Jean Jacques Rousseau
1712 - 1778
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French deistic philosopher and author; b. at Geneva June 28, 1712; d.
at Ermenonville (28 m. n.e. of Paris) July 2, 1778. His mother died at
his birth, and his father, a dissipated and violent-tempered man, paid
little attention to the son's training, and finally deserted him. The
latter developed a passion for reading, with a special fondness for
Plutarch's Lives. Apprenticed first to a notary and then to a
coppersmith, he ran away (1728) to escape the rigid discipline, and,
after wandering for several days, he fell in with Roman Catholic priests
at Consignon in Savoy, who turned him over to Madame de Warens at Annecy,
and she sent him to an educational institution at Turin. Here he duly
abjured Protestantism, and next served in various households, in one of
which he was charged with theft. After more wanderings he was at
Chambery (1730), from which Madame de Warens had removed. In her
household he spent eight years diverting himself in the enjoyment of
nature, the study of music, the reading of the English, German, and
French philosophers and chemistry, pursuing the study of mathematics and
Latin, and enjoying the playhouse and opera. He next spent eighteen
months at Venice as secretary of the French ambassador, Comte de
Montaignu (1744-45). Up to this time, when he was thirty-nine, his life,
the details of which he publishes in his Confessions (Geneva,
1782), may be described as subterranean. He now returned to Paris, where
his opera Les Muses galantes failed, copied music, and was
secretary of Madame Dupin. Here he came into association with Diderot,
Grimm, D'Alembert, Holbach, and Madame d'Epinay, and was admitted as a
contributor to the Encyclopedie; and his gifts of entertainment,
reckless manner, and boundless vanity attracted attention. With the Discours
sur les sciences et les arts (Paris, 1750), a prize essay in which
he set forth the paradox of the superiority of the savage state, he
proclaimed his gospel of "back to nature."...
Window: Philosophy on the Internet
A member of DIDEROT's circle, he was one of the great figures of the
French ENLIGHTENMENT and probably the most significant of those who
shaped 19th-cent. ROMANTICISM, influencing such figures as KANT, GOETHE,
ROBESPIERRE, TOLSTOY, and the French revolutionists. Rousseau's most
celebrated theory was that of the "natural man." In his
Discourse on the Inequalities of Men (1754) and Social Contract (1762)
he maintained that human beings were essentially good and equal in the
state of nature but were corrupted by the introduction of property,
agriculture, science, and commerce. People entered into a SOCIAL
CONTRACT among themselves, establishing governments and educational
systems to correct the inequalities brought about by the rise of
civilization. Émile (1762), a didactic novel, expounds Rousseau's
theory that education is not the imparting of knowledge but the drawing
out of what is already in the child. From the 1760s Rousseau was
tormented by persecution mania, and he lived his later years in
seclusion. His Confessions (1781) created a new, intensely personal
style of autobiography...
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva,
Switzerland. His mother died shortly after his birth. When Rousseau was
10 his father fled from Geneva to avoid imprisonment for a minor
offense, leaving young Jean-Jacques to be raised by an aunt and uncle.
Rousseau left Geneva at 16, wandering from place to place, finally
moving to Paris in 1742. He earned his living during this period,
working as everything from footman to assistant to an ambassador.
Rousseau's profound insight can be found in almost every trace of
modern philosophy today. Somewhat complicated and ambiguous, Rousseau's
general philosophy tried to grasp an emotional and passionate side of
man which he felt was left out of most previous philosophical thinking...
Kemerling's Philosophy Pages.
As a brilliant and self-educated (but undisciplined and
unconventional) thinker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau spent most of his life
being driven by controversy back and forth between Paris and his native
Geneva. His autobiographical Les
(1783) offer a thorough (if somewhat self-serving) account of his
The most enigmatic of all the philosophies of the 18th century
Enlightenment, the political philosopher, educationist and essayist,
Jean Jacques Rousseau, was born at Geneva on June 28th, 1712. His mother
died in childbirth. In 1722 his father, involved in a brawl, left him to
the care of his relations. Without any formal education except his own
reading of Plutarch's Lives and a collection of Calvinist
sermons, he was employed first by a notary who found him incompetent and
then by an engraver who treated him so poorly that in 1728 he ran away.
Feigning enthusiasm for Catholicism, he was sent to Madame de Warens
who, separated from her husband, became a convert to Catholicism and
assisted other converts. She sent Rousseau to Turin to be baptized and
there he eventually found employment with a shopkeeper's wife whose
lover he became until her husband's return. After short spells as
footman and secretary, he returned to Annecy and to Madame de Warens. He
became her general factotum and lover, joined the local choir school to
complete his education and picked up a fair knowledge of Italian music...
From the Catholic
Encyclopedia (1913): The Social Contract
Du Contrat Social, ou Principes du droit politique, is the
title of a work written by J.J. Rousseau and published in 1762. From the
time of his stay at Venice, about 1741, Rousseau had in mind a large
treatise dealing with "Les institutions politiques". The Contrat
Social is but a fragment of this treatise...
A history of pantheism and scientific pantheism
by Paul Harrison.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the most influential political philosopher
of the eighteenth century. Born in Geneva in 1712, he favored a radical
form of direct democracy, based on the Swiss model. He was also in favor
of economic, social and political equality.
In his hostility to many aspects of science, and in his passionate
nature-worship, Rousseau was a precursor of the Romantics.
Rousseau took an ambiguous stance towards Christianity. He seems to
have admired the religion of the gospel as "saintly, sublime and
true" as well as egalitarian, recognizing all men as brothers,
children of the same God. But he vigorously condemned post-Augustine and
Catholic Christianity. In his eyes it detached people from earthly
concerns, and laid them open to tyranny and slavery. Rousseau claimed
that the ideal state would have to have a state religion, but this would
be concerned with social obligations rather than supernatural beliefs...