The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau

By William Boyd | Go to book overview

PREFACE

ROUSSEAU is a man about whom it is almost impossible to write with perfect detachment. When in the flesh he excited the most violent feelings of love or of hate in all who came in contact with him, and even after a century and a half he tempts the reader of his works to the same partisanship in milder forms. At the moment I cannot remember a single important writing on his life or his doctrines which does not betray some bias either for or against him. Personally I cannot lay claim to the spirit of neutrality which others lack, and I have no desire to do so. My interpretation of his view of life is based on a discriminating but firm faith in the essential nobility of the man and in the greatness of his thought. I believe, further, that the Emile with all its faults is the most profound modern discussion of the fundamentals of education, the only modern work of the kind worthy to be put alongside the Republic of Plato. This appreciation, however, must not be taken to imply discipleship on my part. I certainly am in agreement with Rousseau in all that is most vital in educational philosophy, but the extent of my disagreement is almost as great as the extent of my agreement. I am only a disciple in the sense that I have learned and continue to learn a great deal from him. Whether agreeing or disagreeing, I have found no other thinker on educational questions

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