I is for Independence

| April 6, 2014

In reading Emile, it seems as if Rousseau would make the argument that the first gift of life should be suffering. A key part of Emile’s education was learning to be self-sufficient, and one can only grasp the notions of autonomy and independence through experiencing things themselves. The reality of life is that nothing is perfect; one would surely be miserable if his ultimate aim was to reach perfection, as this is an idea created in the fantasies of men. Suffering becomes the reality, and one who is self-sufficient is better equipped to handle life’s misfortune. In this way, experience is the weapon we can use to combat the troubles we will inevitably have to face. As Rousseau states, “Experience teaches that even more children raised delicately die than do others. Provided the limit of their strength is not exceeded, less is risked in employing that strength than in sparing it” (p. 47). Experience is the most essential education as it allows one to know thyself. It becomes important to note that experiencing an event firsthand is completely different from learning about an experience through reading a book. The former aids in one’s personal growth, while the latter is simply using the reasoning of others. It is imperative that one not rely on books to teach him what he does not know. Books are surely of great importance; I do not want to suggest otherwise. However, in terms of knowing thyself and becoming self-reliant, the knowledge we receive from books is of less use than the wisdom we gain from experience. Experience becomes a valuable tool as the wealth we are given from it accumulates over time; furthermore, each hardship becomes an important lesson that promotes our personal growth. For Rousseau, relying on the reasoning of other men would certainly harm oneself.