Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press
Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition

Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition

by Frederick NeuhouserFrederick Neuhouser


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This book is the first comprehensive study of Rousseau's rich and complex theory of the type of self-love (amour propre ) that, for him, marks the central difference between humans and the beasts. Amour propre is the passion that drives human individuals to seek the esteem, approval, admiration, or love—the recognition —of their fellow beings. Neuhouser reconstructs Rousseau's understanding of what the drive for recognition is, why it is so problematic, and how its presence opens up far-reaching developmental possibilities for creatures that possess it. One of Rousseau's central theses is that amour propre in its corrupted, manifestations—pride or vanity—is the principal source of an array of evils so widespread that they can easily appear to be necessary features of the human condition: enslavement, conflict, vice, misery, and self-estrangement. Yet Rousseau also argues that solving these problems depends not on suppressing or overcoming the drive for recognition but on cultivating it so that it contributes positively to the achievement of freedom, peace, virtue, happiness, and unalienated selfhood. Indeed, Rousseau goes so far as to claim that, despite its many dangers, the need for recognition is a condition of nearly everything that makes human life valuable and that elevates it above mere animal existence: rationality, morality, freedom—subjectivity itself—would be impossible for humans if it were not for amour propre and the relations to others it impels us to establish.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199542673
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/15/2008
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Frederick Neuhouser received his PhD in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1988 and has held teaching positions at Harvard University, University of California, and Cornell University. He is currently Professor of Philosophy and Viola Manderfeld Professor of German at Barnard College, Columbia University and Affiliate Scholar at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training, Columbia University. He is the author of two earlier books, Fichte's theory of Subjectivity (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Actualizing Freedom: Foundations of Hegel's Social Theory (Harvard University Press, 2000).

Table of Contents

I. Defining Human Nature
1. The Nature of Amour Propre
II. Diagnosis
2. The Dangers of Amour Propre
3. The Varieties of Inflamed Amour Propre
4. Why Is Inflamed Amour Propre So Common?
III. Prescription
5. Social and Domestic Remedies
IV. Curing the Malady with Its Own Resources
6. The Standpoint of Reason
7. The Role of Amour Propre in Forming Rational Subjects

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