Rousseau considered Émile to be his most penetrating and foundational work (RJJ 211; OC I, 933). Its subtitle is ‘On Education’, but although the work is cast as the narrative of the education of Émile from infancy to adulthood, and although it includes a great deal about the processes and objectives of an appropriate education (as well as many vividly depicted episodes of educative intent), Rousseau denied that it was a ‘real treatise on education’. Rather:

It is a quite philosophical work on the principle advanced by the

author in other writings, that man is naturally good. To reconcile this principle with the other truth, no less certain, that men are

bad, it would be necessary to show in the history of the human

heart the origin of all the vices . . . In that sea of passions which

submerges us, before one seeks to clear the way, one must begin

by finding it.