If rousseau were rich: Another model of the good life

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This article examines the conclusion of Book 4 of Rousseau’s Emile, which consists of a description of how Rousseau would choose to live if he were rich, and seeks to situate it within Rousseau’s thought more broadly. This important passage, which has gone virtually unnoticed in the literature, offers an evocative account of a life of leisure and simple pleasures, enjoyed in the country with a few select friends - a life of happiness that Rousseau claims virtually anyone can afford, whether rich or not. The passage thus provides a guide to ‘the art of living’, demonstrating that true happiness requires moderation, decency towards others, and above all the avoidance of vanity. The model of the good life outlined here diverges in crucial respects from the other model human types in Rousseau’s corpus, including the natural man of the Discourse on Inequality, the citizen of The Social Contract, the solitary dreamer of The Reveries of the Solitary Walker, and Emile himself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-520
Number of pages22
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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