Rousseau’s Dialogues and Individuation: A Jungian Analysis
by Guillemette Johnston
December 15, 2009
This study analyzes the Dialogues of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in terms of their representation of the global process of individuation as presented in analytical psychology. It argues that Rousseau's Dialogues portrays an advanced stage - that is to say, levels four and five - in the individuation process, corresponding on one hand to the withdrawal of ideological projections followed by the possibility of ego inflation, and on the other to the recognition of boundaries between the ego and the self through the internalization of psychic matters. Because the phenomenon of individuation is not always chronologically definable, the paper presents a practical definition of individuation, then marks its evolution through stages of Rousseau's life and its corresponding representation in Rousseau's literary productions as illustrated in the Dialogues, since this text recapitulates his life, and more particularly the confusion he felt once he chose to become an author. The work then focuses on the Dialogues themselves to analyze in detail the process of individuation via morphological and thematic criteria that relate to the text.
The aim of this study is to analyze the Dialogues of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in terms of their representation of the global process of individuation as presented in analytical psychology. In our view, Rousseau’s Dialogues portrays an advanced stage — that is to say, levels four and five — in this process, corresponding on one hand to the withdrawal of ideological projections followed by the possibility of ego inflation, and on the other to the recognition of boundaries between the ego and the self through the internalization of psychic matters. Because the phenomenon of individuation is not always chronologically definable (any psychological development can present moments of regression or progression at each stage of its itinerary), our approach will consist of presenting a practical definition of individuation, then marking its representation in Rousseau’s literary productions as illustrated in the Dialogues, since this text recapitulates his life, and more particularly the confusion he felt once he chose to become an author. We will then focus on the Dialogues themselves and analyze in detail the process of individuation via morphological and thematic criteria that relate to the text.
Individuation, according to C. G. Jung, unifies the conscious and unconscious systems of psychic matter. This unification occurs thanks to the spontaneous generation of one or more symbols contributing to the psychic blossoming of the individual. Jung distinguishes two fundamental phases in this psychic growth, which in turn can be divided into five consecutive stages. The two phases correspond first to the unification of the ego complex, second to individuation itself — or in other terms, to the return to the mother in which the ego complex tries to unite with the unconscious, the archetype of the self. This last stage usually occurs in the second half of existence.
Since consciousness only develops over time, it is possible to identify several degrees of growth in its formation. Jung calls the first level of growth the state of “participation mystique,” a term borrowed from the ethnologist Levy-Bruhl. At this level the individual identifies himself fully to the surrounding world. Not aware of this state, he or she lives in complete projection onto the world as a unity. No separation between self and other occurs; all is mysteriously linked. The second stage of growth involves localized projections. The self begins to distinguish self from other and establishes boundaries between subject and object. At this point the individual tends to limit projection to certain persons in whom he or she invests omnipotent and omniscient qualities. The third stage of growth involves a transition from concrete to abstract projections, leading the individual to recognize the world as an objective terrain wherein he or she no longer permanently confronts the object. Projection takes place at the level of vision or ideology, but nonetheless remains projection. Only at the fourth stage does the phenomenon of projection disappears; the individual no longer projects onto God, the world, or some ideology. Everything becomes contingent at this point, and through a relativizing of values, the ego, swollen with its own importance, risks falling into disillusion, delusion, paranoia, or megalomania. The fifth level establishes a state of recognition in which conscious and unconscious systems unite, allowing delineation of the point where ego ends and the contents of the unconscious begin. This turn, which involves internal communication, is directly linked to the transcendent functioning of unifying symbols that map out the individual’s psychic reality. The phenomenon of individuation simply involves recognizing these boundaries and internalizing psychic matter and mental contents.
Applying this theory to Rousseau’s works, we can choose as our unifying symbols “authorship” and Rousseau’s texts. This stage develops late in Rousseau’s life; he is already thirty-seven at the time of his “Illumination of Vincennes” (1749) through which he gains the inspiration to write his first Discourse, which makes him a celebrity almost overnight. His experiences as the toast of Parisian society are followed by his deliberate self-removal from Paris (1756), his quarrels with Diderot, Grimm, and Mme. d’Epinay (1757), the publication and condemnation of Emile (1762), and his flights from France to Geneva, and from there to Berne and then to England, as he is systematically threatened with arrest or expulsion by the government or attacked by mobs (1762-1766). His stay in England under the protection of David Hume ends when Rousseau quarrels with Hume, admixing fact and fantasy in his perception that Hume is conspiring against him (1766), and demonstrating that he is suffering from a persecution complex, justified though some of these fears might have appeared later, after Hume published his correspondence with Rousseau to expose Rousseau’s accusations.
Rousseau returns to France, living at first under an assumed name, and starts writing his autobiographical Confessions, a task he undertakes both to “unburden his conscience” and to “enlarge human knowledge by describing in candid detail one man’s experience of life on this earth.” His efforts stem not only from a desire to know himself, but also from a belief that “by writing his life … he could give the first accurate account of the genesis of the internal life of feelings in an individual that could subsequently help to lay the foundation for a science of human nature.” This attempt to establish a foundation for a science of human nature is a central project in Rousseau’s career; it begins with his Discourses and accelerates in Emile, in which he tries to delineate the sort of education that would optimize the development of a child’s “natural” qualities. (Importantly, it has been suggested that the child Rousseau depicts himself as being in the Confessions “could be considered the anti-Emile” [“Introduction,” The Confessions xxii].) In spite of his good intentions in writing the Confessions, in 1771 Rousseau stops giving public readings from this work when Mme d’Epinay complains about the readings to the police. Only at this stage, in 1772, does he start to write his Dialogues in an effort to sum up, justify, and clarify his life by distinguishing his true self from “a personality that has come to exist in popular mythology called ‘Jean-Jacques’ … the image of Rousseau that hostile publicists and philosophes have instilled in people’s minds” (Cranston 183). His attempts to reach clarity vis-à-vis the self and the world thus become most evident in the Dialogues, where the redemption of “Jean-Jacques,” or “J.J.,” occurs only when his position as an author is explained, accepted and defined, and the integrity of his texts is established.
With the help of the Dialogues, we shall look over Rousseau’s key works and situate them in relation to the process of individuation. We shall also return to the internal world and define these stages via the form and message of the Dialogues.
The Dialogues is written as a fictitious conversation between Rousseau and a Frenchman about the absent “J.J.,” the mythical representation of Rousseau that simultaneously represents portions of the “public” Rousseau of the popular press, Rousseau’s own projections of the public’s perception of him, and perhaps Rousseau’s persona and/or shadow. Throughout the Dialogues Rousseau’s actual literary career is re-invoked and traced in an effort to discover the “truth” about J.J. Thus a major focus of this work is Rousseau’s own self-evaluation of his literary career, and by extension his corresponding psychological development. If one tries to situate Rousseau’s pertinent texts in accordance with the actual process of individuation, one distinguishes at once the crucial moment of transformation that takes place during the revelation at Vincennes, after which Rousseau chooses to write his First Discourse. The fictitious Rousseau of the Dialogues discerns this rupture and transition in the life of the accused J.J. Addressing himself to the Frenchman, he declares,
You must admit that this man’s destiny has some striking peculiarities. His life is divided into two parts that seem to belong to two different individuals, with the period that separates them — meaning the time when he published books — marking the death of one and the birth of the other. (14)
Later on, after having paid a visit to J.J., Rousseau judge will alleviate his doubt while reporting on the ominous fate of J.J. the author:
He attained and passed maturity without thinking of writing books, and without feeling for a moment the need for that fatal celebrity…. It was even, in a way, by surprise and without forming the project that he found himself thrust into that fatal career…. An unfortunate question from the Academy that he read in the Mercure suddenly … showed him another universe, a true golden age … and fulfilled in hopes all his visions…. From the lively effervescence that developed then in his soul came those sparks of genius that have glittered in his writings during ten years of delirium and fever…. (130-131)
This vision determined the career of Rousseau as an author. It corresponds to the encounter of the conscious with the unconscious, the putting of the two psychic systems into symbolic contact. The vision at Vincennes and its consequences in the broader sense are the conscious beginning of individuation, which after all can only occur with a certain degree of lucidity on behalf of the individual. Seen with regard to individuation’s temporal trajectory, one can associate this moment with the third level of psychic development, when the individual, following a vision, chooses to establish his values, now modified, at the level of abstraction. Importantly, for Rousseau these values include rejection of any hyper-self-consciousness generated by social interaction; the discourse argues that the arts and sciences have corrupted humanity and led people away from a felicity they enjoyed in the state of nature. If one sees the “corruption” caused by social existence (the “arts and sciences”) as in fact representing a turning away from the self toward public representation via the persona, with a corresponding enhancement of such persona-centered values as vanity, jealousy, and servility, the connection between this essential insight of Rousseau’s and a psychic movement toward individuation becomes clearer. The society Rousseau presents as a corrupting influence corrupts because it encourages a turning outward, a movement away from the core of the self in a gesture that is necessary to individuation, but directionally opposed to a unity of ego and self.
The Confessions presents another major moment in Rousseau’s psychological growth. In fact, the Rousseau of the Dialogues intuitively recognizes the creation of this text as a crucial step in the internal configuration of the self and acknowledges the consecutive and unexpected external consequences of this figuration:
This reading which he lavished on so many people, but of which so few were capable … gave him the courage to say everything, and to treat himself with a justice that is often even too rigorous. When he saw himself distorted among men to the point of being considered a monster, conscience — which made him feel more good than bad in himself — gave him the courage that perhaps he alone had and will never have to show himself as he was. (188)
This double gesture of introspection and exhibition marks a transgression with regard to the public relations that Rousseau had had until then. The modification of his character, the act of conscience that “made him feel more good than bad in himself,” reveals a pressing desire for self-recognition, a need to define and unify oneself — a characteristic proper to the process of individuation. The Confessions, through its expression of a desire for clarification, symbolizes the crystallization of the ego complex. The reiteration of fundamental moments of emotional growth and the attempt to provide order to this experience make writing this text a private expression as well as a conscious effort to recapitulate the self. Narcissistic in appearance, this endeavor represents the desire to return to the mother, a psychological return — the realization of the ego’s unification. This creation of a psychic macrocosm represents the desire to reach the self. After all, narcissism is a personality dysfunction characterized by an exaggerated investment in the self-image one creates at the expense of the real self.
Though The Confessions remains one of the most subjective, interpretative, and concentrated works with regard to both the author’s perception and the work’s reception, the reader cannot deny the quest for unity expressed in its writing, as is suggested by the repeated if not obsessive worry J.J. has to warn us of the possible confusion of the two expressions of amour-propre (often translated as pride) and amour-de-soi (love of the self). On the other hand, insofar as Rousseau’s novel The New Heloise involves conscious investment of a waking dream, an imaginary world in which Rousseau creates a community living in a system that follows his heart, this work can be placed at levels three, four, and sometimes five of individuation. The New Heloise combines, in fact, characteristics of an abstraction of values or a creation of an ideology with an awareness of both the relativity of values and the boundaries separating the ego and unconscious forces. Heloise does not fool the Judge, since he recognizes in it the elaboration of an ideal of love which leads eager female readers to invest qualities into J.J. which will lead to disappointment. The Judge explains the misunderstanding produced by The New Heloise’s idealism as follows:
The Heloise had turned the glances of women to him. They had rather natural rights to a man who described love in that way. But knowing hardly anything about it except the physical side, they believed that only very lively senses could inspire such tender feelings, which might have given them a higher opinion of the person expressing them than he perhaps deserved. (189)
If the idealized universe of The New Heloise incited female readers to exaggerated projections of absolute values onto its author, this work remains nonetheless a landmark in that it corresponds to the unification of Rousseau’s internal world. Emile also fits in with these three degrees. By describing an idealistic, controlled process of education, Rousseau creates a vision of a childhood that synthesizes the unity of his project of individuation by offering a solution via the psychic development of the child and of Rousseau, who in moments of crisis finds comfort in this text. While in a paroxysm of despair, Rousseau writes, “[a] passage of Emile that I recalled made me return within myself and find what I had vainly sought outside” (252). I do not include Rousseau’s Reveries among these written symbols of psychic maturation, since this book appeared after the Dialogues.
The Dialogues will now be analyzed as being, by their recapitulative matter and their temporal position among Rousseau’s works, the essential event marking Rousseau’s desire to vanquish the tearing upheaval he is suffering. Their form, content, and intention as regards the author’s purpose prove that the Dialogues symbolize an advanced stage of individuation. In “The Process of Individuation,” Marie-Louise Von Franz declares that true individuation begins after a wound of pride:
Individuation — the conscious coming-to-terms with one’s own inner center (psychic nucleus) or Self — … begins with a wounding of the personality and the suffering that accompanies it. This initial shock amounts to a … “call,” although it is not often recognized as such. On the contrary, the ego feels hampered in its will or its desire and usually projects the obstruction onto something external. (158)
It is obvious that the Dialogues mark a state of emergency in Rousseau’s psychic equilibrium. He admits that, baffled by the situation fate had imposed on him, he absolutely had to discover in an objective and detached way who he was to have done what he neither saw nor understood. In his note of advice to the reader, feeling himself rejected by the world and forced to turn inward, Rousseau admits the necessity of starting his story from degree zero so as to trace the cause of his rejection by the literary and philosophical world and the internal repercussions of this separation. Rousseau must discover the “impenetrable mystery which cannot be reconciled with [his] feelings” (3), and, aiming at clarifying all possibilities, must choose the worst hypothesis for himself, and the best for his adversaries. The Dialogues can thus be placed at the fourth and fifth levels in individuation while offering a retrospective on the preceding levels. Written during a paranoid and delusional phase, they become a psychological and literary mise en abyme, since they involve writing on writing, yet they also clarify the integrity and role of an author — paradoxically, of J.J. himself.
We shall now determine how the morphology and production of the Dialogues offers a psychological plan that allows for the identification of several sources of conflict in Rousseau. The Dialogues starts with an author’s justification of why he wishes to elucidate his state of mind. This work presents the paroxysm of crisis: the main protagonist, J.J., is accused. Symbolically, the author and composer J.J. embodies the living proof of his fault. As an artist inspired by the muse, J.J. has committed the crime of irrationality, of submission to art, to the forces of the unconscious. The itinerary of the Dialogues involves a retrospective journey into a career which at the emotional level has not turned out well for the author, for it has led him to drama and persecution. Haunted by doubt, Rousseau chooses the format of the dialogue to address “the pros and cons” (4-5) of his situation. Even though the content of the text is subjective, putting it in dramatic form allows Rousseau to project onto paper the diverse contents of his psyche so he can live his fantasy conflicts in a waking state. Via the redoubling of the psychodrama, the Dialogues fictionalize reality and distinguish reality from fiction. By putting several protagonists on stage, Rousseau can deal with division by opposition to unity. The characters represent diverse voices and opinions, but also diverse stages of writing and reading.
The Dialogues are therefore a rewriting that allows the reading, the deciphering, of the self. They are also a process of abstraction by means of which individuation is both internalized and externalized, becoming both public and private. The distribution of the characters establishes several levels of comprehension and interpretation within the text and the self, allowing Rousseau to embody several aspects of his complexes. The characters that can be associated with the voice of the author manifest one and several voices simultaneously. In fact, if the characters are a priori distinct, their identity remains if not ambiguous, at least multiple. We have thus in the Dialogues four voices, matching the quaternary archetypal structure Jung identifies in his studies of individuation. These voices can be described as follows: 1) the voice of Rousseau, the objective, objecting voice of the text; 2) the voice of the apparently impartial judge, a fundamentally rational being; 3) the voice of the Frenchman, who here represents doubt, questioning, accusation — that is to say, the determining presence of the delirium, the “delit.” The Frenchman is literally the representative of delirium, the mendacity or lie resulting from unreading, since he does not read, or has chosen to read Rousseau superficially, if one believes what he says. In fact, he states that he would be “very sorry ever to have read a single line of [the Dictionnaire de musique], or of any books bearing [the] odious name [of J.J.]” (17); 4) the “voice,” or voices, of the absentees, the public, and the authors of the plot, and again of J.J., the object of the text, the one who is being talked about and slandered. Finally, thanks to the footnotes Rousseau provides, there is the author of this big drama reminding us of the reality of the facts.
All these characters have multiple dimensions insofar as the ones that appear in the Dialogues serve as mouthpieces for the ones who are absent. For example, the Frenchman represents public opinion, which has authored the plot. Rousseau Judge represents J.J. J.J. is represented by his texts as well as by Rousseau judge. In fact, in fiction as well as in reality, J.J. will not have a word to say, except in his writing of the Dialogues, which Rousseau judge mentions in the Dialogues itself. Thus, while representing several diverse points of view, the protagonists of the Dialogues become active symbols of how one reads and writes. This author’s stratagem allows Rousseau to warn us — the readers — against any “[e]rroneous judgment” (9) that will lead to quick conclusions.
The structure of the Dialogues thus shows Rousseau’s effort to understand those aspects of himself that he rejected when he became an author, when he publicly adopted a double nature without being completely lucid about it. By justifying and questioning the role of both the reader and the author, he, as the author, is trying to clarify the ambiguous element of duplicity that writing, reading, and even speaking introduces. If the first Dialogue addresses J.J. the charlatan, it also presents a direct discussion of the errors of judging that stem from innocent intentions. The Frenchman’s behavior allows us to dissect the lie created out of laziness, thoughtlessness, and the careless, unreflective use of speech. Thanks to the use of the dialogue format, the reader has the illusion of witnessing a laboratory experiment in which truth is uncovered as the protagonists reveal their nature and their intentions to us. The second Dialogue offers a perfect example of this technique, as one sees J.J. being scrupulously studied by the living eye that Rousseau judge represents. J.J. is literally observed from all angles; as Rousseau Judge says, “I had to begin by seeing everything, hearing everything, taking note of everything” (102).
This dialogue is both a justification for and a study of the behavior of the accused, aided by a dissociation of the self, an objective doubling. The rational stare studies spontaneous, natural and artistic behavior. The third Dialogue then manifests another doubling, a direct and obvious representation of the intentions of the author as well as a redemption. It also offers recognition of the evil that the Frenchman, if not all readers, can cause out of weakness and ignorance. Thus, by the way they are put together, the Dialogues simultaneously permit a questioning of everything that deals with culture, its propagation, and its diffusion: the career of author and the behavior of the reader, and all the consequences that stem from these factors.
The “History of the Preceding Writing” brings in a new justification on behalf of the author and broadens our vision of Rousseau’s psychological development. Describing his paranoid behavior after he finished the Dialogues, Rousseau mentions how he calmed down after having sent, without great success, multiple copies of a note “To all Frenchmen who still love justice and truth” (251). This postscript to the Dialogues adds a new dimension to the drama and allows us to evaluate the situation beyond the Dialogues itself, which is meant to remain within the realm of fiction. The author of this great tale describes his confusion and observes himself in moments of worry and anxiety. This passage shows a paranoid relapse followed by a quicker return to unshakable certitude and calmness:
This final ill success … did not affect me like the prior ones.… [T]here [being] no help for my lot, it taught me not to fight necessity any longer. A passage of Emile that I recalled made me return within myself and find what I had vainly sought outside.… So long as men don’t extract from my breast the heart it contains in order to replace it while I am alive with that of an [sic.] dishonest man, in what way can they alter, change, deteriorate my being? They make a J.J. that suits them in vain; Rousseau will remain the same always despite them. (252)
From the point of view of personal growth, these words represent a capitulation of the ego to the benefit of a return toward the self and unity. Rousseau finds again his unshakable center, his internal balance unaffected by the external world, the abandonment to appearances, to recognition and to division. Rousseau’s psychological itinerary occurs not only at the level of self-defense against the other, but also with the desire of defining the two essential roles of amour-propre and amour de soi. If these ideas are dear to Rousseau, the ceaseless and detailed analysis of them that he presents us with in the Dialogues, more specifically of amour-propre, asks that we dwell on it, since this theme is analyzed in connection with the role of writing and of reading as associated with the concept of the author and the reader. Could this passion be what intuitively causes Rousseau’s attachment to criticism and thereby sparks his internal crisis? Is it possible that Rousseau’s obsession is linked to doubt created by respective confrontations between the projects of the ego and those of the unconscious?
According to Jung, there exists a kind of grammar of the unconscious (see Humbert 47) that allows it to establish a network of communication in relation to diverse projected images that express diverse internalized conflicts. Reaching the threshold of consciousness, these projections create their own dynamic and system of confrontation. In individuation it is not rare to have to confront these projections in our shadow. In the context of the shadow, Jung speaks of images of the other playing a mediating part in relation to the ego (see Humbert 47). If one turns again to the voices projected by Rousseau in the Dialogues, one can associate the characters in his trial with representative shadows of diverse psychological scenarios linked with the problem of amour-propre. Those shadowy protagonists in his psychodrama present characteristics typical of the shadow, in that they are of the same gender as the subject and they all demonstrate traits of character or of temperament and ways of behaving that go against the conscious personality of the individual in crisis (see Humbert 48). Only Rousseau judge corresponds to the embodiment of justice and truth, or the conscious desires of the ego. The shadow, according to Jung, essentially brings to light questions of identity, since it confronts the individual with aspects of his or her personality that s/he has ignored, whether accidentally or by choice (see Humbert 49). It goes without saying that the Rousseau affair reveals a loss of control as regards his career and his reputation as an author.
We must remind the reader here that it is precisely after a wound of amour-propre provoked by a cabbala directed by his colleagues that Rousseau finds himself having to confront himself. This situation, while isolating Rousseau and reinforcing him in his convictions, exacerbates these counter-personalities, themselves the unavoidable fruit of this conflict that began externally and has now been internalized. Elie Humbert specifies that in confrontations with the shadow, “The more one-sided consciousness becomes, the more accentuated these personalities” (48). Thus Rousseau’s crystallization of the theme of amour-propre could present the immediate shadow of amour de soi, a passion centered on unity and concentration. It is because a constellation of voices comes to inhabit Rousseau’s psyche that this passion is not put to the stake, and the obstacle that threatens it must be if not dodged, at least recognized and abolished. To this end the Dialogues offers a marvelous progressive analysis of this problem presented in all its facets. Rousseau explains how amour-propre stems from amour de soi:
The primitive passions, which all tend directly toward our happiness … are all loving and gentle in their essence. But when they are deflected from their object by obstacles, they are focused on removing the obstacle rather than reaching the object; then they change nature and become irascible and hateful. And that is how the love of self, which is a good and absolute feeling, becomes amour-propre. (9)
But it is obvious for the reader that the author of those definitions doubts himself. Why would he otherwise try to clarify J.J. the author’s position toward amour-propre? Throughout the Dialogues, Rousseau systematically links amour-propre to the profession of writing. The judge underlines many times in diverse ways that “witty people and especially literary people are of all men those with the most intense amour-propre” (113). And if the judge, after having studied “every part of [J.J.] where [his] gaze could penetrate” (105), concludes that nothing in J.J.’s natural and tolerant temperament demonstrates this obnoxious defect — “a passionate temperament and extreme amour-propre [not being able] to coexist in the same heart” (105) — the vision of J.J.’s adversaries illustrates perfectly the internal conflict provoked by the shadow that has become conscious. According to the Frenchman, J.J. is “consumed with pride and the most intolerant amour-propre” (106). He seems “[p]rofoundly indifferent about everything that does not touch his small person,” and only becomes animated “in his own interest.… [As soon as] he is the subject [he lets] the violent intensity of his amour-propre … stir him to the point of delirium” (110). These virulent oppositions represent no doubt a violent struggle between the diverse personalities within the individual. Jung, in fact, compares this state in which the subject questions his creeds and habits to a kind of psychological crucifixion (see Humbert 50). However, after much opposition, Rousseau author succeeds in exculpating and identifying the source of his ills as coming from outside. Hasn’t J.J. dodged the obstacle by choosing to survive not by depending on popularity, as occurs with authorship, but by the sober means of a copyist? Writing has been an accident in the life of J.J., a means, not an end. His withdrawal from worldly life does not correspond to the sulking of a wounded writer, but only to a choice that is characteristic of his simple, easily contented temperament. J.J.’s character being practically incompatible with the negative aspirations that the sensitivity of an author implies by vocation, his crucifixion can only be explained as a misunderstanding due to the projections of his readers, both those who themselves are authors and those from the general public. Let us recall that the justification for the disappointment of J.J.’s female readers relies on projections, not on facts. If condemnation of J.J. perpetuated itself not in the limited experience of the plot but rather in the clumsy experience of the general public, it is in fact once again because of shame, slandering, laziness, amour-propre, or even fear that the misled public did not know how to recognize his error to have simply seen “through the eyes of another” (183).
Writing the Dialogues allows Rousseau and his readers to recognize the place amour-propre occupies in our psychological maturation, our internal balance. If the man of nature lives in a state of participation mystique and instinctively knows amour de soi, the civilized man must go through several ordeals that are susceptible of carrying him off into a universe full of amour-propre. Only by learning detachment can he return to himself and feel the ultimate blessing of unity in the synthesis of the conscious and the unconscious. Rousseau’s internal crisis was provoked simultaneously by public rejection and by internal doubt. Carried away by the muse in his work as an author, Rousseau the composer automatically flirted with artifice, leading him to live momentarily outside himself. This compromise, in regard to the reception that his public gave him, led him to expect eternally favorable treatment. Isn’t this the catch of amour-propre? This obstacle of amour-propre, as the Dialogues shows, was only in fact an opportunity, a temporary fall necessary for the confirmation of the self. Without this struggle, it would have been impossible for Rousseau to find the unity that individuation fosters. Indeed, there is no doubt that the Dialogues shows the reader the anatomy of a painful return to the self due to the readjustment of psychological boundaries that favor stability and integration. Posterity has shown that the Dialogues did not represent Rousseau’s ultimate attempt to achieve integration. They remain, nonetheless, a permanent marker of his progress toward the ecstasy revealed in his masterful Reveries.
An earlier version of this essay appeared in French as « Dire/mé-dire Jean-Jacques, ou lire/dé-lire Rousseau: l'individuation et les Dialogues » in Philip Knee and Gérald Allard, eds., Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques: Etudes sur les Dialogues (Pensée libre, 7) (Ottawa: Association nord-américaine des études Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1998), 227-38. Rpt in Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques: Etudes sur les Dialogues, ed. Philip Knee and Gérald Allard (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2003), 243-255.
Received: July 11, 2009, Published: December 15, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Guillemette Johnston