An essay on the principles of Rousseau's anthropology

Philosophy and Social Criticism 26 (2):51-77 (2000)
Abstract
Against the impression that Rousseau is an eclectic thinker, this paper is an attempt to reconstruct the systematic core of his anthropology. First, I discuss the methodological starting-point. Second, I develop the structural framework required to make the concept of nature operative as an ideal within social contexts. Finally, I interpret Rousseau's genetic account in terms of this framework. Such a procedure allows me to solve two interpretative problems, the aporia of the origin of wickedness and the question of man's natural isolation. A twofold notion of logic is introduced to integrate the demands of history and structure, which overlap with those of freedom and necessity in Rousseau's thought. This organizes my argument in a mirror-like way. I call this undertaking an essay, for it is the endeavor to think what Rousseau must have thought in order to write what he wrote. Key Words: amour de soi • amour propre • bourgeois • ego sentio • human make-up • human nature • natural as ideal • other-centered • savage • self-centered • totalities of feeling • totalities of needs.
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