Week Nine: MA Project

Updated: Apr 27

Image: Émile, Jean Jaques Rosseau

Some notes I took from the book Émile :

Book First:

  • Plants are improved by cultivation, and men by education.

  • We begin to instruct ourselves when we begin to live; our education commences with the commencement of our life; our first teacher is ur nurse.

  • We think only of preserving the child : this in not enough. We ought to teach him to preserve himself when he is a man ; to bear the blows of fate ; to brave both wealth and wretchedness ; to live, if need be, among the snows of Iceland or upon the burning rock of Malta.

  • To live is not merely to breathe, it is to act. It is to make use of our organs, of our senses, of our faculties, of all the powers which bear witness to us of our own existence.

  • If during his (Émile) infancy he has seen without fear frogs, serpents, crawfishes, he will, when grown up, see without shrinking any animal that may be shown to him. For one who daily sees frightful objects, there are none such.

  • If I wish to familiarise Émile with the noise of fire-arms, I first burn some powder in a pistol. The quickly vanishing flame, the new kind of lightning, greatly pleases him. I repeat the process, using more powder. By degrees I put into the pistol a small charge, without ramming it down ; then a larger charge ; finally, I accustom him to the noise of a gun, to bombs, to cannon-shots, to the most terrific noises.

Book Second:

  • The noblest work of education is to make a reasoning man, and we expect to train a young child by making him reason!

  • Do not give your pupil any sort of lesson verbally : he ought to receive none except from experience.

  • Keep his organs, his senses, his physical strength, busy ; but, as long as possible, keep his mind inactive.

  • The wise physician does not give directions at first sight of his patient, but he studies the sick man’s temperament, before prescribing. He begins late with his treatment, but cures the man : the over hasty physician kills him.

  • In learning to think, we must therefore employ our members, our senses, our organs, all which are the apparatus of our understanding.

  • To exercise the senses is not merely to use them, but to learn how to judge correctly by means of them ; we may say, to learn how to feel. For we cannot feel, or hear, or see, otherwise than as we have been taught.

  • Make as much of each as possible, and verify the impressions of one by those of another. Measure, count, weigh, and compare.

  • If you accustom him to forecast the effect of every movement, and to correct his errors by experience, is it not certain that the more he does the better his judgment will be?

Book Third:

  • Shall we never learn to put ourselves in the child’s place? We do not enter into his thoughts, but suppose them exactly like our own.

  • Bear in mind always that the life and soul of my system is, not to teach the child many things, but to allow only correct and clear ideas to enter his mind.

  • The thing is, not to teach him knowledge, but to give him a love for it, and a good method of acquiring it when this love has grown stronger. Certainly, this is a fundamental principle in all good education.

  • I cannot too often repeat that only objects purely physical can interest children, especially those who have not had their vanity aroused and their nature corrupted by the poison of opinion.

  • Try to teach the child all that is useful to him now , and you will keep him busy all the time. Why would you injure the studies suitable to him at his age by giving him those of an age he may never attain?

  • We should teach as much as possible by actions, and say only what we cannot do.

"He is prepared for knowledge of every kind ; not because he has so much, but because he knows how to quire it ; his mind is open to it, and, as Montaigne says, if not taught, he is at least teachable."

-Jean Jacques Rousseau

  • I repeat that my object is not to give him knowledge, but to teach him how to afire it at need ; to estimate it at its true value, and above all things, to love the truth.


Rousseau, J.J. Émile. Translated by E. Worthington [Accessed 6 Apr. 2022].

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