Contents Index

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, political philosopher, and citizen of Geneva.

No philosopher had a greater influence on the culture of Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His Discours sur les sciences et les arts (1750) developed the theme which runs through nearly all his works: that mankind is essentially good, and that society works to produce vice. Later works elaborate on this insight: the Discours sur l'origine de l'inegalité (1755) explores the ways in which society introduces artificial divisions and inequalities between human beings, thereby creating vice. Du Contrat social (1762) is an appeal for republicanism in states other than Geneva. In Julie; ou, la nouvelle Héloïse (1761) he turns from the public world to the private domestic circle, and in Émile; ou, l'Éducation (1762) he describes the ideal education. The works of his last years are autobiographical: Confessions, Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques (1780), and Les Rêveries du promeneur solitaire (1782).