Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Evan Simpson
Jean-Jacques Rousseau maintained that he was a consistent thinker, even if he presented his ideas in an unsystematic fashion. My work is a demonstration of the coherence of Rousseau's writing that highlights how his views on the nature and form of human imagination connect various aspects of his political philosophy. Moreover, by exploring his concept of imagination, it becomes clear that one of Rousseau's main philosophical preoccupations was the problem of social cooperation. In particular, Rousseau sought ways of controlling and directing human imagination in order to foster and nurture the emotions he thought central to harmonious social and political life. In the course of establishing my interpretation, I describe the relationship between imagination and emotional development as well as the role imagination plays in preserving social order. In the process I defend Rousseau from criticisms that see his position as favouring a narrow and restricted vision of human life and human community. Part of this effort includes a discussion of imagination as central to his model of political decision making and his ideal of citizenship. I conclude with a consideration of how an understanding of these issues provides a new perspective on Rousseau's views on the general will and personal autonomy.
Baier, Glen, "Tightening the Social Knot: Rousseau and the Politics of Imagination" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1726.