The Affective and the Political: Rousseau and Contemporary Kantianism

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Abstract
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is often associated with a certain political mode of relating to another, where a person (“a Citizen”) is a locus of enforceable demands. I claim that Rousseau also articulated an affective mode of relating to another, where a person is seen as the locus of a kind of value (expressive of their being an independent point of view) that cannot be demanded. These are not isolated sides of a distinction, for the political mode constitutes a solution to certain problems that the affective mode encounters in common social circumstances, allowing us to see how these modes might be distinct while the political nevertheless shapes the affective. I contrast this approach with that of some contemporary Kantian writers on affective phenomena (Sarah Buss on shame, and J. David Velleman on love) who, for reasons rooted in Kant’s moral philosophy, have modeled affective ways of relating to others on duty. I claim that Rousseau’s writing provides us with a way of capturing the correct insight of these accounts—that some of our emotional responses to others are ways of appreciating their personhood—while avoiding the characteristic implausibilities of their close association between the affective and the political.
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Archival date: 2020-06-28
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2020-06-28

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