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The life ideologies and influence of french philosopher jean jacques rousseau

Historians will note that it is no coincidence that the French Revolution took place shortly after his death. However, Rousseau was more than just a conventional philosopher, and while his legacy to politics is immense it is important not to disregard the other avenues of his thought.

Rousseau was also a novelist, memoirist, and musician. He had interests ranging from art and painting to the modern sciences. Any assessment of Rousseau's massive influence on French and European thought must take into account the impact of all of his writings.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Biography Rousseau was born in GenevaSwitzerland, and throughout his life described himself as a citizen of Geneva. His mother, Suzanne Bernard Rousseau, died a week later due to complications from childbirth, and his father Isaac, a failed watchmaker, abandoned him in to avoid imprisonment for fighting a duel.

His childhood education consisted solely of reading Plutarch 's Lives and Calvinist sermons. Rousseau was beaten and abused by the pastor's sister who had taken responsibility for Rousseau after his father absconded. Rousseau left Geneva on March 14,after several years of apprenticeship to a notary and then an engraver. Under the protection of de Warens, he converted to Catholicism.

Jean Jacques Rousseau 1712-78

Rousseau spent a few weeks in a seminary and beginning insix months at the Annecy Cathedral choir school. The system was intended to be compatible with typography. The Academy rejected it as useless and unoriginal.

From tohe was secretary to the French ambassador in Venicewhose republican government Rousseau would refer to often in his later political work. As a result of his theories on education and child-rearing, Rousseau has often been criticized by Voltaire and modern commentators for putting his children in an orphanage as soon as they were weaned. In his defense, Rousseau explained that he would have been a poor father, and that the children would have a better life at the foundling home.

Such eccentricities were later used by critics to vilify Rousseau as socially dysfunctional in an attempt to discredit his theoretical work. His most important contribution was an article on political economy, written in Soon after, his friendship with Diderot and the Encyclopedists would become strained. Rousseau's response to this prompt, answering in the negative, was his "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences," which won him first prize in the contest and gained him significant fame.

Rousseau claimed that during the carriage ride to visit Diderot, he had experienced a sudden inspiration on which all his later philosophical works were based. This inspiration, however, did not cease his interest in music and in his opera Le Devin du village was performed for King Louis XV. InRousseau returned to Geneva where he reconverted to Calvinism and regained his official Genevan citizenship. Beginning with this piece, Rousseau's work found him increasingly in disfavor with the French government.

Both books criticized religion and were banned in both France and Geneva. Rousseau was forced to flee arrest and made stops in both Bern and Motiers in Switzerland. Facing criticism in Switzerland—his house in Motiers was stoned in —he took refuge with the philosopher David Hume in Great Britain, but after 18 months he left because he believed Hume was plotting against him.

Rousseau returned to France under the name "Renou," although officially he was not allowed back in until As a condition of his return, he was not allowed to publish the life ideologies and influence of french philosopher jean jacques rousseau books, but after completing his Confessions, Rousseau began private readings. In he was forced to stop, and this book, along with all subsequent ones, was not published untilfour years after his death.

Rousseau continued to write until his death. Inhe was invited to present recommendations for a new constitution for Polandresulting in the Considerations on the Government of Poland, which was to be his last major political work.

In he completed Dialogues: In order to support himself through this time, he returned to copying music. Because of his prudential suspicion, he did not seek attention or the company of others.

While taking a morning walk on the estate of the Marquis de Giradin at Ermenonville 28 miles northeast of ParisRousseau suffered a hemorrhage and died on July 2, Rousseau was initially buried on the Ile des Peupliers. The tomb was designed to resemble a rustic temple, to recall Rousseau's theories of nature. Inthe Genevan government reluctantly erected a statue in his honor on the tiny Ile Rousseau in Lake Geneva.

  1. There is no subjection so complete as that which preserves the forms of freedom; it is thus that the will itself is taken captive.
  2. Only a healthy child can be the rewarding object of any educational work.
  3. This was one of the reasons for the book's condemnation in Geneva.
  4. Every sentiment under our own control is lawful; those which control us are criminal. In order to support himself through this time, he returned to copying music.
  5. Rousseau was not the first to make this distinction; it had been invoked by, among others, Vauvenargues.

Rousseau contended that man was good by nature, a "noble savage" when in the state of nature the state of all the "other animals," and the condition humankind was in before the creation of civilization and societybut is corrupted by society. He viewed society as artificial and held that the development of society, especially the growth of social interdependence, has been inimical to the well-being of human beings. Society's negative influence on otherwise virtuous men centers, in Rousseau's philosophy, on its transformation of amour de soi, a positive self-love comparable to Emerson's "self-reliance," into amour-propre, or pride.

Amour de soi represents the instinctive human desire for self-preservation, combined with the human power of reason. In contrast, amour-propre is not natural but artificial and forces man to compare himself to others, creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others. Rousseau was not the first to make this distinction; it had been invoked by, among others, Vauvenargues. In "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences" Rousseau argued that the arts and sciences had not been beneficial to humankind, because they were advanced not in response to human needs but as the result of pride and vanity.

Moreover, the opportunities they created for idleness and luxury contributed to the corruption of man. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful and had crushed individual liberty. He concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of sincere friendship, replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion.

His subsequent Discourse on Inequality tracked the progress and degeneration of mankind from a primitive state of nature to modern society. He suggested that the earliest human beings were isolated semi-apes who were differentiated from animals by their capacity for free will and their perfectibility.

He also argued that these primitive humans were possessed of a basic drive to care for themselves and a natural disposition to compassion or pity. As humans were forced to associate together more closely, by the pressure of population growth, they underwent a psychological transformation and came to value the good opinion of others as an the life ideologies and influence of french philosopher jean jacques rousseau component of their own well being.

Rousseau associated this new self-awareness with a golden age of human flourishing. However, the development of agriculture and metallurgy, private property and the division of labor led to increased interdependence and inequality. The resulting state of conflict led Rousseau to suggest that the first state was invented as a kind of social contract made at the suggestion of the rich and powerful. This original contract was deeply flawed as the wealthiest and most powerful members of society tricked the general population, and thus instituted inequality as a fundamental feature of human society.

Rousseau's own conception of the social contract can be understood as an alternative to this fraudulent form of association.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

At the end of the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau explains how the desire to have value in the eyes of others, which originated in the golden age, comes to undermine personal integrity and authenticity in a society marked by interdependence, hierarchy, and inequality. Published in it became one of the most influential works of political philosophy in the Western tradition. Rousseau claimed that the state of nature eventually degenerates into a brutish condition without law or moralityat which point the human race must adopt institutions of law or perish.

In the degenerate phase of the state of nature, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men while at the same time becoming increasingly dependent on them.

This double pressure threatens both his survival and his freedom. According to Rousseau, by joining together through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free.

This is because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are, collectively, the authors of the law.

While Rousseau argues that sovereignty should be in the hands of the people, he also makes a sharp distinction between sovereign and government. The government is charged with implementing and enforcing the general will and is composed of a smaller group of citizens, known as magistrates. Rousseau was bitterly opposed to the idea that the people should exercise sovereignty via a representative assembly. Rather, they should make the laws directly. It has been argued that this would prevent Rousseau's ideal state being realized in a large society, though in modern times, communication may have advanced to the point where this is no longer the case.

Much of the subsequent controversy about Rousseau's work has hinged on disagreements concerning his claims that citizens constrained to obey the general will are thereby rendered free. He brings him up in the countryside, where, he believes, humans are most naturally suited, rather than in a city, where we only learn bad habits, both physical and intellectual.

The aim of education, Rousseau says, is to learn how to live, and this is accomplished by following a guardian who can point the way to good living. The growth of a child is divided into three sections, first to the age of about 12, when calculating and complex thinking is not possible, and children, according to his deepest conviction, live like animals.

Second, from 12 to about 15, when reason starts to develop, and finally from the age of 15 onwards, when the child develops into an adult. At this point, Emile finds a young woman to complement him.

The book is based on Rousseau's ideals of healthy living. The boy must work out how to follow his social instincts and be protected from the vices of urban individualism and self-consciousness. Religion Rousseau was most controversial in his own time for his views on religion. In the Social Contract he claims that true followers of Jesus would not make good citizens.

This was one of the reasons for the book's condemnation in Geneva.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau attempted the life ideologies and influence of french philosopher jean jacques rousseau defend himself against critics of his religious views in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, the Archbishop of Paris. Legacy Although the French Revolution started as liberal, in Maximilien Robespierrea follower of Rousseau, took power and executed the liberal revolution leaders and anybody whose popularity threatened his position.

Writers such as Benjamin Constant and Hegel blamed this Reign of Terror and Robespierre's totalitarianism on Rousseau, because Rousseau's ideology could be seen to justify a totalitarian regime without civil rights, such as the protection of the body and the property of the individual from the decisions of the government.

However, Rousseau argued for direct democracy instead of representative democracy, and some people believe that such terrible decisions would not have been made in direct democracy and hence civil rights would not be needed. Robespierre also shared Rousseau's proto socialist thoughts. Rousseau was one of the first modern writers to seriously attack the institution of private property, and therefore is sometimes considered a forebearer of modern socialism and communism see Karl Marxthough Marx rarely mentions Rousseau in his writings.

Rousseau also questioned the assumption that majority will is always correct. He argued that the goal of government should be to secure freedom, equality, and justice for all within the state, regardless of the will of the majority see democracy. One of the primary principles of Rousseau's political philosophy is that politics and morality should not be separated.

When a state fails to act in a moral fashion, it ceases to function in the proper manner and ceases to exert genuine authority over the individual. The second important principle is freedom, which the state is created to preserve. Rousseau's ideas about education have profoundly influenced modern educational theory.

Only a healthy child can be the rewarding object of any educational work. He minimizes the importance of book-learning, and recommends that a child's emotions should be educated before his reason. He placed a special emphasis on learning by experience. John Darling's book Child-Centred Education and its Critics argues that the history of modern educational theory is a series of footnotes to Rousseau.

In his main writings Rousseau identifies nature with the primitive state of savage man.