Desire as a pedagogical theme. A reading of Rousseau’s Émile

The paper takes its starting point in recent pedagogical literature seeking to rehabilitate desire as a pedagogical theme. An overall purpose of this rehabilitation is to radicalize pedagogy in the direction of an understanding of human subject which on one side incorporates desire as a fundamental phenomenon in human lives – and on the other side makes possible a critical discussion related to a question on how desire is arranged within a given culture. With this purpose in mind the paper consists of a reading of Rousseau’s Émile with focus on the concept of “désir”. The article brings forth four forms of desire through this reading: necessary desires (needs), desire for pleasure, recognition and power, desire for knowledge and erotic desire. Based on this reading the article brings Rousseau’s perspective in relation to the recent pedagogical literature and the paper argues that we need to critically reflect on the cultural arrangement of desire and assign responsibility to pedagogy in the way individuals learn to handle passions.

Keywords: Rousseau, desire, passion