Time and tyranny in Kojève and Rousseau's “Emile”

Gary M Kelly, Fordham University


Tyranny has been thought to be a reaction to a stipulated set of events. Kojève and Rousseau, in contrast, hold that tyranny is in some way deeper, lurking behind as well as within observable events. The dissertation will explore the cohesiveness of their positions concerning tyranny and time. Chapters 1 and 2 will discuss Kojève's seminal Introduction a la Lecture de Hegel and the basis of Kojèvian human time in the desire for desire, or for recognition. While the tyrant manifests this characteristic par excellence, the tyrant suffers from a central philosophical conundrum the dissertation will style Kojève's “time-tyrant problem,” a problem solved by neither the Kojevian wise man nor the philosopher. Chapter 3 will posit Rousseau's Emile as taking a path less philosophic, if more deviously political. Rousseau implicates not time but views of time. In contrast to Kojève, the beneficent tyrant as Emile's governor is not at time's mercy. Rousseau posits that man and citizen cannot “be made at the same time,” yet the Chapter will show that man and citizen are obviously fashioned simultaneously in different views of time. Chapter 4 will show Emile's Sophie as an agent of the governor. She satisfies Emile's natural desires, yet socializes him through the idea of Sophie embodying commitment to duty. However, Sophie as socializing idea fails to produce Emile as man and citizen. This failure is due to differences Emile and Sophie have with respect to the two views of time. Chapter 5 will place Kojèvian philosophy, rather than politics, in the saddle, with the idea of justice, rather than desire for desire, being the organizing principle for society. This final Chapter will show how this leads to the new bourgeois tyrant in Kojèvian human time. However, this Chapter will show that the bourgeois tyrant, for all Kojève's attempts, cannot be squared with Kojèvian time phenomenology for want of an intellectual to advise the bourgeois tyrant effectively. Their times having failed their tyrants and vice versa, Rousseau and Kojève teach that philosophy is like tyranny. Both demand continued questioning not only of goals, but especially of means.

Subject Area

Political science|Philosophy|Law

Recommended Citation

Kelly, Gary M, "Time and tyranny in Kojève and Rousseau's “Emile”" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159389.