J. J. Rousseau

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J. J. Rousseau

This is an exerpt from the "Preface" of Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality."...Throwing aside, therefore, all those scientific books, which teach us only to see men such as they have made themselves, and contemplating the first and most simple operations of the human soul, I think I can perceive in it two principles prior to reason, one of them deeply interesting us in our own welfare and preservation, and the other exciting a natural repugnance at seeing any other sensible being, and particularly any of our own species, suffer pain or death. It is from the agreement and combination which the understanding is in a position to establish between these two principles, without its being necessary to introduce that of sociability, that all the rules of natural right appear to me to be derived — rules which our reason is afterwards obliged to establish on other foundations, when by its successive developments it has been led to suppress nature itself...."


Who? Genevan philosopherWhat? Explored the routes of achieving and protecting freedomWhen? Born in 1712; died in 1778Where? Born in independent Calvinist city-state in Geneva, Switzerland; lived in Paris, then in England after converting to CatholicismWhy? Had strong goals of preserving human freedom for people who were strongly dependent on others for their own needs

Rousseau won first prize in the Academy of Dijon's thesis submission when he submitted his Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (or the First Discourse, which includes an overarching theme of human nature is good but is corrupted by society).In music, he contributed Le Devin du Village, his opera.His last discourse, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, is by far much more accomplished than his first discourse, (develops theories of human social development and moral psychology) but he does not win the Academy's prize.

Lasting Impact

Although he died at the height of the Enlightenment, his followers greatly contributed to the third phase of the French Revolution. Later on, one of his most important philosophical impacts was on Immanuel Kant.Rousseau's contributions to political philosophy as well as moral psychology continue to influence modern thinkers. In today's society, people often look at Rousseau for sources of liberal theories, civic republicanism, and democracy. Hostile critics, however, consider him as inspiration for facism and communism due to the authoritarian aspects of the French Revolution.


1. Bertram, Christopher, Bertram,. "Jean Jacques Rousseau." Stanford University. Stanford University, 27 Sept. 2010. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. .2. "Jean-Jacques Rousseau." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2013. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. .3. Hicks, Stephen, Ph.D. "Rousseau and the French Revolution." Stephen Hicks PhD RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. .4. "Jean Jacques Rousseau Biography." YouTube. YouTube, 25 May 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. .5. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "Rousseau: On the Origin of Inequality." Rousseau: On the Origin of Inequality. Constitution, 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. .

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