Keynote lecture by Frederik Neuhouser
On 17 December, Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard College, Columbia University) will give a keynote lecture on "Rousseau on the Nature and Source of Social Inequality" as part of the conference on Encountering Others, Understanding Ourselves in Medieval and Early Modern Thought. The lecture will take place in the House of Sciences and Letters (Kirkkokatu 6, hall 104), at 10.00-11.00 am.
Rousseau's Second Discourse offers a critique of social inequality that informs his accounts in later texts of the conditions under which the ills of inequality might be eliminated. His position on these issues, however, depends on answers to a prior set of questions concerning what precisely social inequality is and what its sources are. Clearly, defining social inequality requires referring to relations we have to others, but Rousseau's position is unique because it also locates the main source of inequality in a passion, l'amour-propre (the drive for recognition), that is intrinsically other-relating: l'amour-propre strives for comparative status as established by the evaluative opinions of others. After examining four types of social inequality distinguished by Rousseau—in wealth, status, social power, and authority—I will explicate three fundamental characteristics of social inequalities: i) their character as privileges, enjoyed by some to the disadvantage of others; ii) their artificial nature (because dependent on the "consent" of those subject to them); and their stubbornness, or resistance to change. In addition, I consider what these claims imply the form an effective critique of inequality must take, including why Rousseau regards economic inequality as the most significant form of inequality in modern societies.
Frederick Neuhouser is Professor of Philosophy and Viola Manderfeld Professor of German, at the Barnad College, Columbia University. His areas of interests are social and spiritual pathology in Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Durkheim, Weber, Freud, and the Frankfurt School. He is currently writing a book on the concept of social pathology and its role in social philosophies of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. His previous books are Rousseau's Critique of Inequality: Reconstructing the Second Discourse (Cambridge, 2014), Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition (Oxford, 2008), Actualizing Freedom: The Foundations of Hegel's Social Theory (Harvard, 2000) and Fichte's Theory of Subjectivity (Cambridge, 1990).
For more information about the conference which is organized by the Centre of Excellence in Reason and Religious Recognition, see https://blogs.helsinki.fi/reasonandreligiousrecognition/