Breaking Down the DBQ – 8 Steps to Success
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Breaking Down the DBQ – 8 Steps to Success

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Nombre de lectures 18
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"Rousseau on the Conflict between 'Human' and 'Civic' Education"

My aim in this paper is to give a brief account of the principles underlying the
educational regimen that Rousseau sets out in the most unwieldy and most neglected of his
philosophical texts, Emile. In doing so, I am interested less in issues in the philosophy of
education than in the implications Emile's education has for Rousseau's political philosophy,
and especially for his understanding of how the good of citizenship fits into human flourishing
more generally. The argument I construct develops out of a critique of the widely held view
that Rousseau's two positive philosophical works, Emile and the Social Contract, are informed by
conflicting and irreconcilable conceptions of human flourishing, ideals that (in Emile) are
denoted by the terms homme and citoyen. Implicit in the view I am arguing against is the idea
1that both 'man' and 'citizen' represent genuinely worthy, perhaps even equally worthy, ideals
and that--since the two ideals are fundamentally incompatible--realizing one is possible only at
the expense of the other. On this view, the human condition is such that it is possible to achieve
either the goods of citizenship or those associated with being a man but not both; or, what is
more likely, the human condition is marked by a radical Entzweiung, or bifurcation, in which
individuals are continually torn between two opposing identities--man and citizen--that defy
reconciliation. My principal claim in this paper is that for Rousseau these two ideals are not
inherently incompatible and that demonstrating this is a central concern of the philosophical
project carried out in Emile and the Social Contract. In fact, I shall argue, Rousseau's position is
stronger than this. For a careful reading of these texts reveals that the ideals of man and citizen
are not just compatible but (in a certain sense) mutually dependent: under the conditions of

1 In the various drafts of this paper I have gone back and forth between 'man' and 'human being' as the
translation of homme. Although I have finally opted for the former, I remain conscious of two main
advantages of the latter. First, as we use the terms today, 'human being' comes closer than 'man' to
capturing what Rousseau intends by homme (at least here, when he is distinguishing man from citizen).
Second, the philosophical tension I examine here does not depend--or so I would argue--on homme being
a gendered concept. I'm happy to talk more about this issue in discussion. 2
modern civilization [just dependence?], "men" can exist only if they are also citizens, and,
conversely, citizens (of a legitimate republic) must at the same time be constituted as "men."

Distinguishing men from citizens
First, it is necessary to say a few words about the concepts 'man' and 'citizen' and to
explain why it might seem that they represent irreconcilable ideals. The main piece of evidence
2in support of the interpretation I am arguing against is Rousseau's apparently unambiguous
declaration at the beginning of Emile that educators must choose between "two contrary forms
of instruction:" domestic (or private) education, which forms children into men, and civic (or
3public) education, which makes them into citizens (E, 39-42/OC 4, 248-52). After
distinguishing three possible sources of education--nature, things, and men--Rousseau goes on
to ask:
what is to be done when our [different educations] are opposed? When,
instead of raising a man for himself, one wants to raise him for others?
Then their harmony is impossible. Forced to combat nature or the social
institutions, one must choose between making a man or a citizen, for one
cannot make both at the same time (E, 39/OC 4, 248; emphasis added).

This passage makes clear that the distinction between domestic and civic education turns on
their having not different sources but different goals. (With respect to their source--to who or
what does the teaching--both count as education by men.) In specifying the goals of these
educations, Rousseau characterizes the ideal of the man in a variety of ways, but the most
important of these--the one I'll focus on here--finds expression in his talk of a man's existing "for

2 The locus classicus of this interpretation is Judith N. Shklar's Men and Citizens (London: Cambridge
University Press, 1969).
3 'E' refers to Emile, or on Education, trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1979); 'OC 4' refers to vol.
4 of Oeuvres Complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la
Pléiade, 1959-69). Other abbreviations I use are: DI, for Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality
among Men, in The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings, trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997), 111-222; LWM, for Letters Written from the Mountain, in The Collected
Writings of Rousseau, trans. Judith R. Bush and Christopher Kelly (Hanover, N. H.: University Press of
New England, 2001), vol. 9, 131-306; PE, for Discourse on Political Economy, in The Social Contract and Other
Later Political Writings, trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 3-38;
and SC for The Social Contract, ibid, 39-152 (with 'SC, I.4.vi' referring to book 1, chapter 4, paragraph 6). 3
himself," in contrast to the citizen, who exists "for others." Since it is not immediately obvious
what this distinction amounts to, I cite Rousseau's elaboration of it in full:
Natural man exists entirely for himself. He is a numerical unity, the
absolute whole that exists in relation only to itself . . . . Civil man is
merely a fractional unity dependent on the denominator; his value is
found in his relation to the whole, which is the social body. Good social
institutions are those that best know how to denature man, to take his
absolute existence from him in order to give him a relative one and
transport the I into the common unity, with the result that each
individual believes himself no longer one but a part of the unity and no
longer perceptible (sensible) except within the whole (E39-40/OC 4, 249).

This passage is followed by examples of citizens--of ancient Rome and Sparta--whose common
characteristic, according to Rousseau, is that they thought of themselves first as Romans or
Spartans and only secondarily (or maybe not at all) as individuals: "A citizen of Rome was
neither Caius nor Lucius; he was a Roman; he even loved the country exclusive of himself" (E,
40/OC 4, 249).
The difference between man and citizen, on this formulation, comes down to two related
points. First, men and citizens differ with respect to the kind of self-conception they hold:
citizens think of themselves first and foremost as members of their respective states and
therefore conceive of their own good (or their highest interests) as inseparable from the good of
their state. Men, in contrast, think of themselves first as individuals and, like the inhabitants of
Rousseau's state of nature, conceive of their own good (or highest interest) independently of
their membership in a political association. The second dimension along which the two differ
concerns the source of their sense of value as a self. The citizen "believes himself . . . no longer
perceptible (sensible) except within the whole," which is to say that a citizen of Rome "counts," or
has a sense of himself as valuable, only insofar as he is a Roman, only insofar as he is part of a
whole that he (together with his compatriots) regards as valuable and from which his own
value (as well as that of his compatriots) derives.
Both of these points could be summed up by saying that what characterizes the citizen is
a certain kind of dependence on others, whereas the hallmark of the man is self-sufficiency.
Rousseau makes the same claim when he says that the citizen's existence is "relative" (he 4
conceives of himself and senses his own value only in relation to a larger whole), whereas the
man's existence is "absolute." It is striking, and no coincidence, that these are the same terms
Rousseau uses in the Second Discourse when distinguishing the two forms of self-love--amour
propre and amour de soi-même--that motivate humans and account for the greatest part of their
behavior. (The other human motivator is pity, which, in the Second Discourse at least, is said to
operate independently of both forms of self-love (DI, 127/OC 3, 125-6).) As this repetition of
the two terms suggests, it is impossible to grasp Rousseau's distinction between man and citizen
without first defining the "relative" and "absolute" forms of self-love and understanding how
they figure in each of the two ideals. I shall argue that the most important difference between
man and citizen is a difference in how self-love (in the broadest sense) is configured in each and
that the principal distinction between domestic and civic education comes down to differences
in the formation, or cultivation, of one or both species of self-love.
Rousseau gives his most explicit definition of the two forms of self-love in a crucial note
appended to the Second Discourse:
It's important not to confuse amour propre and amour de soi-même, two
passions very different in their nature and their effects. Amour de soi-même
is a natural sentiment that inclines every animal to attend to its self-
preservation and that, guided by reason and modified by pity, produces
humanity and virtue. Amour propre is but a relative sentiment, artificial and
born in society, that inclines each individual to think more highly of
himself than of anyone else [and] inspires in men all the evils they do to
one another . . . (DI, 218/OC 3, 219).

There are many claims packed into this brief statement, but three are especially relevant here.
First, the two forms of self-love are distinguished in terms of the object, or good, that each
inclines us to seek: amour de soi-même is directed at self-preservation, whereas amour propre is
concerned with judgments of merit and honor, with how highly one is "regarded." A being that
possesses amour propre, then, is moved by the desire "to have a position, to be a part, to count for
something" (E, 160/OC 4, 421); such a being, in other words, feels a need to be esteemed,
admired, or thought valuable (in some respect). 5
Second, amour propre is an inherently social sentiment--it is "born in society"--whereas
amour de soi-même is a sentiment that affects even the (hypothetical) isolated, unsocialized beings
of the original state of nature.
Third, and most important, amour propre is relative, in contrast to the absolute character
of amour de soi-même (E IV, 215/OC 4, 494). 'Relative' here means relative to other subjects, and
amour propre is relative to others in two respects, each of which distinguishes it from amour de
soi-même. First, the good that amour propre seeks is relative, or comparative, in nature; to desire
4esteem is to desire to have a certain standing in relation to the standing of others. In other
words, the esteem that amour propre strives for is what is sometimes called a positional good,
which implies that doing well for myself--finding the esteem I seek--consists in doing well in
relation to (in comparison with) others. This feature of amour propre contrasts with the absolute
(non-relative) character of amour de soi-même in that the value of the goods sought by the latter is
independent of how much or how little of the same is possessed by others. If we think of amour
de soi-même as directed at self-preservation, the point becomes clear: the extent to which my
food, my shelter, and my sleep satisfy my bodily needs is independent of how well those
around me fare with respect to theirs. In the case of amour propre, in contrast, my satisfaction
depends on how the quantity and quality of the esteem I receive from others compares with the
quantity and quality of the esteem they enjoy.
The other respect in which amour propre is relative and amour de soi-même is not is more
important for my project here: amour propre is relative to other subjects in the further sense that,
since the good it seeks is esteem from others, its satisfaction requires--even consists in--the
5opinions of other subjects. Amour propre is relative in this second sense, then, because its aim--
recognition from others--is inherently social in character. Here, too, amour propre contrasts with

4 In distinguishing amour propre from amour de soi-même, Rousseau emphasizes that the former "makes
comparisons" (E, 213/OC 4, 493). Also: "as soon as amour propre has developed, the relative I is constantly
in play, and the young man never observes others without returning to himself and comparing himself
with them. The issue, then, is to know what rank among his fellows he will put himself after having
examined them" (E, 243/OC 4, 534).
5 Rousseau uses this sense of 'relative' at E, 39-40/OC 4, 248-9. It is also implicit at E, 213/OC 4, 493, in
the claim that amour propre demands that others confirm one's comparative judgments regarding oneself. 6
amour de soi-même: since the opinion of one's fellow beings is not constitutive of the goods sought
by amour de soi-même, it does not directly and necessarily tie us to other subjects, as does amour
propre. Of course, in most circumstances, satisfying the needs of self-preservation will also
require, as a means to achieving one's ends, cooperation with others. Even so, the good one
hopes to achieve through such cooperation--if it is truly an end of amour de soi-même--remains
external and hence only contingently related to one's relations to others.
This latter point is important because it illuminates the close connection Rousseau
asserts between "relativity" (or amour propre) and dependence, on the one hand, and between
"absoluteness" (or amour de soi-même) and self-sufficiency, on the other. Amour propre is a
fundamental source of human dependence--for Rousseau it is by far its primary source--because
it furnishes us with desires and needs that in principle cannot be satisfied except with the
cooperation--the affirming, evaluative gaze--of other subjects. In contrast, creatures that lacked
amour propre but were otherwise like us could in principle be self-sufficient since the goods
sought by amour de soi-même are not defined by or necessarily related to the judgments (or other
activities) of others. (This is the main point of Rousseau's sketch of the original state of nature
in Part I of the Second Discourse.)
That Rousseau means to draw some connection between citizenship and amour propre is
plain enough; what is less clear is what this connection is and why he asserts it. Recall that the
main difference between the two forms of education distinguished by Rousseau is a difference
in their endpoints, or goals--specifically, whether their aim is to produce citizens or men. But
what is it to produce a citizen or a man, and how does the formation of amour propre figure in
each? It is reasonable to suppose that, of these two ideals, the former has its source in political
philosophy, which is to say, in speculation about the nature of political association and the
conditions of its existence. This suggests that, for Rousseau, the guiding aim in forming a child
into a citizen is to instill in him the character traits he will need in order for political association
to be possible. Civic education, then, would aim at cultivating the desires, beliefs, and self-
conceptions of individuals in a way that would enable them, once educated, to endorse or 7
affirm their polity's general will, or what is the same, to embrace the good of their political
community--the good of Rome, the good of Sparta--as their own. Domestic education, in
6contrast, would receive its goal from a source outside political philosophy, or independently of
concerns about what political association requires of its members. The first aim of domestic
education would be not to make its charges into bearers of the general will but to form them
into men, the defining characteristic of which is self-sufficiency: a man is exists "for himself"
rather than merely "for others;" his being as a self has a source independent of his membership
in a political body. (Beyond this, being a man includes "being oneself," "acting as one speaks,"
"decisiveness in one's choices," and "sticking to" the choices one makes (E, 40/OC 4, 250); in
addition, 'man' is a universal, cosmopolitan identity, whereas the citizen always identifies with
a particular state.)
Thinking of the aim of civic education in this way helps us to see how citizenship might
be related to amour propre: the latter--or, more precisely, a certain configuration of it--is what
makes citizenship possible for beings (like us) who are first and foremost creatures of self-love.
Being a citizen involves caring deeply enough about one's political community to be able freely-
-and without resentment or regret--to subordinate one's own particular (or "private") good to
the good of the community as a whole. The problem this poses for Rousseau is that human
nature as such--prior to any "artificial" intervention such as education--provides no basis for the
allegiance to a collective good that citizenship requires. Creatures like us, for whom one's
7private good is one's "natural" first concern must be fundamentally re-formed ("denatured,"
according to the passage cited above) if they are to regard themselves first as Romans or
Spartans and to will in accordance with that identity. (Pity, too, belongs to our original nature,
but Rousseau makes clear that it speaks only with a "gentle voice" (DI, 154/OC 3, 156) and that
its power to move us is weak in comparison with self-love in either of its forms.)

6 For now let's call this source moral philosophy, understood as governed by the ideal of individual
autonomy. On this construal, Rousseau's distinction is a forerunner of Hegel's contrast between
Sittlichkeit and Moralität. 8
The idea underlying Rousseau's linking of amour propre with citizenship is that it, not
amour de soi-même, is the form of self-love that renders the basic self-interestedness of humans
compatible with the attitude characteristic of citizens: according greater weight to "our" good
than to my own. A being that is moved by amour propre--by the need to achieve standing in the
eyes of others--can be brought to care about the collective good in a manner consistent with his
own self-love if belonging to the polity and contributing to its good are publicly visible aspects
of a shared form of life through which he establishes, in his own eyes as well as in his
compatriots', his identity and value as (for example) a Roman or a Spartan.
That we are on the right track in understanding Rousseau's point is confirmed by a
series of passages in the Discourse on Political Economy that emphasize the role played by love of
the fatherland (l'amour de la patrie) in motivating citizens to embrace the general will and to
identify the good of the republic with their own. According to these passages, the love of the
fatherland appropriate to citizenship is one in which "this sweet and lively sentiment combines
the force of amour propre with all the beauty of virtue" and thereby "endows virtue with an
energy that . . . makes [love of the fatherland] into the most heroic of all passions" (PE, 16/OC 3,
255). Later, in expanding on the claim that love of the fatherland depends on harnessing the
"force" of amour propre, Rousseau adds that amour propre, when properly habituated, is able to
"draw us out of ourselves," expand the human self (le moi humain), and bring us to care about
the larger good (PE, 21/OC 3, 260). And, in an intervening passage, Rousseau says more about
how, in classical Rome, individuals' amour propre was extended to the republic: for the citizens
of Rome, "respect for the name Roman . . . roused the courage and animated the virtue of
anyone who had the honor to bear it" (PE, 18/OC 3, 257).
The talk of respect and honor that accrue both to citizens and to the republic with which
they identify suggests a picture of how amour propre animates the souls of citizens. On this
picture, citizens win honor not only by distinguishing themselves in their compatriots' eyes

7 This is what it means to say that self-love is the first principle of human nature (DI, 127/OC 3, 125-6.
That self-love (here, amour de soi-même) is first in this sense is made clear at DI, 197/OC 3, 126. 9
through extraordinary acts of public service but also (and primarily) simply by belonging to the
Roman people and participating in its civic life. As described here, citizens of Rome found their
honor in civic life by identifying themselves as members of a social group that itself
commanded their highest respect. To bear the name 'Roman' was an honor for them because of
the respect they had for Rome, and the honor of being called Roman was something they won
by demonstrating, in their deeds, their faithfulness to the civic norms they jointly recognized as
their highest values. Through such conduct they proved themselves to be Romans, and in
establishing their identities as such in reality, they experienced Rome's greatness as their own.
Individuals of this sort are "drawn out of themselves" in that they satisfy their need to have a
standing for others (they win their honor) by embracing and expressing practical identities as
members of a larger political group--identities that consist, in part, in an allegiance to certain
8shared ideals. This civic virtue is at root a phenomenon of amour propre because even though
there is a sense in which the Roman citizen wins honor in his own eyes--he acts on values he
himself endorses, and he achieves, for himself, a kind of satisfaction in doing so--he also
expresses his identity as a Roman publicly, in full view of his like-minded fellow citizens, who
approve of his actions and respect him because of them. (Rousseau's implicit claim is that
9under normal human conditions, winning respect from others--for civic virtue, for example--is
developmentally prior to, and a necessary condition of, winning it in one's own eyes.)

Normative problems posed by the two ideals
That Rousseau acknowledges a moral ideal for humans beyond the one supplied by
political philosophy indicates his appreciation of the serious dangers to human flourishing
intrinsic to the ideal of the citizen. Not surprisingly, these are the same dangers he associates

8 In linking Roman patriotism with amour propre and virtue, Rousseau makes clear that 'Roman' was not
primarily a descriptive title but a normative one: to be a Roman was to have a specific practical identity
that animated one to perform acts of courage and virtue. This type of identification is grounded not in
affection--where citizens desire the collective good because they love their compatriots--but in a normative
stance, an allegiance to the civic values that informed Roman life. 10
with amour propre, or more precisely, with the thoroughgoing dependence on others that amour
10propre necessarily engenders. (Dependence in this context is opposed to self-sufficiency: an
individual is dependent when he has to rely on the cooperation of others in order to satisfy his
needs.) A central insight of Rousseau's moral and political thought is that any form of
dependence carries with it the danger that individuals will be compelled to compromise their
freedom in order to satisfy the needs that impel them to seek the cooperation of others. If
freedom consists in "not being subject to someone else's will" (LWM, 260/OC 3, 841)--or,
11equivalently, in obeying only one's own will --then dependence poses a standing threat to
freedom since it opens up the possibility that in order to get what I need I may have no choice
but to tailor my actions and beliefs to conform to the often arbitrary wills of those on whose
cooperation I rely. When constantly faced with a choice between getting what I need or
following my own will, it will be no surprise if satisfaction frequently wins out over freedom.
The fundamental dependence on the opinions of others that amour propre engenders
poses the same threat to freedom:
Even domination is servile when it is connected with opinion, for you
depend on the prejudices of those you govern by prejudices. To conduct
them as you please, you must conduct yourself as they please. They have
only to change their way of thinking, and you must perforce change your
way of acting (E, 83/OC 4, 308).

Rousseau's thought is that someone who needs recognition from others will regularly be subject
to the temptation to let his actions be dictated by the values and preferences of those whose
recognition he seeks and, so, to determine his will in accordance with their wishes or values
rather than his own. Moreover, the danger to freedom posed by the dependence created by
amour propre is especially acute, for something of great importance is at stake in this passion's
strivings, something one could call the very being of the self (as a moral or spiritual entity). This

9 As opposed to the unrealistic conditions Emile is subjected to, which make it possible for him to
avoid the entanglements of amour propre until puberty (e.g., by being removed from family life).
10 For more on the moral threat posed by dependence, see my Foundations of Hegel's Social Theory
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), chapter 2.
11 This formulation is implicit in Rousseau's statement of the fundamental problem of political
philosophy, which glosses freedom as "obeying only oneself" (SC, I.6.iv).