Locke’s Children? Rousseau and the Beans of the Colonial Learner

Studies in Philosophy and Education 33 (5):463-480 (2014)


Rousseau’s story about Emile having his first moral lesson in property rights by planting beans in a garden plot has educationally been discussed from various perspectives. What remains unexplored in such readings, however, is the connection of the theory of the natural learner with the Lockean rationalization of appropriation of land through cultivation. We will show that this connection forms the subtext of the ‘beans’ episode and grounds the rich and complex textual operations that give to the episode a strong political character. The aim is to unearth the common, colonial cause that the ideas of the natural learner, property as original relation to land and contractuality may make in Locke-inspired, early modern pedagogy and to explore the ambivalences in Rousseau’s text that are thus created

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