Essays On Rousseau

Essays On Rousseau-26
But he also figures the arts and sciences as a means of maintaining and sweetening the political repression of despotic government: While the Government and the Laws see to the safety and the well-being of men assembled, the Sciences, Letters, and Arts, less despotic and perhaps more powerful, spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains with which they are laden, throttle in them the sentiment of that original freedom for which they seemed born, make them love their slavery, and fashion them into what is called civilized Peoples.Need raised up Thrones; the Sciences and Arts have made them strong., then, was premised on the supposition that knowledge of the sciences, the arts, and the crafts was compatible with, and indeed led to, virtue and happiness, and that such knowledge ought to be disseminated as widely as possible to 'the men with whom we live'.

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I don't have time in this chapter to explore the full complexities of the Enlightenment as a prelude to measuring Rousseau's reaction against it.

Nor do I have the space to examine Rousseau's entire oeuvre -- most of which would be relevant to the task in hand.

Rousseau scholars have been strangely reluctant to consider his relationship to the Enlightenment (Hulliung 1994: 2), and some of the most influential twentieth century formulations of the Enlightenment clearly had difficulty with Rousseau.

Isaiah Berlin's anthology (Gay 19) homogenises the philosophes as a single, admittedly quarrelsome, family and represents their 'persecution' of Rousseau as simply an extreme family quarrel; as a consequence, Gay fails to register the radical challenge that Rousseau's writings posed for the French Enlightenment (Gay 1967: 4-7).

I will suggest that these writings allowed Rousseau to develop a critique of the Enlightenment and that they help us to understand the alternative (to the) Enlightenment that he would work out in later major writings such as .

At the same time, as we will see, Rousseau's writings are complex and sometimes self-contradictory and cannot be comprehended as pursuing a single project -- whether that be to mount a uniform critique of, or to proffer a single alternative to, the Enlightenment.Rousseau is referring here, in melodramatic fashion, to the fact that the essay he wrote for the competition set him on a course that ran against the grain of the Enlightenment and provoked, so he believed, the philosophes to engage in a relentless conspiracy against him.The standard Enlightenment answer to the Dijon Academy's question ought, of course, to have been 'yes'.In the Second Discourse, as Cranston points out, 'Rousseau outlined a theory of the evolution of the human race which prefigured the discoveries of Darwin; he revolutionized the study of anthropology and linguistics, and he made a seminal contribution to political and social thought' (Cranston 1984: 29).It is possible, then, to see Rousseau as both a key voice in the dialogue that was the Enlightenment and as a figure who entered into one of the most searching critical dialogues with the Enlightenment.Instead, I will begin by sketching out the defining assumptions of the on the supposition that the massive project undertaken by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) can be taken to epitomise the French Enlightenment.I will then focus on Rousseau's 'First Discourse' -- the (published in January 1751) -- and on his polemical contributions to the critical controversy that the First Discourse provoked in the following three years.Rousseau's as a moment of revelation that changed the course of his life.On his way to visit Diderot in prison in the summer of 1749, Rousseau saw the announcement of the Academy of Dijon's prize essay question in the Mercurie de France: 'Has the Restoration of the Sciences and the Arts Contributed to the Purification of Morals?In the late 1740s and early 1750s, Diderot and Rousseau shared 'remarkably similar intellectual interests' and were constant companions (Wokler 1975: 63).Rousseau was, indeed, one of the key contributors to the early volumes of the to collect all the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth, to present its general outlines and structure to the men with whom we live, and to transmit this to those who will come after us, so that the work of past centuries may be useful to the following centuries, that our children, by becoming more educated, may at the same time become more virtuous and happier (in Kramnick 1995: 18).


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