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Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Fame came to [French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques] Rousseau in the early 1750s, with the Discourse on Arts and Sciences and the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, both of which rejected the central creed of the Enlightenment, its belief in progress fueled by reason, science and commerce. For Rousseau, men were naturally good, "noble savages," who were corrupted by civilization. As society and its institutions evolved, primitive innocence and natural honesty were replaced by artificiality and falseness. His assault on the ideals of philosophers alienated him from their company, most dramatically from Voltaire, who never forgave Rousseau for his criticisms....But it would be Rousseau's novel, Julie, known also as La Nouvelle Heloise, which, in 1761, brought him lasting fame as one of Europe's most celebrated writers. With this book, which seemed to herald the end of "the Age of Reason," he became a dominant figure in European culture, the focus of a cult of romantic sensibility.


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Gallery

  • 'The Hermitage' at Montmorency (w/c on paper)
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), philosopher and herbalist
  • The Last Words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) at Ermenonville in 1778
  • Elysium, end 18th c.

Quote

  • "Everything is good when it leaves the Creator's hands; everything degenerates in the hands of man." Portrait of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78),... ed by William Finden (1787-1852)

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  • Born Free
    "It would have been better for the peace of France if this man had never existed," remarked an early 19th-century visitor to Rousseau's grave. "It is he who prepared the way for the French Revolution." The visitor, who knew a thing or two... more
  • World Literature, Philosophy, and Religion: ¿mile (ay-MEEL)
    A work on education by Jean Jacques Rousseau, describing how a fictional boy, Émile, should be brought up. The book had an enormous influence on education in the age of romanticism and beyond. more
  • GREAT THINKERS: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778
    BACKGROUND: Born in Geneva, Switzerland (his mother died a few days after his birth), Jean-Jacques Rousseau was brought up by his father. Apprenticed to an engraver at the age of 13, he left work at the age of 16 to travel. IMAGE ILLUSTRATION... more
  • Noble Savage
    The literary concept of the noble savage—an idealized individual who symbolizes the innate goodness of one unexposed to civilization and its corrupting influences—became prominent during the 18th and 19th centuries. The concept of... more
  • Rousseau, The Anticosmopolitan?
    Setting himself up as the moral conscience of his age, Rousseau reminded his readers that manners and morals are not the same thing. Curiosity or 'openness' toward others, the willingness to do business with them, and even the eagerness to... more
  • GREAT THINKERS: Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778
    BACKGROUND: Born in Geneva, Switzerland (his mother died a few days after his birth), Jean-Jacques Rousseau was brought up by his father. Apprenticed to an engraver at the age of 13, he left work at the age of 16 to travel. IMAGE ILLUSTRATION... more
  • Social Contract or Compact
    social contract or compact in the republican idealist theory of various 18th century political philosophers, especially Rousseau, the consent of the governed to give up certain personal liberties in exchange for protection, on which... more
  • Stopping to Smell the Roses: Rousseau and Mortality in the Modern World
    Rousseau took the adage "Stop and smell the roses" literally. In his latter years he began to practice botany as a diversion from his persecutions and as a pleasant pastime. He did not hope to make any progress in this endeavor, nor did he... more