Emile: Or, on Education

By Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Allan Bloom | Go to book overview

BOOK I

EVERYTHING is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of the man. He forces one soil to nourish the products of another, one tree to bear the fruit of another. He mixes and confuses the climates, the elements, the seasons. He mutilates his dog, his horse, his slave. He turns everything upside down; he disfigures everything; he loves deformity, monsters. He wants nothing as nature made it, not even man; for him, man must be trained like a school horse; man must be fashioned in keeping with his fancy like a tree in his garden.

Were he not to do this, however, everything would go even worse, and our species does not admit of being formed halfway. In the present state of things a man abandoned to himself in the midst of other men from birth would be the most disfigured of all. Prejudices, authority, necessity, example, all the social institutions in which we find ourselves submerged would stifle nature in him and put nothing in its place. Nature there would be like a shrub that chance had caused to be born in the middle of a path and that the passers-by soon cause to perish by bumping into it from all sides and bending it in every direction.

It is to you that I address myself, tender and foresighted mother,*1

____________________
*
The first education is the most important, and this first education belongs incontestably to women; if the Author of nature had wanted it to belong to men, He would have given them milk with which to nurse the children. Always speak, then, preferably to women in your treatises on education; for, beyond the fact that they are in a position to watch over it more closely than are men and always have greater influence on it, they also have much more interest in its success, since most widows find themselves almost at the mercy of their children; then their children make mothers keenly aware, for good or ill, of the effect of the way they raised their children. The laws--always so occupied with property and so little with persons, because their object is peace not virtue--do not give enough authority to mothers. However, their status is more certain than that of fathers; their duties are more painful; their cares are more important for the good order of the family; generally they are more attached to the children. There are occasions on which a son who lacks respect for his father can in some way be excused. But if on any occasion whatsoever a child were unnatural enough to lack respect for his mother--for her who carried him in her womb, who nursed him with her milk, who for years forgot herself in favor

-37-

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Emile: Or, on Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction 3
  • Conclusion 28
  • Preface 33
  • Book I 37
  • Book II 77
  • Book III 165
  • Book IV 211
  • Book V 357
  • Notes 481
  • Index 497
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