Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love

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

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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 292 pages
  • 157 x 234 x 23mm | 474g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0199592055
  • 9780199592050
  • 821,248

Table of contents

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Review quote

Review from previous edition Exemplary...Neuhouser offers a novel framing of the issues, makes important contributions on a number of controversial points, and concludes with a bold and original (if also somewhat speculative) development of Rousseau's hints that self-love functions as a condition on the possibility of rationality. * Wayne M. Martin, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * This work does an admirable job of clarifying the central notion of Rousseau's philosophy, amour-propre, by placing it within the context of a theodicy. It is arguably the first comprehensive treatment of Rousseau's theory of amour-propre, or, the desire for recognition in the eyes of other humaan beings...While Neuhouser's book may appeal to philosophers of religion, political theorists, thinkers interested in psychology, and interpersonal communications, it should
appeal to Rousseau scholars especially, It is one of the most nauanced and comprehensive studies of Rousseau's theory of amour-propre available today. His treatment of the theory is persuasive, and he stays true to Rousseau's thought. * Jeff Linz, The Heythrop Journal *
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About Frederick Neuhouser

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).
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