The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau

By William Boyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE TWO EDUCATIONAL IDEALS

1. The End of Education. --In the Preface to the Emile, Rousseau speaks of education as "the art of forming men" (l'art de former des hommes). The phrase is full of significance. It declares the work of the educator to be the forming of men: that is, giving them some particular form. In the light of the conception of human nature as essentially constituted by "dispositions" to action, which Rousseau gives in the opening sections of the Emile, this idea of education as a process of "forming" is quite intelligible. Following up the implications of his view of human nature, we have to think of man as beginning life with certain indeterminate impulses or strivings, and needing the help of the educator to give these impulses and strivings definite form in particular modes of life which are likely to satisfy the vague needs behind them. "Everything we do not possess at birth that we need when grown up is given us by education.''1 This applies as much to the simplest as to the most complex needs. Take the need of food, for example. If the child is hungry, he is "disposed" to seek food. But the new-born child, unlike the young of many of the animals, has no definite instinct that enables him to find his food for himself. The disposition is there, but all unformed. Even the

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1
Emile, i. 5.

-207-

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