Dissertation, Harvard University (2018)

Byron Davies
Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is often associated with a certain political form of relating to another as a person, where a person is seen as a locus of enforceable demands. Nevertheless, as I argue in this dissertation, Rousseau also articulated an affective form of relating to another, where relating to another as a person in this sense involves seeing them as a locus of a kind of value that cannot be demanded. I consider the significance of this affective form for Rousseau’s understanding of the passion he calls amour-propre, as well for his understanding of domination and of the connection between the political and affective realms. Following an introductory chapter, I argue in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 that, against received readings of Rousseau, there is something intrinsically good about being subject to amour-propre in that this passion makes salient to us others’ personhood. In Chapter 4 I consider one way in which the characteristic pathology of the affective realm is the appearance of demands in it. I show how, in a certain kind of domination, the dominator acknowledges the affective personhood of the dominated and at the same time, by treating the dominated’s consideration as the sort of value that can be extracted, is in violation of the very conditions of that acknowledgment. In Chapter 5 I outline Rousseau’s understanding of the connection between the political and affective forms of relating to another by arguing that Rousseau introduces the former as an essential part of the egalitarian measures he proposes for eliminating the necessity of entering relationships of domination. I then contrast Rousseau’s understanding of the connection between the political and the affective realms with contemporary Kantian accounts that condense political and affective phenomena into a single conception of a person. In Appendix 1 I consider the kind of dependence on another person involved in speaking to them. I discuss how that dependence is made apparent when we are insulted in not being believed, and I compare the views of Rousseau and Adam Smith regarding that kind of insult. Finally, in Appendix 2 I bring Rousseau’s notion of acknowledging another as a person to bear on an interpretation of the work of the Spanish filmmaker Víctor Erice.
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