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Emile, or On Education

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  3,993 ratings  ·  265 reviews
Alan Bloom's new translation of Emile, Rousseau's masterpiece on the education and training of the young, is the first in more than seventy years. In it, Bloom, whose magnificent translation of Plato's Republic has been universally hailed as a virtual rediscovery of that timeless text, again brings together the translator's gift for journeying between two languages and cul ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 29th 1979 by Basic Books (first published 1762)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
(966 From 1001 Books) - Émile; or, On Education = Treatise on Education, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Emile, or On Education or Émile, or Treatise on Education is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the "best and most important" of all his writings.

Rousseau's masterpiece on the education and training of the young, is the first in more than seventy years. Readable, and highly engrossing text that at the same time offers
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, philosophy
I recently read Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. In that he said that it was a pity that philosophy had become quite so obsessed with epistemology (worrying about how we think) rather than ethics (worrying about how we can live a good life). Durant saw a time in the not too distant future when philosophy would get over epistemology and become once more a kind of thinking persons self-help club. In many ways this book is a version of ‘how to live a good life’ – no, better, how to educate people ...more
Deborah Markus
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: research
I read this book as research for a writing project of my own. Once finished, I had no idea how I ought to rate it.

There is some brilliant writing here, and I highlighted a lot of eminently quotable passages. Certainly I can understand why the French adore some of Rousseau's ideas about education.

But even if one can get past the irony of Rousseau the child-abandoner writing (in very smug tones!) how the young ought to be raised and educated, there's the little fact that he was sexist above and
Roy Lotz
If all the philosophers in the world should prove that I am wrong, and you feel that I am right, that is all I ask.

My reaction to Rousseau is very similar to my reaction to Thoreau, whose back-to-nature ethic owed much to Rousseau’s philosophy. Though constantly impressed with the breadth of their vision and the force of their rhetoric, I find the personalities of these two men—at least as manifested in their books—to be grating and unpleasant. When I am not underlining brilliant passages, I
John Warner
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: careful readers
Shelves: favoritebooks
this book is difficult to understand and hence easy to dismiss. many of the other reviews bear witness to this in the most immediate way. emile is not an instructional manual on how to educate a child, nor is it a misogynistic tract that insists on the inferiority of women. these suggestions fail to engage this work precisely where it becomes interesting.

Emile is, and was intended to be, the modern equivalent to Plato's Republic. It is a synoptic book, a sustained, comprehensive, and unified ref
David Sarkies
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
The Educated Human
26 January 2016

To say that Rousseau has a low opinion of humanity is an understatement – he absolute despises the corrupting nature of humans and the effect upon the world around them. This is clearly summed up in his opening statement:

God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.

Actually, Rousseau has an interesting view of reality: the world is initially good and people are free however from the moment of birth the corrupting influence of humanity c
Kathryn Cantrell
Jul 19, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: mysoginists?
Please read the last chapter first. If you can accept Rousseau at his most offensive, then maybe you should continue with the rest of the book. Personally, I'm enough of a feminist that I cannot stand this work. I have heard too much praise for this work by so many who haven't finished it (i.e. read Rousseau's treatment of Sophie) that I will refuse to discuss it altogether.

If you're of the "but, gender issues aside" persuasion, you should consider that at the time, there was enough feminist per
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How is it that the same book can at one and the same time be so fascinating and so wrong-headed? The author of Emile indicates that to bring up a child, the parent must be a lifelong tutor -- to the exclusion of any schools or spouses or relatives or anyone else. Rousseau deals with a fictional son named Emile. During the course of the book, he shows his influence from infancy to early marriage.

Perhaps such a controlling type of mentorship was possible only in a rural society; and Rousseau not o
"All children are afraid of masks . I begin by showing Emile the mask of a pleasant face..."

"Remember that, before you venture under taking to form a man, you must have made yourself a man; you must find in yourself the example you ought to offer him."

The Archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont, found this book "dangerous", and a "mischievous work": “it’s irreligion”; the book was burnt by the executioner; Rousseau had to leave Geneva.
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reading this tome was an equally delightful and discomforting one, as a lover of literature, great ideas, and feminist egalitarianism. On one hand, it is obvious that Rousseau was a true visionary (and a master of language). I am truly in awe of what he is trying to accomplish here. As a philosophical exercise of incredible scope, Emile is incredible. I couldn't help but ask myself, "Where are the visionaries of today?"

In another sense, though, it is certainly difficult to swallow Rousseau's mis
Rather loose collection of thoughts about everything, but all in view of the upbringing of an imaginary young man. Very divers level: sometimes downright traditionally (especially in male-female relationship), prude (sexual education), but also progressive (very child focussed, education to liberty, naturalness and especially individuality). Sometimes very boring.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this because it's a key Western canon text on parenting and education. I figured that despite the fact that the author 's personal life was a mess (his biological children ended up in an orphanage) and does not recommend him as an authority, he ought to at least raise interesting questions. It was in fact interesting on a number of levels.

Rousseau emphasizes the concept of raising a child according to nature; this being more like the nature in "natural law," not the nature in "the natura
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
A society is composed of citizens. If you want a strong and virtuous society, you must start at ground zero; with the citizen, with the child. This book by Rousseau is, in my mind, his epic masterpiece(notice I say his masterpiece, not necessarily a philosophic masterpiece, though that argument could be made, I think). This work is an amalgamation of all his best ideas, presented by way of a young boy named Emile. If you could raise a child the 'right way', Rousseau's way, you would have a nat ...more
May Ling
I recognize that this is a classic of Rousseau literature and in many ways it's not bad for its time. But it is very hard for me to swallow, knowing how philosophy has advanced and having had the benefit of Plato's works, which Rousseau may not have had full liberty to, given when Plato was dug up. He is SO held within the structure of his time, which can be seen throughout in his biases and his assumptions on class, race, and gender. Painful to swallow if you are not in the majority on any of t ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Emile, or On Education, is, in general, an educational manifesto; it covers raising a child from infancy to adulthood. It is a sprawling document, with advice on how to teach a child navigation/astronomy, theology, and political philosophy, in that order, as he grows older. There are analogies for his whole life in the simple weaning of the baby, and analogies for the whole nation's life in Emile's simple, modest life. At the very end, it is shown how to rear a perfect suitor for Emile, and how ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oct 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
If we want to produce a good man, how would we go about it? That's the problem that Rousseau presents himself in Emile.

In this lengthy work, no aspect of upbringing is overlooked. Starting with the health of the mother before she gives birth, we follow the course of a boy's life as he becomes a man and marries - all under the tutelage of Rousseau.

The basis of the upbringing is refreshing: a child must be allowed to follow his natural inclinations and do so in a natural setting away from the soci
Sıla J.
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Alright, I may be biased because I regard Rousseau as my chief inspiration (I could build a temple for him and be the high priestess of Rousseauism) but I think it's cruel to cut off everything else he had to say about very important issues such as what is good and what virtue is, politics and governance, and how we should educate children (well, male children) by saying that he was a narrow minded sexist.
Being a bigot means that having problems with progress. One who is a bigot is the one who
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In a course I took, the professor once said that a man had written Rousseau 10 years after he wrote Emile and said that he raised his son identically to how Rousseau raised imaginary Emile. Rousseau wrote back "I feel sorry for you, but more sorry for your son." This book knocked me on my ass... which is what books are supposed to do, yes? Yes. Five stars. ...more
My copy is highlighted up. I highly recommend to all educators. I don't agree with everything and I giggle at his dislike of books, but there is so much I do agree with and learned from. ...more
Dec 09, 2019 added it
Harari calls this “the eighteenth-century bible of feeling,” Wikipedia calls it “an educational treatise on the place of the individual in society.” I had read Rousseau here and there, but it is quite interesting to read him in historical context, as one of the first philosophers of the humanist revolution. Unfortunately, religious dogmas are still alive, and continue to hurt people implicitly and explicitly all over the world, but ironically, and I say that with pleasure, even religious zealots ...more
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
Rousseau had some very strange ideas about how to raise children, and how to teach them things. Wrapping kids in swaddling, controlling every aspect of their environment for an age, and then allowing them to learn through failure. This last was my favorite philosophy, one in which, unlike the children of today, he promoted that children be allowed to hurt themselves when they were at the right age, in order that they should learn how not to do stupid things. When I look at the lame, short, plast ...more
Jul 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Blegh. Just Blegh. Not a fan of Rousseau. When it comes to 17th-18th century philosophers, it's all about John Locke. He is a much more concise and interesting author in my opinion. I blame Rousseau's Frenchness. Lol. Also, the children who were raised according to Rousseau's mandates for Emile turned out horribly. Go figure. ...more
Lauren Albert
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I can't be fair to this book since I dislike Rousseau so intensely. Anyone who has read about him and his life will understand. But I don't agree with his educational philosophy and I don't like when fiction is used solely to hammer in someone's philosophy ...more
Musi Kilic
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is dripping with outdated sexism, but that aside I agree with many of Rousseau's arguments. The main points I agreed with are: freedom, happiness, necessity and experience. Simply put Emile is supposed to grow up free, unspoiled, and learn through everyday events no just in a classroom. ...more
Nosherwan Yasin
There are maybe 7 people in the world who understand this treatise on education, I don't think I am one of them yet. ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first five star book in a while! I was reading this book mostly as a historical curiosity and complement to my graduate studies on education. I didn't expect myself to be as provoked, amused, moved, angered, and stimulated as I was. Rousseau is such a unique and brilliant thinker and to add to that a beautiful and thoughtful writer. Many of his ideas failed to convince me but I will never look at education the same way again.

Voltaire famously thought that Emile only had 50 good pages and th
May 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education, classics
I read this for a course on Education. It's jolly, not too controversial, until book three. It's an important book that I think all educators should read, but read critically. I've heard of people praising this book, and I've heard of people condemning it.

I've been taught to, when reviewing famous educators, research what their intentions were when they made their philosophy. (Ex. A. S. Neill wanted a happy childhood) One of the main reasons why I gave this book a low rating is that it doesn't
Naseem Jauhar
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Reading Rousseau can sufficiently be described in a single word - frustrating.

The reasons that find this experience so, however, are more complex. While there is a fundamental assertion of putting the child at the centre, underlying his theories and arguments, which are passionate and on recurring occasion a relief and validation for everyone who feels the disillusionment towards the way this world raises its future generations, and possibly has, throughout history; Rousseau makes claims that a
Tyler Johnson
Emile is an interesting philosophical take on the values and perspectives necessary for a good education. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is one of the forefront authors in the romantic movement. In Émile, he represents the education of his conception of the ideal male, and later touches on his conception of the ideal female.

As one may expect from an author of Romanticism, Rousseau feels that human nature is essentially good. Evil, Rousseau argues, only comes from lack of resources:

“All wickedness comes f
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains an important figure in the history of philosophy, both because of his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and because of his influence on later thinkers. Rousseau's own view of philosophy and philosophers was firmly negative, seeing philosophers as the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as pl ...more

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