"Marcel Raymond has written, 'The objects whose
thoughtful images Rousseau welcomes within him
have lost their 'objective' quality; they have become
a part of him, surrrounded by a flame endowing all
existence with the charm of a subjective magic...'
We see now how the difference in style between
Montaigne and Rousseau corresponds to a vastly
different intention. Whereas Montaigne meant to
philosophize with truculence, in a spirit of psychological
realism, Rousseau was concerned with the 'fictive'
inner surface of the events....
Between Rousseau's character and his social philosophy
there is an exchange of insights which is apparent as early
as the first *Discourses*, where the governing virtue of the
'natural man' is made to lie in what Rousseau calls
*amour de soi*, an expression rendered variously
as 'self-esteem,' self-love,' or 'self-respect.'
In the *Discourse sur L'inegalite*, we read,
'Self-love is a natural feeling which leads all animals
to care for their own preservation;
when governed, in man, by reason and
modified by pity, it had long since been
obscured, for Rousseau,
by the overlying constraint of civilization,
'each single man considers
himself to be the only spectator of his acts,
the only being in the
universe to be interested in him, the only judge of his merit.'
Thoughout his life Rousseau was to argue
that man's best nature
lay, as he wrote in *Emile*, in 'the only natural passion of man...
self-love'; years after writing *Emile*,
harried by paranoia, he still insisted,
'All positive feeling derives immediately
from self-love. It is quite natural that a man who
loves himself should try to extend
his being and his pleasures,
and to possess by attachment whatever
he feels to be good for him: it is a simple question of the emotions...'
Rousseau contradicts the orthodox opinion that human nature is
corrupt because man has lost sight of God and
loves himself. Instead,
he sets the energy of
*amour de soi* at the center of our humanity....
On the other side of the line, however,
lie the corrupt energies of
society, where the natural self has been sacrificed
to the passion for
appearances, for comparison, and finally for vain pretense. Here,
the natural *amour de soi* has been twisted into a simuacrum; it has
become *amour propre*, vanity, which for Rousseau was the source
of all 'negative sensibility' and all aggressiveness."
Paul Zweig, *The Heresy of Self-Love*
Princeton UP, 1968, 1980