The aesthetic dimensions of esteem in Rousseau: amour-propre, general will, and general taste

British Journal for the History of Philosophy:1-18 (2022)
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This article reframes the approach to Rousseau in political philosophy and histories of political thought by emphasizing some neglected aesthetic dimensions of amour-propre and the general will. I argue that Rousseau's account of the origins of amour-propre in aesthetic judgment alerts us to his view that the potentially dangerous effects of amour-propre can be mitigated if its 'extension' to others is grounded in an aesthetic appreciation of beauty. This pushes back against the predominant 'revisionist' interpretation of amour-propre in terms of Hegelian 'recognition' or Rawlsian 'social bases of self-respect'. It also clears the ground for my recovery of Rousseau's neglected analogy between the general will and what he called the general taste. I argue that reconstructing the general taste and reconsidering the general will in its light yields a significant argument by analogy: like the general taste, the general will is democratically determined by majority vote, not constrained by transcendent standards.



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Jared Holley
Cambridge University

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