Rousseau: The Rejection of Happiness as the Foundation of Authenticity (81-104)

Yuval Eytan

ABSTRACT: The roots of the ideal of authenticity in modern Western thought are numerous and complex. In this article, I explore their development in relation to Rousseau’s paradoxical conclusion that complete satisfaction is an aspiration that not only cannot be fulfilled but whose actual realization will make a person miserable. I argue that there is an unresolved tension between the notion of humans as creatures who by nature strive to eliminate suffering to achieve static serenity and the idea that their natural goal in society is to constantly change and enrich themselves. The purpose of this article is not to construct another pessimistic interpretation according to which our most profound desire – happiness – cannot be achieved, but rather, by understanding natural inequality as a historical phenomenon, to shed light on Rousseau’s idea that happiness should be rejected because it contradicts the new foundation of morality: the realization of people’s uniqueness.

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