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bui 301 final - emile

bui 301 final - emile - Alison Claire Burnette BUI 301 Dr...

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Alison Claire Burnette BUI 301 Dr. John Dorsey December 10, 2008 To Educate or Not to Educate… Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a prominent 18 th century philosopher, provides an account of how he would educate a child in Emile or On Education. Rousseau, whose radical ideas influenced the French Revolution, describes the education of an imaginary student from infancy to adulthood. He proposes a new kind of education, which he hopes will produce a new kind of man – one that is not corrupted by the pressures of civil society. Rousseau brings up the imaginary student in the countryside, where he believes humans are most naturally suited, rather than in a city, where humans tend to fall captive to the pressures of society. Rousseau strongly believes that the goal of education should be to learn to live righteously, with morals and virtue. Therefore, Rousseau raises Emile, his imaginary student, according to nature. With an education according to nature, Rousseau hopes that Emile can obtain the independence and happiness that the natural man lost when he entered civilized society. According to Rousseau, only the natural man is virtuous. Because he lives in accordance with nature and the laws that govern nature, the natural man is forced to learn the limitations that nature imposes on him. He must learn the differences between what he desires and what he needs. Nature will not allow him to live with excess – he can only obtain the bare minimum for survival. The natural man, who sees himself as a part of nature, understands the constraints of nature. He strives only for his self-preservation.
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Therefore, by not striving for more than he needs, he portrays the quality of virtue. In the sense that nature is the only constraint on man, man is free to do what is required of him to survive. Rousseau demonstrates virtue to Emile by denying them both the usual comforts of society. Through this limitation of desires, they gain strength. Rousseau believes that virtue is a good that can only be earned. The strength it takes to suppress one’s desires is the very essence of what Rousseau means by virtue. To demonstrate this concept to Emile, Rousseau supposes that he and Emile go to dine at a financier’s house, where they “find preparations for a feast – many people, many lackeys, many dishes, an elegant and fine table service” (pg.190). Rousseau continues to compare that fine meal with “a simple, rustic dinner, prepared by exercise, seasoned by hunger, freedom, and joy” (pg. 191). Rousseau and Emile left both dinner tables with satisfied stomachs – “nothing more in one than in the other that he could truly call his own” (pg. 191).
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