Readings For June 6th

Posted: June 3, 2017 in Readings

Sorry we got so bogged down in the discussion of the midterm and Spinoza today. Normally, I would present the assignment in stages, but we just don’t have time for that in this intensive semester. As for Spinoza, I think we treated him remarkably well. Thanks for being patient and participatory.

Here is a new set of readings. I can’t promise we will get to Rousseau, because we still need to discuss Locke and Vico. But I will do my very best to cover all these readings next Tuesday.

OK, see you very soon.


Giambattista Vico
(1668 – 1744)
“On The Study Methods of Our Time” (1709)


Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1712 – 1778)
Emile: or, On Education (1762)

  1. Nick Coleman says:

    Unfortunately, Rousseau reminds me tremendously of Steve Bannon. Both watched as their father was either forced to flee a country (Rousseau), or subjected to financial instability (Bannon). Nonetheless, it seems like their unstable childhoods, juxtaposed with the opulence of a greedy societies, made their personal opinion’s much more extreme. Unrelated to the reading, but it’s an intriguing correlation.

    • Rousseau is not an easy person to discuss once all the hidden baggage comes out. Apparently, you did your background reading, which is perfectly commendable. While Rouse the man turns out to be a bit of a disappointment, to say the least, Rousseau the thinker undeniably exerted an enormous influence on Wester ideas, politics, and education. As I read him, I try to ignore neither the bad or good, but rather to get the most complete possible portrait of a highly complex and conflicted individual.

  2. Cal Pape says:

    I think that Vico’s comparison of ancient learning styles with their contemporary counterparts is quite intriguing. He pointed out a few flaws in our current education structure. I think yet another shortcoming in our modern education system is a lack of emphasis on teamwork. The ability to work with other people is vital if one wants to make the world a better place. A good example of this phenomenon is the medical field. When constructing an advanced medical device, one must have engineers to construct it. Medical experts must ensure its usefulness. Accountants are required to make it fiscally possible. Salespeople are necessary in order to distribute it.
    In our current collegiate system, one doesn’t come into contact with people outside of their field of study often enough to learn to work with others in a collegiate setting. It would be beneficial to begin building this skill in one’s collegiate career.

    • What you say about teamwork is very important. You’ll notice, as we get into Vico tomorrow, that the kind of education he recommends is virtually unobtainable in isolation. The Vicoean view of knowledge, education, and action is highly social.

  3. Anurag Tripathy says:

    After the Rousseau readings, I was compelled to re-read some of the works of Marx and Engels and I can be some very minor, subtle references to to the philosophy of Rousseau. I found it interesting that while both groups recognized the existence of different freedoms/wills, but I think where they would disagree is whether individual freedom should supersede the collective will of the society. Rousseau himself states that “the renunciation of freedom is contrary to human nature and that to renounce freedom in favour of another person’s authority is to “deprive one’s actions of all morality”. (This is from the reading).

    • I don’t don’t know of anywhere Marx directly mentions Rousseau, but it would be inconceivable that the German never read the Swiss. As you suggest, for Marx human freedom is to be found in collective endeavor, not isolated individualism. Rousseau clearly values egalitarian social relations as well. The great difference would be that the social relations which Rousseau saw as self-evidently natural, Marx instead saw as entirely history. One of the prime examples of this would be the nuclear family, which Rousseau would champion, while Marx and Engels would subject that institution to intense criticism.

  4. A. Anderson says:

    At least in the early part of Rousseau’s writing on education, I see a complaint that I still hear today- that children are being coddled and not allowed to reach their potential. The fact that the same complaint we here today is being voiced centuries ago reminds me of something I have seen- I will post a link to it when I get the chance.

  5. Please do share when you are able.

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