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Secular PowersHumility in Modern Political Thought$
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Julie E. Cooper

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226081298

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226081328.001.0001

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Rousseau on the Allure, and the Elusiveness, of Divine Self-Sufficiency

(p.105) Chapter 4 Self-Love
Secular Powers

Julie E. Cooper

University of Chicago Press

This chapter traces Rousseau’s ambivalence about the possibility, and the desirability, of human autonomy. At times, Rousseau heralds the prospect of full empowerment without omnipotence. At other moments, however, Rousseau denies that full empowerment is available to or appropriate for finite beings. The chapter features a historical survey demonstrating continuities between Rousseau’s analysis of amour-propre and those of early modern Christian moralists. The chapter’s concluding section analyzes Rousseau’s flirtation with tropes of human self-deification, arguing that Rousseau can neither deliver on the promise of full empowerment, nor can he abandon the fantasy of a mortal who is not weak.

Keywords:   Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Autonomy, Omnipotence, empowerment, Amour-propre, Self-deification, weakness

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