As the following paragraphs make clear, Rousseau confronts the reader with the conflicting claims of the individual and the society in the formation of the child. The contradiction between man and citizen is based on the premise that to be fully human, to fulfill one's true nature, is to be independent and self-sufficient, to be a "whole" in oneself; whereas to be a citizen, to be a responsible member of society, is to have an existence that is relative to others and that makes one dependent on them. Every pedagogical choice at some point hinges on these mutually incompatible goals; every educator must weigh the competing pulls of self-development and socialization.
Whether one chooses civic education or natural education for one's child undoubtedly depends on one's assessment of the social context within which the education is to take place. In Chapter iv of his Considerations on the Government of Poland Rousseau briefly outlines his views of what civic, or patriotic, education in a legitimate political system would look like: children should be taught publicly, in groups, and be given a set curriculum that stresses pride for one's country and self-sacrifice to the homeland. The context of Emile, however, is quite different. Instead of a self-contained, vigorous republic, the setting one encounters is a decadent and expansionist monarchy whose claims on the individual are perceived only as the repressive demands of arbitrary authority. To develop human integrity in such a context requires an education that identifies the pupil not with his compatriots but with humanity as a whole.
The question one might ask at each stage of Emile's development is, will the "naturally" educated Emile be fit for responsible social life? This indeed is a question Rousseau sets for us in para35 below.