Rousseau’s Second Discourse, between Epicureanism and Stoicism

Christopher R Brooke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


In my contribution to The Cambridge Companion to Rousseau in 2001, I argued that we can usefully read Rousseau in, especially, the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, as responding to and attempting to transcend the oppositions between Stoic and Augustinian moral psychologies in the ways in which they had been articulated in seventeenth-century France. In particular, I argued that Rousseau’s distinctive splitting of the notion of self-love into two parts, amour de soi-même and amour-propre, could be viewed as, on the one hand, an attempt to recuperate the ancient Stoics’ concept of oikeiosis and to keep it in a foundational role for ethics while, on the other hand, enabling him to signal agreement with the Augustinians about the iniquities of self-love. I now think that my analysis in that chapter was incomplete, in some places muddled, and in other places wrong. In particular, there are three specific problems with the story I told. First, while I concentrated on the Augustinian background, the Epicurean background is just as important, and we need to bring this into a sharper focus if we are to understand just what Rousseau might have been doing with Stoic patterns of argument in the Second Discourse. Second, I was working with an overly-simple interpretation of Rousseau’s distinction between the two different varieties of self-love. Third, I wasn’t thinking hard enough about the Stoics’ oikeiosis. The goal of this paper, therefore, is to give a more adequate account of the same subject than I was able to do there.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRousseau and Freedom
EditorsStanley Hoffmann, Christie McDonald
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780511717918
ISBN (Print)9780521515825, 9781107404861
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Rousseau
  • Stoicism
  • Epicureanism
  • oikeiosis


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