Rousseau and Desire

Rousseau and Desire

MARK BLACKELL
JOHN DUNCAN
SIMON KOW
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442685376
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  • Book Info
    Rousseau and Desire
    Book Description:

    Rousseau and Desireis the first examination of the eighteenth-century philosopher's conceptualization of desire in relation to his understanding of modernity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8537-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Rousseau, Desire, and Modernity
    (pp. 3-14)
    MARK BLACKELL, JOHN DUNCAN and SIMON KOW

    Eloquently written and passionately argued, Rousseau’s work explores, among other things, the depths of the modern self. In his personal life and autobiographical reflections, as well as in his political philosophy and literary writing, Rousseau was attuned to the roles that desire plays in the formation of the self and in social and political reality. Rousseau’s wide and continuing appeal to scholars and laypersons alike is in large measure due to the fact that he can be read as expressing deep concerns about aspects of modern life, while also providing profound criticism of the Enlightenment and of modern society more...

  5. PART ONE: FROM THE STANDARD OF NATURAL INDEPENDENCE TO THE CHALLENGES OF BOURGEOIS CAPITALISM
    • 1 Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality
      (pp. 17-45)
      JOHN DUNCAN

      In a brief discussion in theDiscourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men(1755), Rousseau advances the view that human beings are distinguished from other animals by free agency. Although it would be appealing to use this discussion to interpret the major argument of theDiscourse on Inequality, Rousseau himself blocks such an interpretation. Perfectibility – not free agency – drives the text’s major argument, which, advanced via an account of the logic of historical transformation, is that the basic moral and political standard of human existence is nothing other than natural individual independence. Rousseau begins with the three...

    • 2 An Alternative to Economic Man: The Limitation of Desire in Rousseau’s Emile
      (pp. 46-61)
      GRACE ROOSEVELT

      ‘The felicity of this life,’ argues Thomas Hobbes at the end of part I of his great work,Leviathan, ‘is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another, the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter.’ The cause of this restless movement, Hobbes goes on to say, is that ‘the object of man’s desire is not to enjoy once only and for one instant of time, but to assure forever the way of his future desires.’²

      As is well known to students of political theory, the insatiable human desires and fears that...

    • 3 Rousseau’s Mandevillean Conception of Desire and Modern Society
      (pp. 62-82)
      SIMON KOW

      In a letter to theEdinburgh Review, Adam Smith remarked the following:

      ... the second volume of theFable of the Beeshas given occasion to the system of Mr. Rousseau, in whom however the principles of the English author are softened, improved, and embellished, and stript of all that tendency to corruption and licentiousness which has disgraced them in their original author.¹

      Smith represented Rousseau as a sort of purified Mandevillean. Indeed, there are remarkable parallels in the accounts of bourgeois society in Mandeville’sFable of the Bees(1723–8) and Rousseau’sDiscourse on Inequality(1755), particularly the multiplication of...

  6. PART TWO: DESIRE AND THE PROBLEM OF OTHERS IN MODERNITY
    • 4 Desire and Will: The Sentient and Conscious Self in Locke and Rousseau
      (pp. 85-103)
      VASILIKI GRIGOROPOULOU

      In Plato’sPhilebus, Philebus argues that the good for us is the plenitude of pleasure. Socrates in turn counters that ‘intelligence (nouς)’ is a far better thing for a person’s life than pleasure. The dilemma that Plato’s dialogue focuses on persists. Does a life that is a blend of intelligence and pleasure owe its goodness primarily to the presence of reason, or to the presence of pleasant feeling?¹ Can the decisions of our will, in so far as they are conditioned by our desires, be moral, or do they require the fundamental intervention of reason, which means a way of...

    • 5 Openings that Close: The Paradox of Desire in Rousseau
      (pp. 104-116)
      KATRIN FROESE

      The Western tradition since Plato and Aristotle has often upheld a rare-fied vision of thought and philosophy in which they are suspended above the world of becoming and nature. In such a universe, desire cannot help but be the enemy of philosophy, and it is viewed with much suspicion. It represents an attachment to a transient world and is thus bound to generate conflict and turbulence within the soul, distracting it from its ultimate quest for a purified truth. A desiring soul is seen as a lost soul. Philosophers especially are to rise above or sublimate desire, for if they...

    • 6 Rousseau, Constant, and the Political Institutionalization of Ambivalence
      (pp. 117-138)
      MARK BLACKELL

      Benjamin Constant admired Rousseau’s critique of the artificial needs of modern society and the loss of spontaneous, authentic feeling that emerges from such needs. He also admired Rousseau as the ‘first to make sense of our own rights popular.’¹ At the same time, he was highly critical of the illiberality of Rousseau’s insistence on the absolute identity of individual and general will. Living in the aftermath of the terror and in the midst of Napoleon’s reign, Constant was aware of the manner in which the non-divisible power of the general will too easily became embodied in some agent in political...

  7. PART THREE: SEX, KIDS, LOVE, AND THE CITY
    • 7 ‘The Pleasures Associated with the Reproduction of Men’: Rousseau on Desire and the Child
      (pp. 141-164)
      BRIAN DUFF

      The first thing Jean-Jacques Rousseau ever did was kill his mother. Of course he could know nothing about it at the time, and intention is never an issue with new-borns. But the occasionally maudlin sentiments of Rousseau’s father, Isaac, ensured that the son would feel the loss deeply.

      He believed he saw her again in me, without being able to forget that I deprived him of her; he never hugged me without me feeling from his sighs, from his convulsive embraces, that a bitter regret was mixed with his caresses ... ‘Ah!’ he said moaning, ‘Give her back to me,...

    • 8 Politics in/of the City: Love, Modernity, and Strangeness in the City of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
      (pp. 165-186)
      MIRA MORGENSTERN

      Many philosophers have traditionally relegated the consideration of desire to one or another specific area of human interests, viewing desire alternately as either the bane or the delight of human existence. For Rousseau, by contrast, the energy of desire manifests itself in every facet of life, ranging from the personal to the political. In characterizing desire as the central dynamic in all human relations, Rousseau evaluates desire as a complex element, changing and itself being altered by the structures of human existence with which it interacts. Thus, for Rousseau, the essence of desire is complicated by the interaction that it...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-194)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 195-198)
  10. Index
    (pp. 199-206)