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Between corruption and virtue: a reflection on moral education from Rousseau's 'Émile'

Grant number: 16/13000-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2016
Effective date (End): September 30, 2017
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Ethics
Principal Investigator:Patrícia Del Nero Velasco
Grantee:Caterine Zapata Zilio Barros
Host Institution: Centro de Ciências Naturais e Humanas (CCNH). Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC). Ministério da Educação (Brasil). Santo André , SP, Brazil


This research aims to develop an answer to the answer the question that comes from Socrates and remains current: "How to educate for virtue?". We remember here the symbolic figure of Diogenes, walking with a lamp in broad daylight, in search of the virtuous man. We could transport him to the streets of our cities, centuries ahead; he would found that much has changed, the technical and scientific progress could scare him, but, watching the men, he would feel at home. Even with the makeup and adornment particular to our time, we stay the same. In moral issues, humanity walks at a slow pace. Maybe it was the same perception that dominated the thoughts of Jean Jacques Rousseau, when he was willing to answer the question launched by the Dijon academy: "Has the restoration of the sciences and arts contributed to the purification of morals?". The Genevan offered a response that hurts the enlightened spirit of his time, dissociating the progress of science and the arts of moral progress. In a certain way the philosopher warned his readers to the future consequences of this model of progress separated from moral, which would reach its peak in the first and second war blood show, proving finally that men with highest power are nothing without the discernment of good, without the consciousness guide star to conduct their actions. This is the scenario that forces us to revive the Socratic virtue project, and, not by accident, we will seek inspiration in who was considered the most ancient of the modern philosophers. We'll start from Emile or On Education by Jean-Jacques Rousseau to answer the initial question, realizing that, to achieve this goal, we need to dedicate ourselves to three essential researches on: 1) man; 2) the awakening and development of human passions and 3) the role of education in the moral formation process. In a first moment, we must analyze which conception of man subsidizes the pedagogical proposal in Emile, regarding the moral education. Leans human nature to the good or evil? What is the relation between consciousness, reason and passions? Those answers will indicate if the pursuit of virtue would be a project in line with what characterizes our humanity setting the direction and parameters of moral discussion. Then we'll follow the growth of young Emile, attentive to the changes of his heart, as reason develops and socialization becomes inevitable, and also to the preceptor's actions in each phase, fulfilling the second and third goals of the research. This work is not a purely theoretical discussion about the concept or possibility of virtue. Besides studying the philosophical bases, that allows the formulation of the issue at stake, we will seek to analyze the moral education as practical wisdom, understood as "art of handling the moral nature". After all, with Rousseau, we'll see that the man is not born good or bad. Born perfectible, carrying in itself the possibilities of both, the vice and virtue. What determines the origin of the moral evil is the kind of relationship assumed with other men, which could submit Emilio, from an early age, to the empire of opinion, anticipating the awakening of passion and eventually stifling the voice of nature. This is why moral education that permeates Emilio socialization process will stand as the key to intricate human problems; in this view, virtue is no longer an utopia or previous destination, but a matter of culture, work and experience. We sincerely hope that this study will contribute in some way to remember the purpose of education, while formation of human being in its fullest sense. (AU)

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