Rousseau Jean-Jacques – Émile or From Education (books III to V)
Rousseau Jean-Jacques – Émile or De l’Éducation (books III to V): Published in 1762, the same year as the Contrat Social, Émile is the “fictitious exposition of an ideal education” *, which echoes the philosophical theses of the author. Emile, from a wealthy family, is educated in the countryside, in isolation, far from the corrupting influence of society. His preceptor, spokesman for the philosopher, lavishes on him a free and tailor-made education which makes a large part of the senses and the experience. Taking the opposite of traditional pedagogy, he banned all books, except that of Nature, in contact with which the young child will harden his body and develop a practical intelligence of the world (Books I & II, publication BNR of 30.10.2014 ).
In books III to V that we propose here, Émile, at 12 (book III), learns to decipher nature, draws his first lessons in geography, physics and astronomy and learns a manual occupation. Then the approach of puberty (Book IV) becomes the signal of its opening to the world and the study of history. It is high time to give Émile a religious education. It will be the famous profession of faith of the Vicar Savoyard, whose theses, deeply subversive, earned the philosopher virulent condemnations, both in France and Geneva. Book V (Sophie or the woman) corresponds to the social and amorous initiation. Rousseau takes the opportunity to address the theme of education of girls he rejects, the worst scourge being according to him, the woman of spirit. Sophie will remain ignorant and will confine herself to obediently fulfilling her double destiny of wife and mother. But before allowing Émile to marry, his preceptor takes him on a two-year journey during which they study the infinite variations of the social pact. On his return, Émile married Sophie, but did not reach the autonomy of the adult. Learning that he is going to be a father, he begs his governor to stay with him to guide him and raise his future children: “as long as I live,” he cries, “I will need you”.
A controversial and controversial work because of its profound originality and its religious skepticism, Émile knew a great stir. He was enthusiastically welcomed by his generation, especially by the women of high society who saw in Rousseau “the craftsman of the liberation and happiness of the child” **. Admittedly, written in 1762, many advances in the pedagogy, psychology or physiology of the child are ignored. Certainly, the limits of Jean-Jacques Rousseau are perceptible. But we want to emphasize the astonishing intuitions and its revolutionary aspect in his time, which earned him, besides, many critics. Since then, despite its inconsistencies and paradoxes, Émile has inspired many educational reform movements and is still, today, an essential reference in the field of children’s pedagogy. (* Jacques Berchtold, “A diptych instruction on the right judgment: Rousseau Judge Jean-Jacques, complement of the Emile”, in Educate according to nature.) 16 studies on Emile Rousseau, under the direction of Claude Habib (Paris , Desjonquières 2012), 188. ** Peter Jimack, Rousseau: Emile (London, Grant and Cutler 1983), 46 (translation).