Article

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

James Delaney

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online March 2015 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0256
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
  • Epistemology
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Non-Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Social and Political Philosophy

GO

Show Summary Details

Preview

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (b. 1712–d. 1778) is one of the most influential figures of the 18th century and French Enlightenment period, As a philosopher (though he himself claimed he did not embrace that label for himself), his works broach topics in ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of education. He is probably most famous for his social and political philosophy. Rousseau’s work was not limited to philosophy however. His first love, he claimed, was not philosophy but music. He wrote a successful opera, and designed a new system of musical notation. He also wrote a successful novel, Julie or the New Héloïse. It is difficult to categorize Rousseau’s philosophical thought. He is often characterized as an Enlightenment thinker, and he does express some core Enlightenment ideals such as the rejection of certain established dogma. However, his work is also counter-Enlightenment in important ways. In his first successful work, the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, he argues that morality and virtue can actually be corrupted by progress. Additionally, Rousseau understands the creation of civil society itself as the source of the worst of human vices. The theme of nature, and specifically human nature, as inherently good is one of the most important in his writings. Against the criticism that his works are inconsistent with one another, he claims that this is the central idea underlying the system of his thought. In one of his principal writings, the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, he explains how the primitive “savage man” gradually moves from the pure state of nature to the state of civilized society through a long and complex historical process. Current society, however, is united under a specious social contract put in place by those in power to keep their advantage. It is nearly impossible to achieve virtue in such a society. Two later important works, the Emile and the Social Contract, are Rousseau’s attempt to show how this difficulty can be overcome. The former focuses on the moral education of an individual in a corrupt society. The latter is Rousseau’s vision of an ideal political regime that can preserve equality and freedom for its citizens. This entry focuses primarily on these and related philosophical themes, showing how others of Rousseau’s works have been shown to have influence on them.

Article.  9097 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.