Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK III - Emile, or Education
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
BOOK III - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or Education 
Emile, or Education. Translated by Barbara Foxley, M.A. (London & Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1921; New York: E.P. Dutton, 1921).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE whole course of man’s life up to adolescence is a period of weakness; yet there comes a time during these early years when the child’s strength overtakes the demands upon it, when the growing creature, though absolutely weak, is relatively strong. His needs are not fully developed and his present strength is more than enough for them. He would be a very feeble man, but he is a strong child.
What is the cause of man’s weakness? It is to be found in the disproportion between his strength and his needs. It is our passions that make us weak, for our natural strength is not enough for their satisfaction. To limit our desires comes to the same thing, therefore, as to increase our strength. When we can do more than we want, we have strength enough and to spare, we are really strong. This is the third stage of childhood, the stage with which I am about to deal. I still speak of childhood for want of a better word; for our scholar is approaching adolescence, though he has not yet reached the age of puberty.
About twelve or thirteen the child’s strength increases far more rapidly than his needs. The strongest and fiercest of the passions is still unknown, his physical development is still imperfect and seems to await the call of the will. He is scarcely aware of extremes of heat and cold and braves them with impunity. He needs no coat, his blood is warm; no spices, hunger is his sauce, no food comes amiss at this age; if he is sleepy he stretches himself on the ground and goes to sleep; he finds all he needs within his reach; he is not tormented by any imaginary wants; he cares nothing what others think; his desires are not beyond his grasp; not only is he self-sufficing, but for the first and last time in his life he has more strength than he needs.
I know beforehand what you will say. You will not assert that the child has more needs than I attribute to him, but you will deny his strength. You forget that I am speaking of my own pupil, not of those puppets who walk with difficulty from one room to another, who toil indoors and carry bundles of paper. Manly strength, you say, appears only with manhood; the vital spirits, distilled in their proper vessels and spreading through the whole body, can alone make the muscles firm, sensitive, tense, and springy, can alone cause real strength. This is the philosophy of the study; I appeal to that of experience. In the country districts, I see big lads hoeing, digging, guiding the plough, filling the wine-cask, driving the cart, like their fathers; you would take them for grown men if their voices did not betray them. Even in our towns, iron-workers’, tool makers’, and blacksmiths’ lads are almost as strong as their masters and would be scarcely less skilful had their training begun earlier. If there is a difference, and I do not deny that there is, it is, I repeat, much less than the difference between the stormy passions of the man and the few wants of the child. Moreover, it is not merely a question of bodily strength, but more especially of strength of mind, which reinforces and directs the bodily strength.
This interval in which the strength of the individual is in excess of his wants is, as I have said, relatively though not absolutely the time of greatest strength. It is the most precious time in his life; it comes but once; it is very short, all too short, as you will see when you consider the importance of using it aright.
He has, therefore, a surplus of strength and capacity which he will never have again. What use shall he make of it? He will strive to use it in tasks which will help at need. He will, so to speak, cast his present surplus into the storehouse of the future; the vigorous child will make provision for the feeble man; but he will not store his goods where thieves may break in, nor in barns which are not his own. To store them aright, they must be in the hands and the head, they must be stored within himself. This is the time for work, instruction, and inquiry. And note that this is no arbitrary choice of mine, it is the way of nature herself.
Human intelligence is finite, and not only can no man know everything, he cannot even acquire all the scanty knowledge of others. Since the contrary of every false proposition is a truth, there are as many truths as falsehoods. We must, therefore, choose what to teach as well as when to teach it. Some of the information within our reach is false, some is useless, some merely serves to puff up its possessor. The small store which really contributes to our welfare alone deserves the study of a wise man, and therefore of a child whom one would have wise. He must know not merely what is, but what is useful.
From this small stock we must also deduct those truths which require a full grown mind for their understanding, those which suppose a knowledge of man’s relations to his fellow-men—a knowledge which no child can acquire; these things, although in themselves true, lead an inexperienced mind into mistakes with regard to other matters.
We are now confined to a circle, small indeed compared with the whole of human thought, but this circle is still a vast sphere when measured by the child’s mind. Dark places of the human understanding, what rash hand shall dare to raise your veil? What pitfalls does our so-called science prepare for the miserable child. Would you guide him along this dangerous path and draw the veil from the face of nature? Stay your hand. First make sure that neither he nor you will become dizzy. Beware of the specious charms of error and the intoxicating fumes of pride. Keep this truth ever before you—Ignorance never did any one any harm, error alone is fatal, and we do not lose our way through ignorance but through self-confidence.
His progress in geometry may serve as a test and a true measure of the growth of his intelligence, but as soon as he can distinguish between what is useful and what is useless, much skill and discretion are required to lead him towards theoretical studies. For example, would you have him find a mean proportional between two lines, contrive that he should require to find a square equal to a given rectangle; if two mean proportionals are required, you must first contrive to interest him in the doubling of the cube. See how we are gradually approaching the moral ideas which distinguish between good and evil. Hitherto we have known no law but necessity, now we are considering what is useful; we shall soon come to what is fitting and right.
Man’s diverse powers are stirred by the same instinct. The bodily activity, which seeks an outlet for its energies, is succeeded by the mental activity which seeks for knowledge. Children are first restless, then curious; and this curiosity, rightly directed, is the means of development for the age with which we are dealing. Always distinguish between natural and acquired tendencies. There is a zeal for learning which has no other foundation than a wish to appear learned, and there is another which springs from man’s natural curiosity about all things far or near which may affect himself. The innate desire for comfort and the impossibility of its complete satisfaction impel him to the endless search for fresh means of contributing to its satisfaction. This is the first principle of curiosity; a principle natural to the human heart, though its growth is proportional to the development of our feeling and knowledge. If a man of science were left on a desert island with his books and instruments and knowing that he must spend the rest of his life there, he would scarcely trouble himself about the solar system, the laws of attraction, or the differential calculus. He might never even open a book again; but he would never rest till he had explored the furthest corner of his island, however large it might be. Let us therefore omit from our early studies such knowledge as has no natural attraction for us, and confine ourselves to such things as instinct impels us to study.
Our island is this earth; and the most striking object we behold is the sun. As soon as we pass beyond our immediate surroundings, one or both of these must meet our eye. Thus the philosophy of most savage races is mainly directed to imaginary divisions of the earth or to the divinity of the sun.
What a sudden change you will say. Just now we were concerned with what touches ourselves, with our immediate environment, and all at once we are exploring the round world and leaping to the bounds of the universe. This change is the result of our growing strength and of the natural bent of the mind. While we were weak and feeble, self-preservation concentrated our attention on ourselves; now that we are strong and powerful, the desire for a wider sphere carries us beyond ourselves as far as our eyes can reach. But as the intellectual world is still unknown to us, our thoughts are bounded by the visible horizon, and our understanding only develops within the limits of our vision.
Let us transform our sensations into ideas, but do not let us jump all at once from the objects of sense to objects of thought. The latter are attained by means of the former. Let the senses be the only guide for the first workings of reason. No book but the world, no teaching but that of fact. The child who reads ceases to think, he only reads. He is acquiring words not knowledge.
Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity, but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity. Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. Let him not be taught science, let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people’s thoughts.
You wish to teach this child geography and you provide him with globes, spheres, and maps. What elaborate preparations! What is the use of all these symbols; why not begin by showing him the real thing so that he may at least know what you are talking about?
One fine evening we are walking in a suitable place where the wide horizon gives us a full view of the setting sun, and we note the objects which mark the place where it sets. Next morning we return to the same place for a breath of fresh air before sun-rise. We see the rays of light which announce the sun’s approach; the glow increases, the east seems afire, and long before the sun appears the light leads us to expect its return. Every moment you expect to see it. There it is at last! A shining point appears like a flash of lightning and soon fills the whole space; the veil of darkness rolls away, man perceives his dwelling place in fresh beauty. During the night the grass has assumed a fresher green; in the light of early dawn, and gilded by the first rays of the sun, it seems covered with a shining network of dew reflecting the light and colour. The birds raise their chorus of praise to greet the Father of life, not one of them is mute; their gentle warbling is softer than by day, it expresses the langour of a peaceful waking. All these produce an impression of freshness which seems to reach the very soul. It is a brief hour of enchantment which no man can resist; a sight so grand, so fair, so delicious, that none can behold it unmoved.
Fired with this enthusiasm, the master wishes to impart it to the child. He expects to rouse his emotion by drawing attention to his own. Mere folly! The splendour of nature lives in man’s heart; to be seen, it must be felt. The child sees the objects themselves, but does not perceive their relations, and cannot hear their harmony. It needs knowledge he has not yet acquired, feelings he has not yet experienced, to receive the complex impression which results from all these separate sensations. If he has not wandered over arid plains, if his feet have not been scorched by the burning sands of the desert, if he has not breathed the hot and oppressive air reflected from the glowing rocks, how shall he delight in the fresh air of a fine morning. The scent of flowers, the beauty of foliage, the moistness of the dew, the soft turf beneath his feet, how shall all these delight his senses. How shall the song of the birds arouse voluptuous emotion if love and pleasure are still unknown to him? How shall he behold with rapture the birth of this fair day, if his imagination cannot paint the joys it may bring in its track? How can he feel the beauty of nature, while the hand that formed it is unknown?
Never tell the child what he cannot understand: no descriptions, no eloquence, no figures of speech, no poetry. The time has not come for feeling or taste. Continue to be clear and cold; the time will come only too soon when you must adopt another tone.
Brought up in the spirit of our maxims, accustomed to make his own tools and not to appeal to others until he has tried and failed, he will examine everything he sees carefully and in silence. He thinks rather than questions. Be content, therefore, to show him things at a fit season; then, when you see that his curiosity is thoroughly aroused, put some brief question which will set him trying to discover the answer.
On the present occasion when you and he have carefully observed the rising sun, when you have called his attention to the mountains and other objects visible from the same spot, after he has chattered freely about them, keep quiet for a few minutes as if lost in thought and then say, “I think the sun set over there last night; it rose here this morning. How can that be?” Say no more; if he asks questions, do not answer them; talk of something else. Let him alone, and be sure he will think about it.
To train a child to be really attentive so that he may be really impressed by any truth of experience, he must spend anxious days before he discovers that truth. If he does not learn enough in this way, there is another way of drawing his attention to the matter. Turn the question about. If he does not know how the sun gets from the place where it sets to where it rises, he knows at least how it travels from sunrise to sunset, his eyes teach him that. Use the second question to throw light on the first; either your pupil is a regular dunce or the analogy is too clear to be missed. This is his first lesson in cosmography.
As we always advance slowly from one sensible idea to another, and as we give time enough to each for him to become really familiar with it before we go on to another, and lastly as we never force our scholar’s attention, we are still a long way from a knowledge of the course of the sun or the shape of the earth; but as all the apparent movements of the celestial bodies depend on the same principle, and the first observation leads on to all the rest, less effort is needed, though more time, to proceed from the diurnal revolution to the calculation of eclipses, than to get a thorough understanding of day and night.
Since the sun revolves round the earth it describes a circle, and every circle must have a centre; that we know already. This centre is invisible, it is in the middle of the earth, but we can mark out two opposite points on the earth’s surface which correspond to it. A skewer passed through the three points and prolonged to the sky at either end would represent the earth’s axis and the sun’s daily course. A round teetotum revolving on its point represents the sky turning on its axis, the two points of the teetotum are the two poles; the child will be delighted to find one of them, and I show him the tail of the Little bear. Here is a another game for the dark. Little by little we get to know the stars, and from this comes a wish to know the planets and observe the constellations.
We saw the sun rise at midsummer, we shall see it rise at Christmas or some other fine winter’s day; for you know we are no lie-a-beds and we enjoy the cold. I take care to make this second observation in the same place as the first, and if skilfully lead up to, one or other will certainly exclaim, “What a funny thing! The sun is not rising in the same place; here are our landmarks, but it is rising over there. So there is the summer east and the winter east, etc.” Young teacher, you are on the right track. These examples should show you how to teach the sphere without any difficulty, taking the earth for the earth and the sun for the sun.
As a general rule—never substitute the symbol for the thing signified, unless it is impossible to show the thing itself; for the child’s attention is so taken up with the symbol that he will forget what it signifies.
I consider the armillary sphere a clumsy disproportioned bit of apparatus. The confused circles and the strange figures described on it suggest witchcraft and frighten the child. The earth is too small, the circles too large and too numerous, some of them, the colures, for instance, are quite useless, and the thickness of the pasteboard gives them an appearance of solidity so that they are taken for circular masses having a real existence, and when you tell the child that these are imaginary circles, he does not know what he is looking at and is none the wiser.
We are unable to put ourselves in the child’s place, we fail to enter into his thoughts, we invest him with our own ideas, and while we are following our own chain of reasoning, we merely fill his head with errors and absurdities.
Should the method of studying science be analytic or synthetic? People dispute over this question, but it is not always necessary to choose between them. Sometimes the same experiments allow one to use both analysis and synthesis, and thus to guide the child by the method of instruction when he fancies he is only analysing. Then, by using both at once, each method confirms the results of the other. Starting from opposite ends, without thinking of following the same road, he will unexpectedly reach their meeting place and this will be a delightful surprise. For example, I would begin geography at both ends and add to the study of the earth’s revolution the measurement of its divisions, beginning at home. While the child is studying the sphere and is thus transported to the heavens, bring him back to the divisions of the globe and show him his own home.
His geography will begin with the town he lives in and his father’s country house, then the places between them, the rivers near them, and then the sun’s aspect and how to find one’s way by its aid. This is the meeting place. Let him make his own map, a very simple map, at first containing only two places; others may be added from time to time, as he is able to estimate their distance and position. You see at once what a good start we have given him by making his eye his compass.
No doubt he will require some guidance in spite of this, but very little, and that little without his knowing it. If he goes wrong let him alone, do not correct his mistakes; hold your tongue till he finds them out for himself and corrects them, or at most arrange something, as opportunity offers, which may show him his mistakes. If he never makes mistakes he will never learn anything thoroughly. Moreover, what he needs is not an exact knowledge of local topography, but how to find out for himself. No matter whether he carries maps in his head provided he understands what they mean, and has a clear idea of the art of making them. See what a difference there is already between the knowledge of your scholars and the ignorance of mine. They learn maps, he makes them. Here are fresh ornaments for his room.
Remember that this is the essential point in my method—Do not teach the child many things, but never to let him form inaccurate or confused ideas. I care not if he knows nothing provided he is not mistaken, and I only acquaint him with truths to guard him against the errors he might put in their place. Reason and judgment come slowly, prejudices flock to us in crowds, and from these he must be protected. But if you make science itself your object, you embark on an unfathomable and shoreless ocean, an ocean strewn with reefs from which you will never return. When I see a man in love with knowledge, yielding to its charms and flitting from one branch to another unable to stay his steps, he seems to me like a child gathering shells on the sea-shore, now picking them up, then throwing them aside for others which he sees beyond them, then taking them again, till overwhelmed by their number and unable to choose between them, he flings them all away and returns empty handed.
Time was long during early childhood; we only tried to pass our time for fear of using it ill; now it is the other way; we have not time enough for all that would be of use. The passions, remember, are drawing near, and when they knock at the door your scholar will have no ear for anything else. The peaceful age of intelligence is so short, it flies so swiftly, there is so much to be done, that it is madness to try to make your child learned. It is not your business to teach him the various sciences, but to give him a taste for them and methods of learning them when this taste is more mature. That is assuredly a fundamental principle of all good education.
This is also the time to train him gradually to prolonged attention to a given object; but this attention should never be the result of constraint, but of interest or desire; you must be very careful that it is not too much for his strength, and that it is not carried to the point of tedium. Watch him, therefore, and whatever happens, stop before he is tired, for it matters little what he learns; it does matter that he should do nothing against his will.
If he asks questions let your answers be enough to whet his curiosity but not enough to satisfy it; above all, when you find him talking at random and overwhelming you with silly questions instead of asking for information, at once refuse to answer; for it is clear that he no longer cares about the matter in hand, but wants to make you a slave to his questions. Consider his motives rather than his words. This warning, which was scarcely needed before, becomes of supreme importance when the child begins to reason.
There is a series of abstract truths by means of which all the sciences are related to common principles and are developed each in its turn. This relationship is the method of the philosophers. We are not concerned with it at present. There is quite another method by which every concrete example suggests another and always points to the next in the series. This succession, which stimulates the curiosity and so arouses the attention required by every object in turn, is the order followed by most men, and it is the right order for all children. To take our bearings so as to make our maps we must find meridians. Two points of intersection between the equal shadows morning and evening supply an excellent meridian for a thirteen-year-old astronomer. But these meridians disappear, it takes time to trace them, and you are obliged to work in one place. So much trouble and attention will at last become irksome. We foresaw this and are ready for it.
Again I must enter into minute and detailed explanations. I hear my readers murmur, but I am prepared to meet their disapproval; I will not sacrifice the most important part of this book to your impatience. You may think me as long-winded as you please; I have my own opinion as to your complaints.
Long ago my pupil and I remarked that some substances such as amber, glass, and wax, when well rubbed, attracted straws, while others did not. We accidentally discover a substance which has a more unusual property, that of attracting filings or other small particles of iron from a distance and without rubbing. How much time do we devote to this game to the exclusion of everything else! At last we discover that this property is communicated to the iron itself, which is, so to speak, endowed with life. We go to the fair one day1 and a conjuror has a wax duck floating in a basin of water, and he makes it follow a bit of bread. We are greatly surprised, but we do not call him a wizard, never having heard of such persons. As we are continually observing effects whose causes are unknown to us, we are in no hurry to make up our minds, and we remain in ignorance till we find an opportunity of learning.
When we get home we discuss the duck till we try to imitate it. We take a needle thoroughly magnetised, we imbed it in white wax, shaped as far as possible like a duck, with the needle running through the body, so that its eye forms the beak. We put the duck in water and put the end of a key near its beak, and you will readily understand our delight when we find that our duck follows the key just as the duck at the fair followed the bit of bread. Another time we may note the direction assumed by the duck when left in the basin; for the present we are wholly occupied with our work and we want nothing more.
The same evening we return to the fair with some bread specially prepared in our pockets, and as soon as the conjuror has performed his trick, my little doctor, who can scarcely sit still, exclaims, “The trick is quite easy; I can do it myself.” “Do it then.” He at once takes the bread with a bit of iron hidden in it from his pocket; his heart throbs as he approaches the table and holds out the bread, his hand trembles with excitement. The duck approaches and follows his hand. The child cries out and jumps for joy. The applause, the shouts of the crowd, are too much for him, he is beside himself. The conjuror, though disappointed, embraces him, congratulates him, begs the honour of his company on the following day, and promises to collect a still greater crowd to applaud his skill. My young scientist is very proud of himself and is beginning to chatter, but I check him at once and take him home overwhelmed with praise.
The child counts the minutes till to-morrow with absurd anxiety. He invites every one he meets, he wants all mankind to behold his glory; he can scarcely wait till the appointed hour. He hurries to the place; the hall is full already; as he enters his young heart swells with pride. Other tricks are to come first. The conjuror surpasses himself and does the most surprising things. The child sees none of these; he wriggles, perspires, and hardly breathes; the time is spent in fingering with a trembling hand the bit of bread in his pocket. His turn comes at last; the master announces it to the audience with all ceremony; he goes up looking somewhat shamefaced and takes out his bit of bread. Oh fleeting joys of human life! the duck, so tame yesterday, is quite wild to-day; instead of offering its beak it turns tail and swims away; it avoids the bread and the hand that holds it as carefully as it followed them yesterday. After many vain attempts accompanied by derisive shouts from the audience the child complains that he is being cheated, that is not the same duck, and he defies the conjuror to attract it.
The conjuror, without further words, takes a bit of bread and offers it to the duck, which at once follows it and comes to the hand which holds it. The child takes the same bit of bread with no better success; the duck mocks his efforts and swims round the basin. Overwhelmed with confusion he abandons the attempt, ashamed to face the crowd any longer. Then the conjuror takes the bit of bread the child brought with him and uses it as successfully as his own. He takes out the bit of iron before the audience—another laugh at our expense—then with this same bread he attracts the duck as before. He repeats the experiment with a piece of bread cut by a third person in full view of the audience. He does it with his glove, with his finger-tip. Finally he goes into the middle of the room and in the emphatic tones used by such persons he declares that his duck will obey his voice as readily as his hand; he speaks and the duck obeys; he bids him go to the right and he goes, to come back again and he comes. The movement is as ready as the command. The growing applause completes our discomfiture. We slip away unnoticed and shut ourselves up in our room, without relating our successes to everybody as we had expected.
Next day there is a knock at the door. When I open it there is the conjuror, who makes a modest complaint with regard to our conduct. What had he done that we should try to discredit his tricks and deprive him of his livelihood? What is there so wonderful in attracting a duck that we should purchase this honour at the price of an honest man’s living? “My word, gentlemen! had I any other trade by which I could earn a living I would not pride myself on this. You may well believe that a man who has spent his life at this miserable trade knows more about it than you who only give your spare time to it. If I did not show you my best tricks at first, it was because one must not be so foolish as to display all one knows at once. I always take care to keep my best tricks for emergencies; and I have plenty more to prevent young folks from meddling. However, I have come, gentlemen, in all kindness, to show you the trick that gave you so much trouble; I only beg you not to use it to my hurt, and to be more discreet in future.”
He then shows us his apparatus, and to our great surprise we find it is merely a strong magnet in the hand of a boy concealed under the table. The man puts up his things, and after we have offered our thanks and apologies, we try to give him something. He refuses it. “No, gentlemen,” says he, “I owe you no gratitude and I will not accept your gift. I leave you in my debt in spite of all, and that is my only revenge. Generosity may be found among all sorts of people, and I earn my pay by doing my tricks not by teaching them.”
As he is going he blames me out-right. “I can make excuses for the child,” he says, “he sinned in ignorance. But you, sir, should know better. Why did you let him do it? As you are living together and you are older than he, you should look after him and give him good advice. Your experience should be his guide. When he is grown up he will reproach, not only himself, but you, for the faults of his youth.”
When he is gone we are greatly downcast. I blame myself for my easy-going ways. I promise the child that another time I will put his interests first and warn him against faults before he falls into them, for the time is coming when our relations will be changed, when the severity of the master must give way to the friendliness of the comrade; this change must come gradually, you must look ahead, and very far ahead.
We go to the fair again the next day to see the trick whose secret we know. We approach our Socrates, the conjuror, with profound respect, we scarcely dare to look him in the face. He overwhelms us with politeness, gives us the best places, and heaps coals of fire on our heads. He goes through his performance as usual, but he lingers affectionately over the duck, and often glances proudly in our direction. We are in the secret, but we do not tell. If my pupil did but open his mouth he would be worthy of death.
There is more meaning than you suspect in this detailed illustration. How many lessons in one! How mortifying are the results of a first impulse towards vanity! Young tutor, watch this first impulse carefully. If you can use it to bring about shame and disgrace, you may be sure it will not recur for many a day. What a fuss you will say. Just so; and all to provide a compass which will enable us to dispense with a meridian!
Having learnt that a magnet acts through other bodies, our next business is to construct a bit of apparatus similar to that shown us. A bare table, a shallow bowl placed on it and filled with water, a duck rather better finished than the first, and so on. We often watch the thing and at last we notice that the duck, when at rest, always turns the same way. We follow up this observation; we examine the direction, we find that it is from south to north. Enough! we have found our compass or its equivalent; the study of physics is begun.
There are various regions of the earth, and these regions differ in temperature. The variation is more evident as we approach the poles; all bodies expand with heat and contract with cold; this is best measured in liquids and best of all in spirits; hence the thermometer. The wind strikes the face, then the air is a body, a fluid; we feel it though we cannot see it. I invert a glass in water; the water will not fill it unless you leave a passage for the escape of the air; so air is capable of resistance. Plunge the glass further in the water; the water will encroach on the air-space without filling it entirely; so air yields somewhat to pressure. A ball filled with compressed air bounces better than one filled with anything else; so air is elastic. Raise your arm horizontally from the water when you are lying in your bath; you will feel a terrible weight on it; so air is a heavy body. By establishing an equilibrium between air and other fluids its weight can be measured, hence the barometer, the siphon, the air-gun, and the air-pump. All the laws of statics and hydrostatics are discovered by such rough experiments. For none of these would I take the child into a physical cabinet; I dislike that array of instruments and apparatus. The scientific atmosphere destroys science. Either the child is frightened by these instruments or his attention, which should be fixed on their effects, is distracted by their appearance.
We shall make all our apparatus ourselves, and I would not make it beforehand, but having caught a glimpse of the experiment by chance we mean to invent step by step an instrument for its verification. I would rather our apparatus was somewhat clumsy and imperfect, but our ideas clear as to what the apparatus ought to be, and the results to be obtained by means of it. For my first lesson in statics, instead of fetching a balance, I lay a stick across the back of a chair, I measure the two parts when it is balanced; add equal or unequal weights to either end; by pulling or pushing it as required, I find at last that equilibrium is the result of a reciprocal proportion between the amount of the weights and the length of the levers. Thus my little physicist is ready to rectify a balance before ever he sees one.
Undoubtedly the notions of things thus acquired for oneself are clearer and much more convincing than those acquired from the teaching of others; and not only is our reason not accustomed to a slavish submission to authority, but we develop greater ingenuity in discovering relations, connecting ideas and inventing apparatus, than when we merely accept what is given us and allow our minds to be enfeebled by indifference, like the body of a man whose servants always wait on him, dress him and put on his shoes, whose horse carries him, till he loses the use of his limbs. Boileau used to boast that he had taught Racine the art of rhyming with difficulty. Among the many short cuts to science, we badly need some one to teach us the art of learning with difficulty.
The most obvious advantage of these slow and laborious inquiries is this: the scholar, while engaged in speculative studies, is actively using his body, gaining suppleness of limb, and training his hands to labour so that he will be able to make them useful when he is a man. Too much apparatus, designed to guide us in our experiments and to supplement the exactness of our senses, makes us neglect to use those senses. The theodolite makes it unnecessary to estimate the size of angles; the eye which used to judge distances with much precision, trusts to the chain for its measurements; the steel yard dispenses with the need of judging weight by the hand as I used to do. The more ingenious our apparatus, the coarser and more unskilful are our senses. We surround ourselves with tools and fail to use those with which nature has provided every one of us.
But when we devote to the making of these instruments the skill which did instead of them, when for their construction we use the intelligence which enabled us to dispense with them, this is gain not loss, we add art to nature, we gain ingenuity without loss of skill. If instead of making a child stick to his books I employ him in a workshop, his hands work for the development of his mind. While he fancies himself a workman he is becoming a philosopher. Moreover, this exercise has other advantages of which I shall speak later; and you will see how, through philosophy in sport, one may rise to the real duties of man.
I have said already that purely theoretical science is hardly suitable for children, even for children approaching adolescence; but without going far into theoretical physics, take care that all their experiments are connected together by some chain of reasoning, so that they may follow an orderly sequence in the mind, and may be recalled at need; for it is very difficult to remember isolated facts or arguments, when there is no cue for their recall.
In your inquiry into the laws of nature always begin with the commonest and most conspicuous phenomena, and train your scholar not to accept these phenomena as causes but as facts. I take a stone and pretend to place it in the air; I open my hand, the stone falls. I see Emile watching my action and I say, “Why does this stone fall?”
What child will hesitate over this question? None, not even Emile, unless I have taken great pains to teach him not to answer. Every one will say, “The stone falls because it is heavy.” “And what do you mean by heavy?” “That which falls.” “So the stone falls because it falls?” Here is a poser for my little philosopher. This is his first lesson in systematic physics, and whether he learns physics or no it is a good lesson in common-sense.
As the child develops in intelligence other important considerations require us to be still more careful in our choice of his occupations. As soon as he has sufficient self-knowledge to understand what constitutes his well-being, as soon as he can grasp such far-reaching relations as to judge what is good for him and what is not, then he is able to discern the difference between work and play, and to consider the latter merely as relaxation. The objects of real utility may be introduced into his studies and may lead him to more prolonged attention than he gave to his games. The ever-recurring law of necessity soon teaches a man to do what he does not like, so as to avert evils which he would dislike still more. Such is the use of foresight, and this foresight, well or ill used, is the source of all the wisdom or the wretchedness of mankind.
Every one desires happiness, but to secure it he must know what happiness is. For the natural man happiness is as simple as his life; it consists in the absence of pain; health, freedom, the necessaries of life are its elements. The happiness of the moral man is another matter, but it does not concern us at present. I cannot repeat too often that it is only objects which can be perceived by the senses which can have any interest for children, especially children whose vanity has not been stimulated nor their minds corrupted by social conventions.
As soon as they foresee their needs before they feel them, their intelligence has made a great step forward, they are beginning to know the value of time. They must then be trained to devote this time to useful purposes, but this usefulness should be such as they can readily perceive and should be within the reach of their age and experience. What concerns the moral order and the customs of society should not yet be given them, for they are not in a condition to understand it. It is folly to expect them to attend to things vaguely described as good for them, when they do not know what this good is, things which they are assured will be to their advantage when they are grown up, though for the present they take no interest in this so-called advantage, which they are unable to understand.
Let the child do nothing because he is told; nothing is good for him but what he recognises as good. When you are always urging him beyond his present understanding, you think you are exercising a foresight which you really lack. To provide him with useless tools which he may never require, you deprive him of man’s most useful tool—common-sense. You would have him docile as a child; he will be a credulous dupe when he grows up. You are always saying, “What I ask is for your good, though you cannot understand it. What does it matter to me whether you do it or not; my efforts are entirely on your account.” All these fine speeches with which you hope to make him good, are preparing the way, so that the visionary, the tempter, the charlatan, the rascal, and every kind of fool may catch him in his snare or draw him into his folly.
A man must know many things which seem useless to a child, but need the child learn, or can he indeed learn, all that the man must know? Try to teach the child what is of use to a child and you will find that it takes all his time. Why urge him to the studies of an age he may never reach, to the neglect of those studies which meet his present needs? “But,” you ask, “will it not be too late to learn what he ought to know when the time comes to use it?” I cannot tell; but this I do know, it is impossible to teach it sooner, for our real teachers are experience and emotion, and man will never learn what befits a man except under its own conditions. A child knows he must become a man; all the ideas he may have as to man’s estate are so many opportunities for his instruction, but he should remain in complete ignorance of those ideas which are beyond his grasp. My whole book is one continued argument in support of this fundamental principle of education.
As soon as we have contrived to give our pupil an idea of the word “Useful,” we have got an additional means of controlling him, for this word makes a great impression on him, provided that its meaning for him is a meaning relative to his own age, and provided he clearly sees its relation to his own well-being. This word makes no impression on your scholars because you have taken no pains to give it a meaning they can understand, and because other people always undertake to supply their needs so that they never require to think for themselves, and do not know what utility is.
“What is the use of that?” In future this is the sacred formula, the formula by which he and I test every action of our lives. This is the question with which I invariably answer all his questions; it serves to check the stream of foolish and tiresome questions with which children weary those about them. These incessant questions produce no result, and their object is rather to get a hold over you than to gain any real advantage. A pupil, who has been really taught only to want to know what is useful, questions like Socrates; he never asks a question without a reason for it, for he knows he will be required to give his reason before he gets an answer.
See what a powerful instrument I have put into your hands for use with your pupil. As he does not know the reason for anything you can reduce him to silence almost at will; and what advantages do your knowledge and experience give you to show him the usefulness of what you suggest. For, make no mistake about it, when you put this question to him, you are teaching him to put it to you, and you must expect that whatever you suggest to him in the future he will follow your own example and ask, “What is the use of this?”
Perhaps this is the greatest of the tutor’s difficulties. If you merely try to put the child off when he asks a question, and if you give him a single reason he is not able to understand, if he finds that you reason according to your own ideas, not his, he will think what you tell him is good for you but not for him; you will lose his confidence and all your labour is thrown away. But what master will stop short and confess his faults to his pupil? We all make it a rule never to own to the faults we really have. Now I would make it a rule to admit even the faults I have not, if I could not make my reasons clear to him; as my conduct will always be intelligible to him, he will never doubt me and I shall gain more credit by confessing my imaginary faults than those who conceal their real defects.
In the first place do not forget that it is rarely your business to suggest what he ought to learn; it is for him to want to learn, to seek and to find it. You should put it within his reach, you should skilfully awaken the desire and supply him with means for its satisfaction. So your questions should be few and well-chosen, and as he will always have more questions to put to you than you to him, you will always have the advantage and will be able to ask all the oftener, “What is the use of that question?” Moreover, as it matters little what he learns provided he understands it and knows how to use it, as soon as you cannot give him a suitable explanation give him none at all. Do not hesitate to say, “I have no good answer to give you; I was wrong, let us drop the subject.” If your teaching was really ill-chosen there is no harm in dropping it altogether; if it was not, with a little care you will soon find an opportunity of making its use apparent to him.
I do not like verbal explanations. Young people pay little heed to them, nor do they remember them. Things! Things! I cannot repeat it too often. We lay too much stress upon words; we teachers babble, and our scholars follow our example.
Suppose we are studying the course of the sun and the way to find our bearings, when all at once Emile interrupts me with the question, “What is the use of that?” what a fine lecture I might give, how many things I might take occasion to teach him in reply to his question, especially if there is any one there. I might speak of the advantages of travel, the value of commerce, the special products of different lands and the peculiar customs of different nations, the use of the calendar, the way to reckon the seasons for agriculture, the art of navigation, how to steer our course at sea, how to find our way without knowing exactly where we are. Politics, natural history, astronomy, even morals and international law are involved in my explanation, so as to give my pupil some idea of all these sciences and a great wish to learn them. When I have finished I shall have shown myself a regular pedant, I shall have made a great display of learning, and not one single idea has he understood. He is longing to ask me again, “What is the use of taking one’s bearings?” but he dare not for fear of vexing me. He finds it pays best to pretend to listen to what he is forced to hear. This is the practical result of our fine systems of education.
But Emile is educated in a simpler fashion. We take so much pains to teach him a difficult idea that he will have heard nothing of all this. At the first word he does not understand, he will run away, he will prance about the room, and leave me to speechify by myself. Let us seek a more commonplace explanation; my scientific learning is of no use to him.
We were observing the position of the forest to the north of Montmorency when he interrupted me with the usual question, “What is the use of that?” “You are right,” I said. “Let us take time to think it over, and if we find it is no use we will drop it, for we only want useful games.” We find something else to do and geography is put aside for the day.
Next morning I suggest a walk before breakfast; there is nothing he would like better; children are always ready to run about, and he is a good walker. We climb up to the forest, we wander through its clearings and lose ourselves; we have no idea where we are, and when we want to retrace our steps we cannot find the way. Time passes, we are hot and hungry; hurrying vainly this way and that we find nothing but woods, quarries, plains, not a landmark to guide us. Very hot, very tired, very hungry, we only get further astray. At last we sit down to rest and to consider our position. I assume that Emile has been educated like an ordinary child. He does not think, he begins to cry; he has no idea we are close to Montmorency, which is hidden from our view by a mere thicket; but this thicket is a forest to him, a man of his size is buried among bushes. After a few minutes’ silence I begin anxiously—
My dear Emile, what shall we do to get out?
I am sure I do not know. I am tired, I am hungry, I am thirsty. I cannot go any further.
Do you suppose I am any better off? I would cry too if I could make my breakfast off tears. Crying is no use, we must look about us. Let us see your watch; what time is it?
It is noon and I am so hungry!
Just so; it is noon and I am so hungry too.
You must be very hungry indeed.
Unluckily my dinner won’t come to find me. It is twelve o’clock. This time yesterday we were observing the position of the forest from Montmorency. If only we could see the position of Montmorency from the forest—
But yesterday we could see the forest, and here we cannot see the town.
That is just it. If we could only find it without seeing it.
Oh! my dear friend!
Did not we say the forest was—
North of Montmorency.
Then Montmorency must lie—
South of the forest.
We know how to find the north at midday.
Yes, by the direction of the shadows.
But the south?
What shall we do?
The south is opposite the north.
That is true; we need only find the opposite of the shadows. That is the south! That is the south! Montmorency must be over there! Let us look for it there!
Perhaps you are right; let us follow this path through the wood.
(Clapping his hands.) Oh, I can see Montmorency! there it is, quite plain, just in front of us! Come to luncheon, come to dinner, make haste! Astronomy is some use after all.
Be sure that he thinks this if he does not say it; no matter which, provided I do not say it myself. He will certainly never forget this day’s lesson as long as he lives, while if I had only led him to think of all this at home, my lecture would have been forgotten the next day. Teach by doing whenever you can, and only fall back upon words when doing is out of the question.
The reader will not expect me to have such a poor opinion of him as to supply him with an example of every kind of study; but, whatever is taught, I cannot too strongly urge the tutor to adapt his instances to the capacity of his scholar; for once more I repeat the risk is not in what he does not know, but in what he thinks he knows.
I remember how I once tried to give a child a taste for chemistry. After showing him several metallic precipitates, I explained how ink was made. I told him how its blackness was merely the result of fine particles of iron separated from the vitriol and precipitated by an alkaline solution. In the midst of my learned explanation the little rascal pulled me up short with the question I myself had taught him. I was greatly puzzled. After a few moments’ thought I decided what to do. I sent for some wine from the cellar of our landlord, and some very cheap wine from a wine-merchant. I took a small1 flask of an alkaline solution, and placing two glasses before me filled with the two sorts of wine, I said—
Food and drink are adulterated to make them seem better than they really are. These adulterations deceive both the eye and the palate, but they are unwholesome and make the adulterated article even worse than before in spite of its fine appearance.
All sorts of drinks are adulterated, and wine more than others; for the fraud is more difficult to detect, and more profitable to the fraudulent person.
Sour wine is adulterated with litharge; litharge is a preparation of lead. Lead in combination with acids forms a sweet salt which corrects the harsh taste of the sour wine, but it is poisonous. So before we drink wine of doubtful quality we should be able to tell if there is lead in it. This is how I should do it.
Wine contains not merely an inflammable spirit as you have seen from the brandy made from it; it also contains an acid as you know from the vinegar made from it.
This acid has an affinity for metals, it combines with them and forms salts, such as iron-rust, which is only iron dissolved by the acid in air or water, or such as verdegris, which is only copper dissolved in vinegar.
But this acid has a still greater affinity for alkalis than for metals, so that when we add alkalis to the above-mentioned salts, the acid sets free the metal with which it had combined, and combines with the alkali.
Then the metal, set free by the acid which held it in solution, is precipitated and the liquid becomes opaque.
If then there is litharge in either of these glasses of wine, the acid holds the litharge in solution. When I pour into it an alkaline solution, the acid will be forced to set the lead free in order to combine with the alkali. The lead, no longer held in solution, will reappear, the liquor will become thick, and after a time the lead will be deposited at the bottom of the glass.
Then I poured my alkaline solution first into one glass and then into the other. The wine from our own house remained clear and unclouded, the other at once became turbid, and an hour later the lead might be plainly seen, precipitated at the bottom of the glass.
“This,” said I, “is a pure natural wine and fit to drink; the other is adulterated and poisonous. You wanted to know the use of knowing how to make ink. If you can make ink you can find out what wines are adulterated.”
I was very well pleased with my illustration, but I found it made little impression on my pupil. When I had time to think about it I saw I had been a fool, for not only was it impossible for a child of twelve to follow my explanations, but the usefulness of the experiment did not appeal to him; he had tasted both glasses of wine and found them both good, so he attached no meaning to the word “adulterated” which I thought I had explained so nicely. Indeed, the other words, “unwholesome” and “poison,” had no meaning whatever for him; he was in the same condition as the boy who told the story of Philip and his doctor. It is the condition of all children.
The relation of causes and effects whose connection is unknown to us, good and ill of which we have no idea, the needs we have never felt, have no existence for us. It is impossible to interest ourselves in them sufficiently to make us do anything connected with them. At fifteen we become aware of the happiness of a good man, as at thirty we become aware of the glory of Paradise. If we had no clear idea of either we should make no effort for their attainment; and even if we had a clear idea of them, we should make little or no effort unless we desired them and unless we felt we were made for them. It is easy to convince a child that what you wish to teach him is useful, but it is useless to convince if you cannot also persuade. Pure reason may lead us to approve or censure, but it is feeling which leads to action, and how shall we care about that which does not concern us?
Never show a child what he cannot see. Since mankind is almost unknown to him, and since you cannot make a man of him, bring the man down to the level of the child. While you are thinking what will be useful to him when he is older, talk to him of what he knows he can use now. Moreover, as soon as he begins to reason let there be no comparison with other children, no rivalry, no competition, not even in running races. I would far rather he did not learn anything than have him learn it through jealousy or self-conceit. Year by year I shall just note the progress he had made, I shall compare the results with those of the following year, I shall say, “You have grown so much; that is the ditch you jumped, the weight you carried, the distance you flung a pebble, the race you ran without stopping to take breath, etc.; let us see what you can do now.”
In this way he is stimulated to further effort without jealousy. He wants to excel himself as he ought to do; I see no reason why he should not emulate his own performances.
I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about. Hermes, they say, engraved the elements of science on pillars lest a deluge should destroy them. Had he imprinted them on men’s hearts they would have been preserved by tradition. Well-trained minds are the pillars on which human knowledge is most deeply engraved.
Is there no way of correlating so many lessons scattered through so many books, no way of focussing them on some common object, easy to see, interesting to follow, and stimulating even to a child? Could we but discover a state in which all man’s needs appear in such a way as to appeal to the child’s mind, a state in which the ways of providing for these needs are as easily developed, the simple and stirring portrayal of this state should form the earliest training of the child’s imagination.
Eager philosopher, I see your own imagination at work. Spare yourself the trouble; this state is already known, it is described, with due respect to you, far better than you could describe it, at least with greater truth and simplicity. Since we must have books, there is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No; it is Robinson Crusoe.
Robinson Crusoe on his island, deprived of the help of his fellowmen, without the means of carrying on the various arts, yet finding food, preserving his life, and procuring a certain amount of comfort; this is the thing to interest people of all ages, and it can be made attractive to children in all sorts of ways. We shall thus make a reality of that desert island which formerly served as an illustration. The condition, I confess, is not that of a social being, nor is it in all probability Emile’s own condition, but he should use it as a standard of comparison for all other conditions. The surest way to raise him above prejudice and to base his judgments on the true relations of things, is to put him in the place of a solitary man, and to judge all things as they would be judged by such a man in relation to their own utility.
This novel, stripped of irrelevant matter, begins with Robinson’s shipwreck on his island, and ends with the coming of the ship which bears him from it, and it will furnish Emile with material, both for work and play, during the whole period we are considering. His head should be full of it, he should always be busy with his castle, his goats, his plantations. Let him learn in detail, not from books but from things, all that is necessary in such a case. Let him think he is Robinson himself; let him see himself clad in skins, wearing a tall cap, a great cutlass, all the grotesque get-up of Robinson Crusoe, even to the umbrella which he will scarcely need. He should anxiously consider what steps to take; will this or that be wanting. He should examine his hero’s conduct; has he omitted nothing; is there nothing he could have done better? He should carefully note his mistakes, so as not to fall into them himself in similar circumstances, for you may be sure he will plan out just such a settlement for himself. This is the genuine castle in the air of this happy age, when the child knows no other happiness but food and freedom.
What a motive will this infatuation supply in the hands of a skilful teacher who has aroused it for the purpose of using it. The child who wants to build a storehouse on his desert island will be more eager to learn than the master to teach. He will want to know all sorts of useful things and nothing else; you will need the curb as well as the spur. Make haste, therefore, to establish him on his island while this is all he needs to make him happy; for the day is at hand, when, if he must still live on his island, he will not be content to live alone, when even the companionship of Man Friday, who is almost disregarded now, will not long suffice.
The exercise of the natural arts, which may be carried on by one man alone, leads on to the industrial arts which call for the cooperation of many hands. The former may be carried on by hermits, by savages, but the others can only arise in a society, and they make society necessary. So long as only bodily needs are recognised man is self-sufficing; with superfluity comes the need for division and distribution of labour, for though one man working alone can earn (illegible) man’s living, one hundred men working together can earn (illegible) living of two hundred. As soon as some men are idle, others must work to make up for their idleness.
Your main object should be to keep out of your scholar’s way all idea of such social relations as he cannot understand, but when the development of knowledge compels you to show him the mutual dependence of mankind, instead of showing him its moral side, turn all his attention at first towards industry and the mechanical arts which make men useful to one another. While you take him from one workshop to another, let him try his hand at every trade you show him, and do not let him leave it till he has thoroughly learnt why everything is done, or at least everything that has attracted his attention. With this aim you should take a share in his work and set him an example. Be yourself the apprentice that he may become a master; you may expect him to learn more in one hour’s work than he would retain after a whole day’s explanation.
The value set by the general public on the various arts is in inverse ratio to their real utility. They are even valued directly according to their uselessness. This might be expected. The most useful arts are the worst paid, for the number of workmen is regulated by the demand, and the work which everybody requires must necessarily be paid at a rate which puts it within the reach of the poor. On the other hand, those great people who are called artists, not artisans, who labour only for the rich and idle, put a fancy price on their trifles; and as the real value of this vain labour is purely imaginary, the price itself adds to their market value, and they are valued according to their costliness. The rich think so much of these things, not because they are useful, but because they are beyond the reach of the poor. Nolo habere bona, nisi quibus populus inviderit.
What will become of your pupils if you let them acquire this foolish prejudice, if you share it yourself? If, for instance, they see you show more politeness in a jeweller’s shop than in a locksmith’s. What idea will they form of the true worth of the arts and the real value of things when they see, on the one hand, a fancy price and, on the other, the price of real utility, and that the more a thing costs the less it is worth? As soon as you let them get hold of these ideas, you may give up all attempt at further education; in spite of you they will be like all the other scholars—you have wasted fourteen years.
Emile, bent on furnishing his island, will look at things from another point of view. Robinson would have thought more of a toolmaker’s shop than all Saide’s trifles put together. He would have reckoned the toolmaker a very worthy man, and Saide little more than a charlatan.
“My son will have to take the world as he finds it, he will not live among the wise but among fools; he must therefore be acquainted with their follies, since they must be led by this means. A real knowledge of things may be a good thing in itself, but the knowledge of men and their opinions is better, for in human society man is the chief tool of man, and the wisest man is he who best knows the use of this tool. What is the good of teaching children an imaginary system, just the opposite of the established order of things, among which they will have to live? First teach them wisdom, then show them the follies of mankind.”
These are the specious maxims by which fathers, who mistake them for prudence, strive to make their children the slaves of the prejudices in which they are educated, and the puppets of the senseless crowd, which they hope to make subservient to their passions. How much must be known before we attain to a knowledge of man. This is the final study of the philosopher, and you expect to make it the first lesson of the child! Before teaching him our sentiments, first teach him to judge of their worth. Do you perceive folly when you mistake it for wisdom? To be wise we must discern between good and evil. How can your child know men, when he can neither judge of their judgments nor unravel their mistakes? It is a misfortune to know what they think, without knowing whether their thoughts are true or false. First teach him things as they really are, afterwards you will teach him how they appear to us. He will then be able to make a comparison between popular ideas and truth, and be able to rise above the vulgar crowd; for you are unaware of the prejudices you adopt, and you do not lead a nation when you are like it. But if you begin to teach the opinions of other people before you teach how to judge of their worth, of one thing you may be sure, your pupil will adopt those opinions whatever you may do, and you will not succeed in uprooting them. I am therefore convinced that to make a young man judge rightly, you must form his judgment rather than teach him your own.
So far you see I have not spoken to my pupil about men; he would have too much sense to listen to me. His relations to other people are as yet not sufficiently apparent to him to enable him to judge others by himself. The only person he knows is himself, and his knowledge of himself is very imperfect. But if he forms few opinions about others, those opinions are correct. He knows nothing of another’s place, but he knows his own and keeps to it. I have bound him with the strong cord of necessity, instead of social laws, which are beyond his knowledge. He is still little more than a body; let us treat him as such.
Every substance in nature and every work of man must be judged in relation to his own use, his own safety, his own preservation, his own comfort. Thus he should value iron far more than gold, and glass than diamonds; in the same way he has far more respect for a shoemaker or a mason than for a Lempereur, a Le Blanc, or all the jewellers in Europe. In his eyes a confectioner is a really great man, and he would give the whole academy of sciences for the smallest pastrycook in Lombard Street. Goldsmiths, engravers, gilders, and embroiderers, he considers lazy people, who play at quite useless games. He does not even think much of a clockmaker. The happy child enjoys Time without being a slave to it; he uses it, but he does not know its value. The freedom from passion which makes every day alike to him, makes any means of measuring time unnecessary. When I assumed that Emile had a watch,1 just as I assumed that he cried, it was a commonplace Emile that I chose to serve my purpose and make myself understood. The real Emile, a child so different from the rest, would not serve as an illustration for anything.
There is an order no less natural and even more accurate, by which the arts are valued according to bonds of necessity which connect them; the highest class consists of the most independent, the lowest of those most dependent on others. This classification, which suggests important considerations on the order of society in general, is like the preceding one in that it is subject to the same inversion in popular estimation, so that the use of raw material is the work of the lowest and worst paid trades, while the oftener the material changes hands, the more the work rises in price and in honour. I do not ask whether industry is really greater and more deserving of reward when engaged in the delicate arts which give the final shape to these materials, than in the labour which first gave them to man’s use; but this I say, that in everything the art which is most generally useful and necessary, is undoubtedly that which most deserves esteem, and that art which requires the least help from others, is more worthy of honour than those which are dependent on other arts, since it is freer and more nearly independent. These are the true laws of value in the arts; all others are arbitrary and dependent on popular prejudice.
Agriculture is the earliest and most honourable of arts; metal work I put next, then carpentry, and so on. This is the order in which the child will put them, if he has not been spoilt by vulgar prejudices. What valuable considerations Emile will derive from his Robinson in such matters. What will he think when he sees the arts only brought to perfection by sub-division, by the infinite multiplication of tools. He will say, “All those people are as silly as they are ingenious; one would think they were afraid to use their eyes and their hands, they invent so many tools instead. To carry on one trade they become the slaves of many others; every single workman needs a whole town. My friend and I try to gain skill; we only make tools we can take about with us; these people, who are so proud of their talents in Paris, would be no use at all on our island; they would have to become apprentices.”
Reader, do not stay to watch the bodily exercises and manual skill of our pupil, but consider the bent we are giving to his childish curiosity; consider his common-sense, his inventive spirit, his foresight; consider what a head he will have on his shoulders. He will want to know all about everything he sees or does, to learn the why and the wherefore of it; from tool to tool he will go back to the first beginning, taking nothing for granted; he will decline to learn anything that requires previous knowledge which he has not acquired. If he sees a spring made he will want to know how they got the steel from the mine; if he sees the pieces of a chest put together, he will want to know how the tree was cut down; when at work he will say of each tool, “If I had not got this, how could I make one like it, or how could I get along without it?”
It is, however, difficult to avoid another error. When the master is very fond of certain occupations, he is apt to assume that the child shares his tastes; beware lest you are carried away by the interest of your work, while the child is bored by it, but is afraid to show it. The child must come first, and you must devote yourself entirely to him. Watch him, study him constantly, without his knowing it; consider his feelings beforehand, and provide against those which are undesirable, keep him occupied in such a way that he not only feels the usefulness of the thing, but takes a pleasure in understanding the purpose which his work will serve.
The solidarity of the arts consists in the exchange of industry, that of commerce in the exchange of commodities, that of banks in the exchange of money or securities. All these ideas hang together, and their foundation has already been laid in early childhood with the help of Robert the gardener. All we have now to do is to substitute general ideas for particular, and to enlarge these ideas by means of numerous examples, so as to make the child understand the game of business itself, brought home to him by means of particular instances of natural history with regard to the special products of each country, by particular instances of the arts and sciences which concern navigation and the difficulties of transport, greater or less in proportion to the distance between places, the position of land, seas, rivers, etc.
There can be no society without exchange, no exchange without a common standard of measurement, no common standard of measurement without equality. Hence the first law of every society is some conventional equality either in men or things.
Conventional equality between men, a very different thing from natural equality, leads to the necessity for positive law, i.e., government and kings. A child’s political knowledge should be clear and restricted; he should know nothing of government in general, beyond what concerns the rights of property, of which he has already some idea.
Conventional equality between things has led to the invention of money, for money is only one term in a comparison between the values of different sorts of things; and in this sense money is the real bond of society; but anything may be money; in former days it was cattle; shells are used among many tribes at the present day; Sparta used iron; Sweden, leather; while we use gold and silver.
Metals, being easier to carry, have generally been chosen as the middle term of every exchange, and these metals have been made into coin to save the trouble of continual weighing and measuring, for the stamp on the coin is merely evidence that the coin is of given weight; and the sole right of coining money is vested in the ruler because he alone has the right to demand the recognition of his authority by the whole nation.
The stupidest person can perceive the use of money when it is explained in this way. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between various things, for instance, between cloth and corn; but when we find a common measure, in money, it is easy for the manufacturer and the farmer to estimate the value of the goods they wish to exchange in terms of this common measure. If a given quantity of cloth is worth a given some of money, and a given quantity of corn is worth the same sum of money, then the seller, receiving the corn in exchange for his cloth, makes a fair bargain. Thus by means of money it becomes possible to compare the values of goods of various kinds.
Be content with this, and do not touch upon the moral effects of this institution. In everything you must show clearly the use before the abuse. If you attempt to teach children how the sign has led to the neglect of the thing signified, how money is the source of all the false ideas of society, how countries rich in silver must be poor in everything else, you will be treating these children as philosophers, and not only as philosophers but as wise men, for you are professing to teach them what very few philosophers have grasped.
What a wealth of interesting objects, towards which the curiosity of our pupil may be directed without ever quitting the real and material relations he can understand, and without permitting the formation of a single idea beyond his grasp! The teacher’s art consists in this: To turn the child’s attention from trivial details and to guide his thoughts continually towards relations of importance which he will one day need to know, that he may judge rightly of good and evil in human society. The teacher must be able to adapt the conversation with which he amuses his pupil to the turn already given to his mind. A problem which another child would never heed will torment Emile half a year.
We are going to dine with wealthy people; when we get there everything is ready for a feast, many guests, many servants, many dishes, dainty and elegant china. There is something intoxicating in all these preparations for pleasure and festivity when you are not used to them. I see how they will affect my young pupil. While dinner is going on, while course follows course, and conversation is loud around us, I whisper in his ear, “How many hands do you suppose the things on this table passed through before they got here?” What a crowd of ideas is called up by these few words. In a moment the mists of excitement have rolled away. He is thinking, considering, calculating, and anxious. The child is philosophising, while philosophers, excited by wine or perhaps by female society, are babbling like children. If he asks questions I decline to answer and put him off to another day. He becomes impatient, he forgets to eat and drink, he longs to get away from table and talk as he pleases. What an object of curiosity, what a text for instruction. Nothing has so far succeeded in corrupting his healthy reason; what will he think of luxury when he finds that every quarter of the globe has been ransacked, that some 2,000,000 men have laboured for years, that many lives have perhaps been sacrificed, and all to furnish him with fine clothes to be worn at midday and laid by in the wardrobe at night.
Be sure you observe what private conclusions he draws from all his observations. If you have watched him less carefully than I suppose, his thoughts may be tempted in another direction; he may consider himself a person of great importance in the world, when he sees so much labour concentrated on the preparation of his dinner. If you suspect his thoughts will take this direction you can easily prevent it, or at any rate promptly efface the false impression. As yet he can only appropriate things by personal enjoyment, he can only judge of their fitness or unfitness by their outward effects. Compare a plain rustic meal, preceded by exercise, seasoned by hunger, freedom, and delight, with this magnificent but tedious repast. This will suffice to make him realise that he has got no real advantage from the splendour of the feast, that his stomach was as well satisfied when he left the table of the peasant, as when he left the table of the banker; from neither had he gained anything he could really call his own.
Just fancy what a tutor might say to him on such an occasion. Consider the two dinners and decide for yourself which gave you most pleasure, which seemed the merriest, at which did you eat and drink most heartily, which was the least tedious and required least change of courses? Yet note the difference—this black bread you so enjoy is made from the peasant’s own harvest; his wine is dark in colour and of a common kind, but wholesome and refreshing; it was made in his own vineyard; the cloth is made of his own hemp, spun and woven in the winter by his wife and daughters and the maid; no hands but theirs have touched the food. His world is bounded by the nearest mill and the next market. How far did you enjoy all that the produce of distant lands and the service of many people had prepared for you at the other dinner? If you did not get a better meal, what good did this wealth do you? how much of it was made for you? Had you been the master of the house, the tutor might say, it would have been of still less use to you; for the anxiety of displaying your enjoyment before the eyes of others would have robbed you of it; the pains would be yours, the pleasure theirs.
This may be a very fine speech, but it would be thrown away upon Emile, as he cannot understand it, and he does not accept second-hand opinions. Speak more simply to him. After these two experiences, say to him some day, “Where shall we have our dinner to-day? Where that mountain of silver covered three quarters of the table and those beds of artificial flowers on looking glass were served with the dessert, where those smart ladies treated you as a toy and pretended you said what you did not mean; or in that village two leagues away, with those good people who were so pleased to see us and gave us such delicious cream?” Emile will not hesitate; he is not vain and he is no chatterbox; he cannot endure constraint, and he does not care for fine dishes; but he is always ready for a run in the country and is very fond of good fruit and vegetables, sweet cream and kindly people.1 On our way, the thought will occur to him, “All those people who laboured to prepare that grand feast were either wasting their time or they have no idea how to enjoy themselves.”
My example may be right for one child and wrong for the rest. If you enter into their way of looking at things you will know how to vary your instances as required; the choice depends on the study of the individual temperament, and this study in turn depends on the opportunities which occur to show this temperament. You will not suppose that, in the three or four years at our disposal, even the most gifted child can get an idea of all the arts and sciences, sufficient to enable him to study them for himself when he is older; but by bringing before him what he needs to know, we enable him to develop his own tastes, his own talents, to take the first step towards the object which appeals to his individuality and to show us the road we must open up to aid the work of nature.
There is another advantage of these trains of limited but exact bits of knowledge; he learns by their connection and interdependence how to rank them in his own estimation and to be on his guard against those prejudices, common to most men, which draw them towards the gifts they themselves cultivate and away from those they have neglected. The man who clearly sees the whole, sees where each part should be; the man who sees one part clearly and knows it thoroughly may be a learned man, but the former is a wise man, and you remember it is wisdom rather than knowledge that we hope to acquire.
However that may be, my method does not depend on my examples; it depends on the amount of a man’s powers at different ages, and the choice of occupations adapted to those powers. I think it would be easy to find a method which appeared to give better results, but if it were less suited to the type, sex, and age of the scholar, I doubt whether the results would really be as good.
At the beginning of this second period we took advantage of the fact that our strength was more than enough for our needs, to enable us to get outside ourselves. We have ranged the heavens and measured the earth; we have sought out the laws of nature; we have explored the whole of our island. Now let us return to ourselves, let us unconsciously approach our own dwelling. We are happy indeed if we do not find it already occupied by the dreaded foe, who is preparing to seize it.
What remains to be done when we have observed all that lies around us? We must turn to our own use all that we can get, we must increase our comfort by means of our curiosity. Hitherto we have provided ourselves with tools of all kinds, not knowing which we require. Perhaps those we do not want will be useful to others, and perhaps we may need theirs. Thus we discover the use of exchange; but for this we must know each other’s needs, what tools other people use, what they can offer in exchange. Given ten men, each of them has ten different requirements. To get what he needs for himself each must work at ten different trades; but considering our different talents, one will do better at this trade, another at that. Each of them, fitted for one thing, will work at all, and will be badly served. Let us form these ten men into a society, and let each devote himself to the trade for which he is best adapted, and let him work at it for himself and for the rest. Each will reap the advantage of the others’ talents, just as if they were his own; by practice each will perfect his own talent, and thus all the ten, well provided for, will still have something to spare for others. This is the plain foundation of all our institutions. It is not my aim to examine its results here; I have done so in another book (Discours sur l’inégalité).
According to this principle, any one who wanted to consider himself as an isolated individual, self-sufficing and independent of others, could only be utterly wretched. He could not even continue to exist, for finding the whole earth approprited by others while he had only himself, how could he get the means of subsistence? When we leave the state of nature we compel others to do the same; no one can remain in a state of nature in spite of his fellow-creatures, and to try to remain in it when it is no longer practicable, would really be to leave it, for self-preservation is nature’s first law.
Thus the idea of social relations is gradually developed in the child’s mind, before he can really be an active member of human society. Emile sees that to get tools for his own use, other people must have theirs, and that he can get in exchange what he needs and they possess. I easily bring him to feel the need of such exchange and to take advantage of it.
“Sir, I must live,” said a miserable writer of lampoons to the minister who reproved him for his infamous trade. “I do not see the necessity,” replied the great man coldly. This answer, excellent from the minister, would have been barbarous and untrue in any other mouth. Every man must live; this argument, which appeals to every one with more or less force in proportion to his humanity, strikes me as unanswerable when applied to oneself. Since our dislike of death is the strongest of those aversions nature has implanted in us, it follows that everything is permissible to the man who has no other means of living. The principles, which teach the good man to count his life a little thing and to sacrifice it at duty’s call, are far removed from this primitive simplicity. Happy are those nations where one can be good without effort, and just without conscious virtue. If in this world there is any condition so miserable that one cannot live without wrong-doing, where the citizen is driven into evil, you should hang, not the criminal, but those who drove him into crime.
As soon as Emile knows what life is, my first care will be to teach him to preserve his life. Hitherto I have made no distinction of condition, rank, station, or fortune; nor shall I distinguish between them in the future, since man is the same in every station; the rich man’s stomach is no bigger than the poor man’s, nor is his digestion any better; the master’s arm is neither longer nor stronger than the slave’s; a great man is no taller than one of the people, and indeed the natural needs are the same to all, and the means of satisfying them should be equally within the reach of all. Fit a man’s education to his real self, not to what is no part of him. Do you not see that in striving to fit him merely for one station, you are unfitting him for anything else, so that some caprice of Fortune may make your work really harmful to him? What could be more absurd than a nobleman in rags, who carries with him into his poverty the prejudices of his birth? What is more despicable than a rich man fallen into poverty, who recalls the scorn with which he himself regarded the poor, and feels that he has sunk to the lowest depth of degradation? The one may become a professional thief, the other a cringing servant, with this fine saying, “I must live.”
You reckon on the present order of society, without considering that this order is itself subject to inscrutable changes, and that you can neither foresee nor provide against the revolution which may affect your children. The great become small, the rich poor, the king a commoner. Does fate strike so seldom that you can count on immunity from her blows? The crisis is approaching, and we are on the edge of a revolution.1 Who can answer for your fate? What man has made, man may destroy. Nature’s characters alone are ineffaceable, and nature makes neither the prince, the rich man, nor the nobleman. This satrap whom you have educated for greatness, what will become of him in his degradation? This farmer of the taxes who can only live on gold, what will he do in poverty? This haughty fool who cannot use his own hands, who prides himself on what is not really his, what will he do when he is stripped of all? In that day, happy will he be who can give up the rank which is no longer his, and be still a man in Fate’s despite. Let men praise as they will that conquered monarch who like a madman would be buried beneath the fragments of his throne; I behold him with scorn; to me he is merely a crown, and when that is gone he is nothing. But he who loses his crown and lives without it, is more than a king; from the rank of a king, which may be held by a coward, a villain, or madman, he rises to the rank of a man, a position few can fill. Thus he triumphs over Fortune, he dares to look her in the face; he depends on himself alone, and when he has nothing left to show but himself he is not a nonentity, he is somebody. Better a thousandfold the king of Corinth a schoolmaster at Syracuse, than a wretched Tarquin, unable to be anything but a king, or the heir of the ruler of three kingdoms, the sport of all who would scorn his poverty, wandering from court to court in search of help, and finding nothing but insults, for want of knowing any trade but one which he can no longer practise.
The man and the citizen, whoever he may be, has no property to invest in society but himself, all his other goods belong to society in spite of himself, and when a man is rich, either he does not enjoy his wealth, or the public enjoys it too; in the first case he robs others as well as himself; in the second he gives them nothing. Thus his debt to society is still unpaid, while he only pays with his property. “But my father was serving society while he was acquiring his wealth.” Just so; he paid his own debt, not yours. You owe more to others than if you had been born with nothing, since you were born under favourable conditions. It is not fair that what one man has done for society should pay another’s debt, for since every man owes all that he is, he can only pay his own debt, and no father can transmit to his son any right to be of no use to mankind. “But,” you say, “this is just what he does when he leaves me his wealth, the reward of his labour.” The man who eats in idleness what he has not himself earned, is a thief, and in my eyes, the man who lives on an income paid him by the state for doing nothing, differs little from a highwayman who lives on those who travel his way. Outside the pale of society, the solitary, owing nothing to any man, may live as he pleases, but in society either he lives at the cost of others, or he owes them in labour the cost of his keep; there is no exception to this rule. Man in society is bound to work; rich or poor, weak or strong, every idler is a thief.
Now of all the pursuits by which a man may earn his living, the nearest to a state of nature is manual labour; of all stations that of the artisan is least dependent on Fortune. The artisan depends on his labour alone, he is a free man while the ploughman is a slave; for the latter depends on his field where the crops may be destroyed by others. An enemy, a prince, a powerful neighbour, or a law-suit may deprive him of his field; through this field he may be harassed in all sorts of ways. But if the artisan is ill-treated his goods are soon packed and he takes himself off. Yet agriculture is the earliest, the most honest of trades, and more useful than all the rest, and therefore more honourable for those who practise it. I do not say to Emile, “Study agriculture,” he is already familiar with it. He is acquainted with every kind of rural labour, it was his first occupation, and he returns to it continually. So I say to him, “Cultivate your father’s lands, but if you lose this inheritance, or if you have none to lose, what will you do? Learn a trade.”
“A trade for my son! My son a working man! What are you thinking of, sir?” Madam, my thoughts are wiser than yours; you want to make him fit for nothing but a lord, a marquis, or a prince; and some day he may be less than nothing. I want to give him a rank which he cannot lose, a rank which will always do him honour; I want to raise him to the status of a man, and, whatever you may say, he will have fewer equals in that rank than in your own.
The letter killeth, the spirit giveth life. Learning a trade matters less than overcoming the prejudices he despises. You will never be reduced to earning your livelihood; so much the worse for you. No matter; work for honour, not for need; stoop to the position of a working man, to rise above your own. To conquer Fortune and everything else, begin by independence. To rule through public opinion, begin by ruling over it.
Remember I demand no talent, only a trade, a genuine trade, a mere mechanical art, in which the hands work harder than the head, a trade which does not lead to fortune but makes you independent of her. In households far removed from all danger of want I have known fathers carry prudence to such a point as to provide their children not only with ordinary teaching but with knowledge by means of which they could get a living if anything happened. These far-sighted parents thought they were doing a great thing. It is nothing, for the resources they fancy they have secured depend on that very fortune of which they would make their children independent; so that unless they found themselves in circumstances fitted for the display of their talents, they would die of hunger as if they had none.
As soon as it is a question of influence and intrigue you may as well use these means to keep yourself in plenty, as to acquire, in the depths of poverty, the means of returning to your former position. If you cultivate the arts which depend on the artist’s reputation, if you fit yourself for posts which are only obtained by favour, how will that help you when, rightly disgusted with the world, you scorn the steps by which you must climb. You have studied politics and state-craft, so far so good; but how will you use this knowledge, if you cannot gain the ear of the ministers, the favourites, or the officials? if you have not the secret of winning their favour, if they fail to find you a rogue to their taste? You are an architect or a painter; well and good; but your talents must be displayed. Do you suppose you can exhibit in the salon without further ado? That is not the way to set about it. Lay aside the rule and the pencil, take a cab and drive from door to door; there is the road to fame. Now you must know that the doors of the great are guarded by porters and flunkeys, who only understand one language, and their ears are in their palms. If you wish to teach what you have learned, geography, mathematics, languages, music, drawing, even to find pupils, you must have friends who will sing your praises. Learning, remember, gains more credit than skill, and with no trade but your own none will believe in your skill. See how little you can depend on these fine “Resources,” and how many other resources are required before you can use what you have got. And what will become of you in your degradation? Misfortune will make you worse rather than better. More than ever the sport of public opinion, how will you rise above the prejudices on which your fate depends? How will you despise the vices and the baseness from which you get your living? You were dependent on wealth, now you are dependent on the wealthy; you are still a slave and a poor man into the bargain. Poverty without freedom, can a man sink lower than this!
But if instead of this recondite learning adapted to feed the mind, not the body, you have recourse, at need, to your hands and your handiwork, there is no call for deceit, your trade is ready when required. Honour and honesty will not stand in the way of your living. You need no longer cringe and lie to the great, nor creep and crawl before rogues, a despicable flatterer of both, a borrower or a thief, for there is little to choose between them when you are penniless. Other people’s opinions are no concern of yours, you need not pay court to any one, there is no fool to flatter, no flunkey to bribe, no woman to win over. Let rogues conduct the affairs of state; in your lowly rank you can still be an honest man and yet get a living. You walk into the first workshop of your trade. “Master, I want work.” “Comrade, take your place and work.” Before dinner-time you have earned your dinner. If you are sober and industrious, before the week is out you will have earned your keep for another week; you will have lived in freedom, health, truth, industry, and righteousness. Time is not wasted when it brings these returns.
Emile shall learn a trade. “An honest trade, at least,” you say. What do you mean by honest? Is not every useful trade honest? I would not make an embroiderer, a gilder, a polisher of him, like Locke’s young gentleman. Neither would I make him a musician, an actor, or an author.1 With the exception of these and others like them, let him choose his own trade, I do not mean to interfere with his choice. I would rather have him a shoemaker than a poet, I would rather he paved streets than painted flowers on china. “But,” you will say, “policemen, spies, and hangmen are useful people.” There would be no use for them if it were not for the government. But let that pass. I was wrong. It is not enough to choose an honest trade, it must be a trade which does not develop detestable qualities in the mind, qualities incompatible with humanity. To return to our original expression, “Let us choose an honest trade,” but let us remember there can be no honesty without usefulness.
A famous writer of this century, whose books are full of great schemes and narrow views, was under a vow, like the other priests of his communion, not to take a wife. Finding himself more scrupulous than others with regard to his neighbour’s wife, he decided, so they say, to employ pretty servants, and so did his best to repair the wrong done to the race by his rash promise. He thought it the duty of a citizen to breed children for the state, and he made his children artisans. As soon as they were old enough they were taught whatever trade they chose; only idle or useless trades were excluded, such as that of the wigmaker who is never necessary, and may any day cease to be required, so long as nature does not get tired of providing us with hair.
This spirit shall guide our choice of trade for Emile, or rather, not our choice but his; for the maxims he has imbibed make him despise useless things, and he will never be content to waste his time on vain labours; his trade must be of use to Robinson on his island.
When we review with the child the productions of art and nature, when we stimulate his curiosity and follow its lead, we have great opportunities of studying his tastes and inclinations, and perceiving the first spark of genius, if he has any decided talent in any direction. You must, however, be on your guard against the common error which mistakes the effects of environment for the ardour of genius, or imagines there is a decided bent towards any one of the arts, when there is nothing more than that spirit of emulation, common to men and monkeys, which impels them instinctively to do what they see others doing, without knowing why. The world is full of artisans, and still fuller of artists, who have no native gift for their calling, into which they were driven in early childhood, either through the conventional ideas of other people, or because those about them were deceived by an appearance of zeal, which would have led them to take to any other art they saw practised. One hears a drum and fancies he is a general; another sees a building and wants to be an architect. Every one is drawn towards the trade he sees before him if he thinks it is held in honour.
I once knew a footman who watched his master drawing and painting and took it into his head to become a designer and artist. He seized a pencil which he only abandoned for a paint-brush, to which he stuck for the rest of his days. Without teaching or rules of art he began to draw everything he saw. Three whole years were devoted to these daubs, from which nothing but his duties could stir him, nor was he discouraged by the small progress resulting from his very mediocre talents. I have seen him spend the whole of a broiling summer in a little ante-room towards the south, a room where one was suffocated merely passing through it; there he was, seated or rather nailed all day to his chair, before a globe, drawing it again and again and yet again, with invincible obstinacy till he had reproduced the rounded surface to his own satisfaction. At last with his master’s help and under the guidance of an artist he got so far as to abandon his livery and live by his brush. Perseverance does instead of talent up to a certain point; he got so far, but no further. This honest lad’s perseverance and ambition are praiseworthy; he will always be respected for his industry and steadfastness of purpose, but his paintings will always be third-rate. Who would not have been deceived by his zeal and taken it for real talent? There is all the difference in the world between a liking and an aptitude. To make sure of real genius or real taste in a child calls for more accurate observations than is generally suspected, for the child displays his wishes not his capacity, and we judge by the former instead of considering the latter. I wish some trustworthy person would give us a treatise on the art of child-study. This art is well worth studying, but neither parents nor teachers have mastered its elements.
Perhaps we are laying too much stress on the choice of a trade; as it is a manual occupation, Emile’s choice is no great matter, and his apprenticeship is more than half accomplished already, through the exercises which have hitherto occupied him. What would you have him do? He is ready for anything. He can handle the spade and hoe, he can use the lathe, hammer, plane, or file; he is already familiar with these tools which are common to many trades. He only needs to acquire sufficient skill in the use of any one of them to rival the speed, the familiarity, and the diligence of good workmen, and he will have a great advantage over them in suppleness of body and limb, so that he can easily take any position and can continue any kind of movements without effort. Moreover his senses are acute and well-practised, he knows the principles of the various trades; to work like a master of his craft he only needs experience, and experience comes with practice. To which of these trades which are open to us will he give sufficient time to make himself master of it? That is the whole question.
Give a man a trade befitting his sex, to a young man a trade befitting his age. Sedentary indoor employments, which make the body tender and effeminate, are neither pleasing nor suitable. No lad ever wanted to be a tailor. It takes some art to attract a man to this woman’s work.1 The same hand cannot hold the needle and the sword. If I were king I would only allow needlework and dressmaking to be done by women and cripples who are obliged to work at such trades. If eunuchs were required I think the Easterns were very foolish to make them on purpose. Why not take those provided by nature, that crowd of base persons without natural feeling? There would be enough and to spare. The weak, feeble, timid man is condemned by nature to a sedentary life, he is fit to live among women or in their fashion. Let him adopt one of their trades if he likes; and if there must be eunuchs let them take those men who dishonour their sex by adopting trades unworthy of it. Their choice proclaims a blunder on the part of nature; correct it one way or other, you will do no harm.
An unhealthy trade I forbid to my pupil, but not a difficult or dangerous one. He will exercise himself in strength and courage; such trades are for men not women, who claim no share in them. Are not men ashamed to poach upon the women’s trades?
Women are not seen in shops in Italy, and to persons accustomed to the streets of England and France nothing could look gloomier. When I saw drapers selling ladies ribbons, pompons, net, and chenille, I thought these delicate ornaments very absurd in the coarse hands fit to blow the bellows and strike the anvil. I said to myself, “In this country women should set up as steel-polishers and armourers.” Let each make and sell the weapons of his or her own sex; knowledge is acquired through use.
I know I have said too much for my agreeable contemporaries, but I sometimes let myself be carried away by my argument. If any one is ashamed to be seen wearing a leathern apron or handling a plane, I think him a mere slave of public opinion, ready to blush for what is right when people poke fun at it. But let us yield to parents’ prejudices so long as they do not hurt the children. To honour trades we are not obliged to practise every one of them, so long as we do not think them beneath us. When the choice is ours and we are under no compulsion, why not choose the pleasanter, more attractive and more suitable trade. Metal work is useful, more useful, perhaps, than the rest, but unless for some special reason Emile shall not be a blacksmith, a locksmith nor an ironworker. I do not want to see him a Cyclops at the forge. Neither would I have him a mason, still less a shoemaker. All trades must be carried on, but when the choice is ours, cleanliness should be taken into account; this is not a matter of class prejudice, our senses are our guides. In conclusion, I do not like those stupid trades in which the workmen mechanically perform the same action without pause and almost without mental effort. Weaving, stocking-knitting, stone-cutting; why employ intelligent men on such work? it is merely one machine employed on another.
All things considered, the trade I should choose for my pupil, among the trades he likes, is that of a carpenter. It is clean and useful; it may be carried on at home; it gives enough exercise; it calls for skill and industry, and while fashioning articles for everyday use, there is scope for elegance and taste. If your pupil’s talents happened to take a scientific turn, I should not blame you if you gave him a trade in accordance with his tastes, for instance, he might learn to make mathematical instruments, glasses, telescopes, etc.
When Emile learns his trade I shall learn it too. I am convinced he will never learn anything thoroughly unless we learn it together. So we shall both serve our apprenticeship, and we do not mean to be treated as gentlemen, but as real apprentices who are not there for fun; why should not we actually be apprenticed? Peter the Great was a ship’s carpenter and drummer to his own troops; was not that prince at least your equal in birth and merit? You understand this is addressed not to Emile but to you—to you, whoever you may be.
Unluckily we cannot spend the whole of our time at the workshop. We are not only ’prentice-carpenters but ’prentice-men—a trade whose apprenticeship is longer and more exacting than the rest. What shall we do? Shall we take a master to teach us the use of the plane and engage him by the hour like the dancing-master? In that case we should be not apprentices but students, and our ambition is not merely to learn carpentry but to be carpenters. Once or twice a week I think we should spend the whole day at our master’s; we should get up when he does, we should be at our work before him, we should take our meals with him, work under his orders, and after having had the honour of supping at his table we may if we please return to sleep upon our own hard beds. This is the way to learn several trades at once, to learn to do manual work without neglecting our apprenticeship to life.
Let us do what is right without ostentation; let us not fall into vanity through our efforts to resist it. To pride ourselves on our victory over prejudice is to succumb to prejudice. It is said that in accordance with an old custom of the Ottomans, the sultan is obliged to work with his hands, and, as every one knows, the handiwork of a king is a masterpiece. So he royally distributes his masterpieces among the great lords of the Porte and the price paid is in accordance with the rank of the workman. It is not this so-called abuse to which I object; on the contrary, it is an advantage, and by compelling the lords to share with him the spoils of the people it is so much the less necessary for the prince to plunder the people himself. Despotism needs some such relaxation, and without it that hateful rule could not last.
The real evil in such a custom is the idea it gives that poor man of his own worth. Like King Midas he sees all things turn to gold at his touch, but he does not see the ass’ ears growing. Let us keep Emile’s hands from money lest he should become an ass, let him take the work but not the wages. Never let his work be judged by any standard but that of the work of a master. Let it be judged as work, not because it is his. If anything is well done, I say, “That is a good piece of work,” but do not ask who did it. If he is pleased and proud and says, “I did it,” answer indifferently, “No matter who did it, it is well done.”
Good mother, be on your guard against the deceptions prepared for you. If your son knows many things, distrust his knowledge; if he is unlucky enough to be rich and educated in Paris he is ruined. As long as there are clever artists he will have every talent, but apart from his masters he will have none. In Paris a rich man knows everything, it is the poor who are ignorant. Our capital is full of amateurs, especially women, who do their work as M. Gillaume invents his colours. Among the men I know three striking exceptions, among the women I know no exceptions, and I doubt if there are any. In a general way a man becomes an artist and a judge of art as he becomes a Doctor of Laws and a magistrate.
If then it is once admitted that it is a fine thing to have a trade, your children would soon have one without learning it. They would become postmasters like the councillors of Zurich. Let us have no such ceremonies for Emile; let it be the real thing not the sham. Do not say what he knows, let him learn in silence. Let him make his masterpiece, but not be hailed as master; let him be a workman not in name but in deed.
If I have made my meaning clear you ought to realise how bodily exercise and manual work unconsciously arouse thought and reflexion in my pupil, and counteract the idleness which might result from his indifference to men’s judgments, and his freedom from passion. He must work like a peasant and think like a philosopher, if he is not to be as idle as a savage. The great secret of education is to use exercise of mind and body as relaxation one to the other.
But beware of anticipating teaching which demands more maturity of mind. Emile will not long be a workman before he discovers those social inequalities he had not previously observed. He will want to question me in turn on the maxims I have given him, maxims he is able to understand. When he derives everything from me, when he is so nearly in the position of the poor, he will want to know why I am so far removed from it. All of a sudden he may put scathing questions to me. “You are rich, you tell me, and I see you are. A rich man owes his work to the community like the rest because he is a man. What are you doing for the community?” What would a fine tutor say to that? I do not know. He would perhaps be foolish enough to talk to the child of the care he bestows upon him. The workshop will get me out of the difficulty. “My dear Emile that is a very good question; I will undertake to answer for myself, when you can answer for yourself to your own satisfaction. Meanwhile I will take care to give what I can spare to you and to the poor, and to make a table or a bench every week, so as not to be quite useless.”
We have come back to ourselves. Having entered into possession of himself, our child is now ready to cease to be a child. He is more than ever conscious of the necessity which makes him dependent on things. After exercising his body and his senses you have exercised his mind and his judgment. Finally we have joined together the use of his limbs and his faculties. We have made him a worker and a thinker; we have now to make him loving and tender-hearted, to perfect reason through feeling. But before we enter on this new order of things, let us cast an eye over the stage we are leaving behind us, and perceive as clearly as we can how far we have got.
At first our pupil had merely sensations, now he has ideas; he could only feel, now he reasons. For from the comparison of many successive or simultaneous sensations and the judgment arrived at with regard to them, there springs a sort of mixed or complex sensation which I call an idea.
The way in which ideas are formed gives a character to the human mind. The mind which derives its ideas from real relations is thorough; the mind which relies on apparent relations is superficial. He who sees relations as they are has an exact mind; he who fails to estimate them aright has an inaccurate mind; he who concocts imaginary relations, which have no real existence, is a madman; he who does not perceive any relation at all is an imbecile. Clever men are distinguished from others by their greater or less aptitude for the comparison of ideas and the discovery of relations between them.
Simple ideas consist merely of sensations compared one with another. Simple sensations involve judgments, as do the complex sensations which I call simple ideas. In the sensation the judgment is purely passive; it affirms that I feel what I feel. In the percept or idea the judgment is active; it connects, compares, it discriminates between relations not perceived by the senses. That is the whole difference; but it is a great difference. Nature never deceives us; we deceive ourselves.
I see some one giving an ice-cream to an eight-year-old child; he does not know what it is and puts the spoon in his mouth. Struck by the cold he cries out, “Oh, it burns!” He feels a very keen sensation, and the heat of the fire is the keenest sensation he knows, so he thinks that is what he feels. Yet he is mistaken; cold hurts, but it does not burn; and these two sensations are different, for persons with more experience do not confuse them. So it is not the sensation that is wrong, but the judgment formed with regard to it.
It is just the same with those who see a mirror or some optical instrument for the first time, or enter a deep cellar in the depths of winter or at midsummer, or dip a very hot or cold hand into tepid water, or roll a little ball between two crossed fingers. If they are content to say what they really feel, their judgment, being purely passive, cannot go wrong; but when they judge according to appearances, their judgment is active; it compares and establishes by induction relations which are not really perceived. Then these inductions may or may not be mistaken. Experience is required to correct or prevent error.
Show your pupil the clouds at night passing between himself and the moon; he will think the moon is moving in the opposite direction and that the clouds are stationary. He will think this through a hasty induction, because he generally sees small objects moving and larger ones at rest, and the clouds seems larger than the moon, whose distance is beyond his reckoning. When he watches the shore from a moving boat he falls into the opposite mistake and thinks the earth is moving because he does not feel the motion of the boat and considers it along with the sea or river as one motionless whole, of which the shore, which appears to move, forms no part.
The first time a child sees a stick half immersed in water he thinks he sees a broken stick; the sensation is true and would not cease to be true even if he knew the reason of this appearance. So if you ask him what he sees, he replies, “A broken stick,” for he is quite sure he is experiencing this sensation. But when deceived by his judgment he goes further and, after saying he sees a broken stick, he affirms that it really is broken he says what is not true. Why? Because he becomes active and judges no longer by observation but by induction, he affirms what he does not perceive, i.e., that the judgment he receives through one of his senses would be confirmed by another.
Since all our errors arise in our judgment, it is clear, that had we no need for judgment, we should not need to learn; we should never be liable to mistakes, we should be happier in our ignorance than we can be in our knowledge. Who can deny that a vast number of things are known to the learned, which the unlearned will never know? Are the learned any nearer truth? Not so, the further they go the further they get from truth, for their pride in their judgment increases faster than their progress in knowledge, so that for every truth they acquire they draw a hundred mistaken conclusions. Every one knows that the learned societies of Europe are mere schools of falsehood, and there are assuredly more mistaken notions in the Academy of Sciences than in a whole tribe of American Indians.
The more we know, the more mistakes we make; therefore ignorance is the only way to escape error. Form no judgments and you will never be mistaken. This is the teaching both of nature and reason. We come into direct contact with very few things, and these are very readily perceived; the rest we regard with profound indifference. A savage will not turn his head to watch the working of the finest machinery or all the wonders of electricity. “What does that matter to me?” is the common saying of the ignorant; it is the fittest phrase for the wise.
Unluckily this phrase will no longer serve our turn. Everything matters to us, as we are dependent on everything, and our curiosity naturally increases with our needs. This is why I attribute much curiosity to the man of science and none to the savage. The latter needs no help from anybody; the former requires every one, and admirers most of all.
You will tell me I am going beyond nature. I think not. She chooses her instruments and orders them, not according to fancy, but necessity. Now a man’s needs vary with his circumstances. There is all the difference in the world between a natural man living in a state of nature, and a natural man living in society. Emile is no savage to be banished to the desert, he is a savage who has to live in the town. He must know how to get his living in a town, how to use its inhabitants, and how to live among them, if not of them.
In the midst of so many new relations and dependent on them, he must reason whether he wants to or no. Let us therefore teach him to reason correctly.
The best way of learning to reason aright is that which tends to simplify our experiences, or to enable us to dispense with them altogether without falling into error. Hence it follows that we must learn to confirm the experiences of each sense by itself, without recourse to any other, though we have been in the habit of verifying the experience of one sense by that of another. Then each of our sensations will become an idea, and this idea will always correspond to the truth. This is the sort of knowledge I have tried to accumulate during this third phase of man’s life.
This method of procedure demands a patience and circumspection which few teachers possess; without them the scholar will never learn to reason. For example, if you hasten to take the stick out of the water when the child is deceived by its appearance, you may perhaps undeceive him, but what have you taught him? Nothing more than he would soon have learnt for himself. That is not the right thing to do. You have not got to teach him truths so much as to show him how to set about discovering them for himself. To teach him better you must not be in such a hurry to correct his mistakes. Let us take Emile and myself as an illustration.
To begin with, any child educated in the usual way could not fail to answer the second of my imaginary questions in the affirmative. He will say, “That is certainly a broken stick.” I very much doubt whether Emile will give the same reply. He sees no reason for knowing everything or pretending to know it; he is never in a hurry to draw conclusions. He only reasons from evidence and on this occasion he has not got the evidence. He knows how appearances deceive us, if only through perspective.
Moreover, he knows by experience that there is always a reason for my slightest questions, though he may not see it at once; so he has not got into the habit of giving silly answers; on the contrary, he is on his guard, he considers things carefully and attentively before answering. He never gives me an answer unless he is satisfied with it himself, and he is hard to please. Lastly we neither of us take any pride in merely knowing a thing, but only in avoiding mistakes. We should be more ashamed to deceive ourselves with bad reasoning, than to find no explanation at all. There is no phrase so appropriate to us, or so often on our lips, as, “I do not know;” neither of us are ashamed to use it. But whether he gives the silly answer or whether he avoids it by our convenient phrase “I do not know,” my answer is the same. “Let us examine it.”
This stick immersed half way in the water is fixed in an upright position. To know if it is broken, how many things must be done before we take it out of the water or even touch it.
1. First we walk round it, and we see that the broken part follows us. So it is only our eye that changes it; looks do not make things move.
2. We look straight down on that end of the stick which is above the water, the stick is no longer bent,1 the end near our eye exactly hides the other end. Has our eye set the stick straight?
3. We stir the surface of the water; we see the stick break into several pieces, it moves in zigzags and follows the ripples of the water. Can the motion we gave the water suffice to break, soften, or melt the stick like this?
4. We draw the water off, and little by little we see the stick straightening itself as the water sinks. Is not this more than enough to clear up the business and to discover refraction? So it is not true that our eyes deceive us, for nothing more has been required to correct the mistakes attributed to it.
Suppose the child were stupid enough not to perceive the result of these experiments, then you must call touch to the help of sight. Instead of taking the stick out of the water, leave it where it is and let the child pass his hand along it from end to end; he will feel no angle, therefore the stick is not broken.
You will tell me this is not mere judgment but formal reasoning. Just so; but do not you see that as soon as the mind has got any ideas at all, every judgment is a process of reasoning? So that as soon as we compare one sensation with another, we are beginning to reason. The art of judging and the art of reasoning are one and the same.
Emile will never learn dioptrics unless he learns with this stick. He will not have dissected insects nor counted the spots on the sun; he will not know what you mean by a microscope or a telescope. Your learned pupils will laugh at his ignorance and rightly. I intend him to invent these instruments before he uses them, and you will expect that to take some time.
This is the spirit of my whole method at this stage. If the child rolls a little ball between two crossed fingers and thinks he feels two balls, I shall not let him look until he is convinced there is only one.
This explanation will suffice, I hope, to show plainly the progress made by my pupil hitherto and the route followed by him. But perhaps the number of things I have brought to his notice alarms you. I shall crush his mind beneath this weight of knowledge. Not so, I am rather teaching him to be ignorant of things than to know them. I am showing him the path of science, easy indeed, but long, far-reaching and slow to follow. I am taking him a few steps along this path, but I do not allow him to go far.
Compelled to learn for himself, he uses his own reason not that of others, for there must be no submission to authority if you would have no submission to convention. Most of our errors are due to others more than ourselves. This continual exercise should develop a vigour of mind like that acquired by the body through labour and weariness. Another advantage is that his progress is in proportion to his strength, neither mind nor body carries more than it can bear. When the understanding lays hold of things before they are stored in the memory, what is drawn from that store is his own; while we are in danger of never finding anything of our own in a memory over-burdened with undigested knowledge.
Emile knows little, but what he knows is really his own; he has no half-knowledge. Among the few things he knows and knows thoroughly this is the most valuable, that there are many things he does not know now but may know some day, many more that other men know but he will never know, and an infinite number which nobody will ever know. He is large-minded, not through knowledge, but through the power of acquiring it; he is open-minded, intelligent, ready for anything, and, as Montaigne says, capable of learning if not learned. I am content if he knows the “Wherefore” of his actions and the “Why” of his beliefs. For once more my object is not to supply him with exact knowledge, but the means of getting it when required, to teach him to value it at its true worth, and to love truth above all things. By this method progress is slow but sure, and we never need to retrace our steps.
Emile’s knowledge is confined to nature and things. The very name of history is unknown to him, along with metaphysics and morals. He knows the essential relations between men and things, but nothing of the moral relations between man and man. He has little power of generalisation, he has no skill in abstraction. He perceives that certain qualities are common to certain things, without reasoning about these qualities themselves. He is acquainted with the abstract idea of space by the help of his geometrical figures; he is acquainted with the abstract idea of quantity by the help of his algebraical symbols. These figures and signs are the supports on which these ideas may be said to rest, the supports on which his senses repose. He does not attempt to know the nature of things, but only to know things in so far as they affect himself. He only judges what is outside himself in relation to himself, and his judgment is exact and certain. Caprice and prejudice have no part in it. He values most the things which are of use to himself, and as he never departs from this standard of values, he owes nothing to prejudice.
Emile is industrious, temperate, patient, stedfast, and full of courage. His imagination is still asleep, so he has no exaggerated ideas of danger; the few ills he feels he knows how to endure in patience, because he has not learnt to rebel against fate. As to death, he knows not what it means; but accustomed as he is to submit without resistance to the law of necessity, he will die, if die he must, without a groan and without a struggle; that is as much as we can demand of nature, in that hour which we all abhor. To live in freedom, and to be independent of human affairs, is the best way to learn how to die.
In a word Emile is possessed of all that portion of virtue which concerns himself. To acquire the social virtues he only needs a knowledge of the relations which make those virtues necessary; he only lacks knowledge which he is quite ready to receive.
He thinks not of others but of himself, and prefers that others should do the same. He makes no claim upon them, and acknowledges no debt to them. He is alone in the midst of human society, he depends on himself alone, for he is all that a boy can be at his age. He has no errors, or at least only such as are inevitable; he has no vices, or only those from which no man can escape. His body is healthy, his limbs are supple, his mind is accurate and unprejudiced, his heart is free and untroubled by passion. Pride, the earliest and the most natural of passions, has scarcely shown itself. Without disturbing the peace of others, he has passed his life contented, happy, and free, so far as nature allows. Do you think that the earlier years of a child, who has reached his fifteenth year in this condition, have been wasted?
[1 ] I could not help laughing when I read an elaborate criticism of this little tale by M. de Formy. “This conjuror,” says he, “who is afraid of a child’s competition and preaches to his tutor is the sort of person we meet with in the world in which Emile and such as he are living.” This witty M. de Formy could not guess that this little scene was arranged beforehand, and that the juggler was taught his part in it; indeed I did not state this fact. But I have said again and again that I was not writing for people who expected to be told everything.
[1 ] Before giving any explanation to a child a little ‘bit of apparatus serves to fix his attention.
[2 ] The wine sold by retail dealers in Paris is rarely free from lead, though some of it does not contain litharge, for the counters are covered with lead and when the wine is poured into the measures and some of it spilt upon the counter and the measures left standing on the counter, some of the lead is always dissolved. It is strange that so obvious and dangerous an abuse should be tolerated by the police. But indeed well-to-do people, who rarely drink these wines, are not likely to be poisoned by them.
[1 ] The vegetable acid is very gentle in its action. If it were a mineral acid and less diluted, the combination would not take place without effervescence.
[1 ] When our hearts are abandoned to the sway of passion, then it is that we need a measure of time. The wise man’s watch is his equable temper and his peaceful heart. He is always punctual, and he always knows the time.
[1 ] This taste, which I assume my pupil to have acquired, is a natural result of his education. Moreover, he has nothing foppish or affected about him, so that the ladies take little notice of him and he is less petted than other children; therefore he does not care for them, and is less spoilt by their company; he is not yet of an age to feel its charm. I have taken care not to teach him to kiss their hands, to pay them compliments, or even to be more polite to them than to men. It is my constant rule to ask nothing from him but what he can understand, and there is no good reason why a child should treat one sex differently from the other.
[1 ] In my opinion it is impossible that the great kingdoms of Europe should last much longer. Each of them has had its period of splendour, after which it must inevitably decline. I have my own opinions as to the special applications of this general statement, but this is not the place to enter into details, and they are only too evident to everybody.
[1 ] You are an author yourself, you will reply. Yes, for my sins; and my ill deeds, which I think I have fully expiated, are no reason why others should be like me. I do not write to excuse my faults, but to prevent my readers from copying them.
[1 ] There were no tailors among the ancients; men’s clothes were made at home by the women.
[1 ] I have since found by more exact experiment that this is not the case. Refraction acts in a circle, and the stick appears larger at the end which is in the water, but this makes no difference to the strength of the argument, and the conclusion is correct.