Anti-Emile, The

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Translated with Introductory Essay by William A. Frank, Preface by Rocco Buttiglione, 224 pages, 6" x 9", introductory essay, notes, index

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Anti-Emile, The

Reflections on the Theory and Practice of Education against the Principles of Rousseau

Gerdil, H. S.

“In his Emile Rousseau proposes a new plan of education closely connected with a universal overthrow of civil order. The goal of the Emile is to prepare souls by means of a total revolution in their modes of thinking.”—These words were penned in 1763, by the young Catholic philosopher, H. S. Gerdil, more than two decades before the French revolution. In a prophetic moment in the history of the philosophy of education, Gerdil noted that the pedagogy of Rousseau’s book will inspire “vexation with and aversion for religious and social institutions . . . it will make bad Christians and bad citizens.” The disenchantment with any authority or social forms sunk deep roots in the modern European social imagination. It has informed the many liberal reforms of education of the last two centuries. The Emile is still with us.

In his eminently readable reflections, H. S. Gerdil exposes the error of Rousseau’s Romantic naturalism. In the process, he illustrates sensible judgment regarding concrete curricular matters and pedagogical practices. Gerdil’s philosophy of education is grounded in the reality of original sin and the transcendent destiny of mankind. He provides both philosophical principles and concrete suggestions as to how parents and teachers might craft hearts and minds capable of serving “peace of families, the tranquility of states, and the general advantage of all men.” Gerdil’s humane Christian realism has lost none of its timeliness.

The Anti-Emile is an original English translation of Gerdil’s work, first published in French under the title Réflexions sur la théorie, & la pratique de l’education contre les principes de Mr. Rousseau. In its day, the book was quickly diffused throughout Europe in its original French as well as in English, German, and Italian translations, and it soon picked up its popular title, The Anti-Emile. This translation is preceded by Frank’s Introductory Essay, which draws out the radically different views of human nature represented by Rousseau and Gerdil. It makes clear what is at issue in Rousseau’s rejection and Gerdil’s advancement of the living tradition of classical education. In his essay, Frank also introduces H. S. Gerdil as an historical figure with a distinctive place in the history of modern philosophy.

The idea of translating Gerdil into English is brilliant. Rousseau’s complete break with tradition amounts to a transposition of the Cartesian cogito into the field of philosophy of education. In these our times, one form of modernity – that based largely on Rousseau – is collapsing, and the mood of the day is an unclear postmodernity that in some of its versions could well be a return to barbarianism. All the more important it is then that another form of modernity be rediscovered and brought to the attention of the American public. Gerdil plays a significant role of his own in the history of philosophy. He represents a continuation of a Christian philosophy within modernity, one that is wholly coherent with the critical acceptance of tradition, history, and authority. The translation is very good, and the introduction by William Frank is precise and inspiring. – Rocco Buttiglione, Vice-President in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, is Professor of Political Science at the University of St. Pius V in Rome and author of the influential Karol Wojty?a: The Thought of the Man Who Became Pope John Paul II.

A timely translation of a compelling 18th-century critique of Rousseau by the neglected Italian author, Hyacinth S. Gerdil
(1718–1802). Gerdil’s Anti-Emile may have been written as a critique of Rousseau’s Emile, but it can equally be read as a critique
of the philosophy embraced by the American educational establishment. Through the influence of John Dewey, Rousseau came to inform much of the educational theory regnant in the United States, with disastrous consequences now acknowledged by nearly all.

In a valuable preface to his translation, Professor Frank, drawing upon his experience both here and abroad, not only places Emile in context, but defends Gerdil’s time-transcending, classical view of education against its modern detractors.

“Gerdil,” Frank tells us, “addressed his Anti-Emile to elders responsible for education, be they parents, teachers, or political authorities, who might find themselves swayed by the powerful rhetoric of Rousseau’s Emile.” The same may be said of this translation and its informative prefatory material, for it is clearly a study that will be valued by anyone interested in principled education. – Jude P. Dougherty, Catholic University of America

William A. Frank, professor of philosophy, teaches at the University of Dallas. His publications include works on Duns Scotus and
articles on topics such as authority, democracy, Western irreligion, and Catholic culture. In addition to being departmental chair, he
has served brief stints as dean of Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, director of the Institute of Philosophical Studies, and academic director of the University’s Rome Program.