Rousseau on Education, Freedom, and Judgment

By (author) Denise Schaeffer

Paperback - £26.95

Publication date:

15 January 2016

Length of book:

240 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271062105

In Rousseau on Education, Freedom, and Judgment, Denise Schaeffer challenges the common view of Rousseau as primarily concerned with conditioning citizens’ passions in order to promote republican virtue and unreflective patriotism. Schaeffer argues that, to the contrary, Rousseau’s central concern is the problem of judgment and how to foster it on both the individual and political level in order to create the conditions for genuine self-rule. Offering a detailed commentary on Rousseau’s major work on education, Emile, and a wide-ranging analysis of the relationship between Emile and several of Rousseau’s other works, Schaeffer explores Rousseau’s understanding of what good judgment is, how it is learned, and why it is central to the achievement and preservation of human freedom. The model of Rousseauian citizenship that emerges from Schaeffer’s analysis is more dynamic and self-critical than is often recognized. This book demonstrates the importance of Rousseau’s contribution to our understanding of the faculty of judgment, and, more broadly, invites a critical reevaluation of Rousseau’s understanding of education, citizenship, and both individual and collective freedom.

Rousseau on Education, Freedom, and Judgment is a splendid book. Denise Schaeffer treats an enormously complex question in a way that is simple, elegant, and altogether free of jargon. She first shows how each stage of Emile’s education is always double—meant seriously, but also designed to prepare for its own supersession—and then reveals this educational sequence also at work in Rousseau’s education of his reader. The quite considerable achievement of Schaeffer’s book is to employ the same sequence in her own writing, where the straightforward political issue with which she begins is gradually deepened and gives way to the question of what it is about the human soul that requires this sort of indirect education. Rousseau on Education, Freedom, and Judgment will be regularly read by Rousseau scholars and advanced students, but owing to the accessibility, and really the beauty, of its prose, it will inevitably find its way to a broader audience of students of philosophy and political theory at every level.”

—Michael Davis, Sarah Lawrence College