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The Divine Instinct? Rousseau and Conscience

Jonathan Marks
The Review of Politics
Vol. 68, No. 4 (Fall, 2006), pp. 564-585
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20452825
Page Count: 22
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The Divine Instinct? Rousseau and Conscience
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Abstract

Political theorists have long disagreed about what Rousseau's account of conscience means. While most approaches to that account focus on the "Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar," this essay focuses on another aspect of "Emile," the development of conscience in Emile himself. First, I argue that conscience is transformed from problem to solution when self-love is transformed, first into gratitude, then, with the aid of religion, rhetoric, and imagination, into duty. Those who insist that conscience is rooted in passion are right, though that passion is not necessarily low. Second, those who argue that Rousseau's teaching on conscience, as set forth in the "First Discourse" and elsewhere, is a salutary untruth are right. Emile's conscience shouts "virtue!" not because conscience always does so in uncorrupted souls once they enter the moral world but because it has had voice lessons from Emile's governor, who makes liberal use of illusion and rhetoric.

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