|[a] Cosmolobeans RF|
And, just for the record, regular readers probably already know that I will post the actual lectures not long after they have been given. This week's posts focus on the preparation process, and tackling Allan Bloom's arguments should get your blood pumping. Today's text comes from the introduction to Bloom's translation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's educational and cultural classic, Emile. Few things are more authentic than rage, and Emile's tutor, Jean-Jacques, steers his pupil to and from it as the little boy learns about living as natural man in civil society.
|[b] Natural (gingerbread) Man RF|
The implications form one of the most potent arguments ever made about human nature, and it boils down to beans, cookies, nature, and authenticity.
Introduction to Rousseau's Emile
Allan Bloom (1979)
The difference between Plato and Rousseau on this crucial point comes down to whether anger is natural or derivative. Rousseau says that a child who is not corrupted and wants a cookie will never rebel against the phrase, "There are no more," but only against, "You cannot have one." Plato insists that this is not so. Men naturally see intention where there is none and must become wise in order to separate will from necessity in nature. They do, however, agree that thymos is an important part of the spiritual economy, and that, once present, it be treated with the greatest respect. Herein they differ from Hobbes, who simply doused this great cause of war with buckets of fear, in the process extinguishing the soul's fire. Rousseau gives a complete account of pride and its uses and abuses, whereas other modern psychologists have either lost sight of it or tried to explain it away. Our education does not take it seriously, and we risk producing timid souls or ones whose untrained spiritedness is wildly erratic and seeks dangerous outlets.
|[c] Sown RF|
Rousseau demonstrates this method in a story that shows how he improves on earlier moral teachings. He puts his Emile in a garden where there are no nos, no forbidden fruit, and no Fall, and tries to show that in the end his pupil will be healthy, whole, and of a purer morality than the old Adam. He gets Emile to respect the fruit of another without tempting him.
|[d] Melon...no RF|
Once the child has a clear notion of what belongs to him, he is given his first experience of injustice. One day he finds that his beans have been plowed under. And therewith he also has his first experience of anger, in the form of righteous indignation. He seeks the guilty party with the intention of punishing him. His selfish concern is identical with his concern for justice. But much to his surprise, Emile finds that the criminal considers himself to be the injured party and is equally angry with him. It is the gardener, and he had planted seeds for melons—melons that were to be eaten by Emile—and Emile had plowed under those seeds to plant his beans. Here we have will against will, anger against anger. Although Emile's wrath loses some of its force—inasmuch as the gardener has an even better claim to have right on his side (he was the first occupant), and this according to the very notion of right which Emile uses and which he so eagerly imbibed from Jean-Jacques—the situation could lead to war.
|[e] Relevant RF|
It is this latter that constitutes the morality of the natural man and also that of the wise man (according to Rousseau). It takes the place of the Christian's Golden Rule...Man's goodness is identical to his natural freedom (of body and soul) and equality...
The moral education of the young Emile is, then, limited to the effective establishment of the rule that he should harm no one. And this moral rule cooperates with the intellectual rule that he should know how to be ignorant. This latter means that only clear and distinct evidence should ever command belief. Neither passions nor dependencies should make him need to believe. All his knowledge should be relevant to his real needs, which are small and easily satisfied. In a sense, Rousseau makes his young Emile an embodiment of the Enlightenment's new scientific method. His will to affirm never exceeds his capacity to prove. For others that method is only a tool, liable to the abuses of the passions and counterpoised by many powerful needs. All this is described in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. But to Emile, whose only desire is to know and live according to the necessary, the new science of the laws of nature is a perfect complement. With a solid floor constituted by healthy senses in which he trusts and a ceiling provided by astronomy, Emile is now prepared to admit his fellows into a structure which their tempestuous passions cannot shake. This fifteen-year-old, who has not unlearned how to die, harms no one, and knows how to be ignorant, possesses a large share of the Socratic wisdom.
|[f] Tempestuous RF|