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Genres: Banned Books
Language: English
Type: Digital

Émile, or On Education (French: Émile, ou De l'éducation) is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the "best and most important" of all his writings. Due to a section of the book entitled "Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar", Emile was banned in Paris and Geneva and was publicly burned in 1762, the year of its first publication. During the French Revolution, Emile served as the inspiration for what became a new national system of education.


Émile is a novelistic treatise on education, written in the form of letters from a tutor to a friend. The novel follows the life of Émile, a young boy who is raised according to the tutor's principles. The tutor's goal is to raise Émile to be a free, independent, and virtuous citizen.

Rousseau's Philosophy of Education

Rousseau believed that education should be based on the natural development of the child. He argued that children should be allowed to learn through experience and that they should not be subjected to the artificial constraints of traditional schooling. He also believed that education should be holistic, developing the child's physical, intellectual, and moral faculties.

Key Themes in Émile

  • The importance of nature: Rousseau believed that children should be raised in a natural environment, away from the corruption of civilization. He argued that nature would provide children with the experiences they need to develop physically, intellectually, and morally.
  • The role of the tutor: The tutor is a key figure in Rousseau's philosophy of education. The tutor's role is to guide and support the child's development, but not to dictate it. The tutor must respect the child's individuality and allow the child to learn at his own pace.
  • The importance of experience: Rousseau believed that children should learn through experience. He argued that children would learn more by doing than by being lectured to. He also believed that children should be allowed to make mistakes, as mistakes are a valuable part of the learning process.
  • The development of the whole person: Rousseau believed that education should develop the child's physical, intellectual, and moral faculties. He argued that these faculties are all interconnected and that they must all be developed in order for the child to become a well-rounded individual.


Émile is a landmark work of educational philosophy. It has been praised for its insights into the nature of child development and its advocacy for a more child-centered approach to education. Rousseau's ideas have had a profound impact on the development of education, and they continue to be debated and discussed today.

Key Works

  • Emile, or On Education (1762)
  • The Social Contract (1762)
  • Confessions (1782-1789)
  • Julie, or The New Heloise (1761)
  • The Discourse on Inequality (1755)


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