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Rousseau, Nature, and the Problem of the Good Life

Overview

The rise of modern science created a crisis for Western moral and political philosophy, which had theretofore relied either on Christian theology or Aristotelian natural teleology as guarantors of an objective standard for "the good life." This book examines Rousseau's effort to show how and why, despite this challenge from science (which he himself intensified by equating our subhuman origins with our natural state), nature can remain a standard for human behavior.

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Overview

The rise of modern science created a crisis for Western moral and political philosophy, which had theretofore relied either on Christian theology or Aristotelian natural teleology as guarantors of an objective standard for "the good life." This book examines Rousseau's effort to show how and why, despite this challenge from science (which he himself intensified by equating our subhuman origins with our natural state), nature can remain a standard for human behavior.

While recognizing an original goodness in human being in the state of nature, Rousseau knew this to be too low a standard and promoted the idea of "the natural man living in the state of society," notably in Emile. Laurence Cooper shows how, for Rousseau, conscience--understood as the "love of order"--functions as the agent whereby simple savage sentiment is sublimated into a more refined "civilized naturalness" to which all people can aspire.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A philosophical treatise arguing for the centrality of Rousseau's conception of nature in both his anthropological and political thought. Contending that his interpretation differs markedly from the major schools of thought regarding Rousseau, the author argues that nature's prescriptions towards the good life rest upon the qualities of human beings' self-love. Distinguishing from a civilized self-love which seeks preeminence over others, Rousseau argued for a natural self-love that is only motivated by self-preservation and well being. This interpretation is supported by readings from and . Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271029887
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/2006
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurence D. Cooper is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Carleton College.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction: Rousseau and the Question of the Good Life 1
1 The Goodness of All Good Lives 17
Beyond Happiness, or What Makes the Good Life Good 19
The Two Components of the Good Life 30
2 Nature and Human Nature, Part I: What Is Natural? 37
The Fixedness of Man's "Present Nature" 41
Charting the Human Landscape: Two Chasms - One Bridgeable, the Other Not 47
Charting the Human Landscape: Five Human Types, Three Natural Men, One Civilized Savage 51
"What Is Natural in the Savage State" and "What Is Natural in the Civil State" 59
3 Nature and Human Nature, Part II: Emile, or the Naturalization of Second Nature 67
Between Aristotle and Hobbes, Between Plato and Freud: A Word on Rousseau's Distinctiveness 69
Sublimation in Rousseau: Conscience as Alchemist 80
What Else Is Natural, and Why 105
4 The Problem of Self-Love 115
The Stakes 119
Amour-Propre's Inevitability 120
Amour-Propre's Ambiguity 122
Amour-Propre's Influence on Character and Behavior 130
What Amour-Propre Is and How It Arises 136
Answers and Rebuttals: An Attempt at Dialectic 137
The Birth of Amour-Propre 150
How Much Amour-Propre, and What Kind? Gentleness Versus Cruelty, Pride Versus Vanity 160
Beyond Amour-Propre? Prospects and Possibilities 172
5 Critical Reflections on Rousseau's Naturalism 183
A Return to Wholeness 186
The Perils of Rousseau's Naturalism: Some Concluding Reflections 190
Rousseau's Subjectivism and Its Consequences 191
The Denial of Amour-Propre's Naturalness and the Consequences for Our Moral Lives 195
References 209
Index 215
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