Self and Other: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith on Freedom, Authenticity, Sympathy, and Narrative


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines Rousseau’s influential account of the nature and fate of the self, using the thought of Adam Smith as a foil and drawing on contemporary philosophy. The focus is on four interconnected issues: freedom (“natural” or of self, rather than political); the loss of freedom and authenticity, and the ensuing “theatricality” of self; “pitié” and sympathy as rival means of understanding as well as identifying with self and other; and narrative as a way of understanding, explaining, and unifying. These themes are central to Rousseau’s conception of what it means to be a self in the modern age. This study interprets as well as evaluates his position, shedding new light on his and Smith's philosophies, as well as the issues themselves.