Morality, Simulacrum and Distraction: The Function of Art according to Rousseau

  • João Gabriel Lima


Jean-Jacques Rousseau was undoubtedly the first to investigate the ethical role of art in modern philosophical thought. However, his position was decidedly eccentric amidst the backdrop of the Enlightenment. According to Rousseau, Art was responsible for the destruction of virtue, but is responsible now for concocting a moral veneer. Art’s function is to construct this “moral veneer” that brings a stop to man’s turpitudes or, at least, reduces their occurrence. Art’s ethical benefit is not that it leads man to do good. Rather, the artistic simulacrum prevents the most hideous crimes from occurring. This paper investigates the ethical role of art in Rousseau's First Discourse and in the preface to his play Narcissus or the Self-Admirer.
Estética e política