Imagination and morality : the third party spectator in Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse
MetadataShow full item record
In this paper I am going to look at Adam Smith’s and Rousseau’s conceptions of conscience and the latter’s development of the third party spectator in the society of three in La Nouvelle Héloïse. The Smithian notion of the impartial spectator is supposed to make one behave better than we are capable of on our own, acting like a conscience which we consult when making choices, tempering our emotions and actions. In Rousseau, with a third party watching our response is indeed affected, but the external eyes of society and the awareness of the regard cause all kinds of problems because society is corrupt and we are corrupted in turn by our amour-propre. Rousseau develops the friendship of three as an alternative to society, which then involves a vested party who takes interest in the individuals. While he may not have been reading Smith, Rousseau develops a similar concept to the imagined impartial spectator, with one twist: his spectator is interested and is real. The third party spectator is interested in our virtue and he has both a say and a stake in the relationship. He is an actual third person looking in on the relationship as an invested spectator and participant but in order to successfully guide the other individuals, they must have the right interests and capabilities. The third party spectator must be invested in cultivating their virtue rather than suppressing nature or abandoning duty. In this paper, specifically, I will look at the failures of Claire and Eduard in La Nouvelle Héloïse to effectively guide the relationship between Saint-Preux and Julie. Then I will examine why Wolmar’s interests in Julie and Saint-Preux are ultimately the right reasons, making him the most able, if not completely successful, third party spectator.