes the discovery.
You found it.
That’s it, that’s the person I
am in love with. Émile finds Sophie.
What brings them together,
he said, is the differences–that they
complement each other. Durkheim will argue it can be
similarity what brings us together.
It’s a more complex argument,
but the origin of the idea is in Rousseau.
Then comes the important part.
Once you fall in love,
don’t rush. As I said, not sex,
eros is what he’s believing. Leave, right?
Don’t rush to bed.
Go to travel,
and then when you travel you think about the person you love.
You idealize that person in
your mind, and that’s when this love becomes an erotic
experience. Then you can go home and you
can consume the love. Right?
I think this is really
wonderful. Well, and here comes a problem:
his views on gender relations. Well men and women are
different, and that means that they ought to be taught
differently. “If you would
decide,” he said,
“to raise women like men,” he said,
“men will gladly consent to this.
The more women want to resemble
men, the less women will govern them.”
Well you can say it’s a pretty
sexist observation, but probably an idea you heard
before. Right?
Who wears the hat in the family?
This is the kind of argument,
that women are the bosses after all.
Well therefore what the
education should do: cultivate men’s qualities–not
to cultivate men’s qualities in women, but raise it differently.
Well, and here are the
citations which shows you Rousseau the sexist.
Hard to say he’s not a sexist
bastard, right?>
“Woman is made specially
to please men.” Well I’m sure at least half of
the men in this room are also outraged, and I think probably
all the women are outraged. But I hope there are other men
in this room, not only me,
who is upset by this statement. Well he said,
“Women and men are made for one another,
but their mutual dependence is not equal.
Men depend on women because of
their desires; women depend on men because of
both their desires and their needs.
We would survive more easily
without them than they would without us.”
I mean me, man.
This is of course straight
silly, right? I was widowed for awhile.
I know how much more difficult
it is for a man to survive without a woman than for a woman
to survive without a man. Well and then he goes on:
“Almost all little girls learn to read and write with
repugnance. But as far as holding a needle,
that they always learn gladly. Sewing, embroidery and lace
making come by themselves.” So nothing more should be said.
But there are other citations.
Read this one.
And there are some
post-feminists who actually like this Rousseau,
who says men and women should be different.
He said, “Sophie ought to
be a woman as Émile is a man.”
And then he goes further.
He said, “In everything
not connected with sex, woman is a man.”
In some ways he’s formulating
the idea of the gender. Right?
Gender equality,
sexual differences; that’s what he said.
The problem is if women try to
look sex-wise like they were men.
That’s, I think,
an interesting idea. And then he said,
“Everything men and women have in common belongs to the
species, the human species,
and everything which distinguishes them belongs
simply to sexual differences.”
And then he said,
“In the union of sexes each contributes equally to the
common aim, but not in the same way.”
Well I will suspect that most
of you will see him as a sexist. But some of you may actually
see the points what he’s making in this last set of quotations.
Thank you.

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