The central chapters of the book spell out the distinctive features of amour-propre: its finality, artificial quality, phenomenological manifestations, pathological forms, social causes and possible public and private remedies.
In the concluding section, the book brings out the limitations inherent in Rousseau's view of amour-propre. Mostly they come down to the overambitious aspiration, on the part of Rousseau, to "deliver a systematic account of the perils and promise of human existence" from the analysis of a single component of human nature, broadly construed and understood as at once part of the problem and of its solution.
In sum, the book creatively brings together the themes of amour-propre and recognition and sheds also a systematic philosophical light on the nature and import of our concern for our fellows' consideration.--Alessandro Ferrara, The University of Rome-Tor Vergata.
According to Rousseau, the taming of amour-propre requires lonely individualism and independence.
It makes men self-worshippers, and if fortune permits them, causes them to tyrannize over others." Many of the maxims focus on it, for example: "Amour-propre is the greatest of flatterers." Maxim 2.
(55) "L'amour-propre n'est point une sceleratesse, c'est naturel a tous les hommes; il est beaucoup plus voisin de la vanite que du crime."
(61) "Here is the point when amour de soi changes into amour-propre." [paragraph]836 [Bloom tr., 235].
His book ends with a critique of Rousseau's attempt to construct "an understanding of the good life" upon "nonteleological" foundations, suggesting that Rousseau is dangerously mistaken in teaching us that amour-propre
is unnatural, for that teaching undermines "longing and aspiration" (pp.
On the basis of this and other, similar passages, amour de soi is often taken to be wholly good, and amour-propre wholly bad.
Amour-propre is both protean and potent, a combination that makes it the most consequential force in the souls of social men and women.
Should we look upon amour-propre as an unavoidable evil?
For all its evils, amour-propre is a necessary condition for many good things, things which give life much of its pleasure, most of its meaning and virtually all of its nobility.
We might also note that the historic period which Rousseau considers "the happiest and most durable epoch," "the best for man," was an era in which amour-propre was present.(6) The reference is to the epoch of nascent society.
Romantic and familial love are not the only goods which depend upon amour-propre. Virtue is another.
Cooper's conclusions regarding Rousseau's pessimism at last suggest the possibility that amour-propre
, as the desire for recognition, is in fact less predominantly detrimental than he finds in Rousseau's claims.