Extending Nature: Rousseau on the Cultivation of Moral Sensibility

  • Annette PierdziwolEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 29)


When in the Emile Rousseau declares that his goal is “to form the man of nature” he makes clear that by this he does not have in mind some naïve return to “the depths of the woods.” Instead, his text offers a nuanced vision of this task of formation, which rests on a unique model of the relation between nature and normativity. After examining this model, I proceed to a reconsideration of Rousseau’s well-known diatribes against society for its role in fashioning the distorted moral sensibilities of his contemporaries. Here I focus in particular on his perceptive insight into what accounts for the terrible success of society’s educational method, namely, the way it targets the full gamut of our intellectual, affective and imaginative capacities. I then show how Rousseau seeks to offer a sentimental education to rival this in which Emile is given bodily practice at seeing, feeling and responding to a very different set of impressions. Finally, I explore how Rousseau’s constant emphasis on the difficulties involved in managing such a program bring to the fore his view of the cultivation of moral sensibility as a complex art.


Natural Sociality Moral Sensibility Moral Cultivation Moral Perception Bodily Practice 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Advanced Studies in the HumanitiesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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