Jean Jacques Rousseau's provocative Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts (1750) launched a vigorous assault on the most cherished beliefs of his age in a passionate indictment of civilized "progress," which, in Rousseau's eyes, has led to a debilitating corruption of human nature and morality. Four years later, Rousseau produced another such assault in the Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality Among Men. A landmark of political thought, this work argues that human beings are by nature free, happy, and independent, but that social institutions and human inventions have corrupted that condition and brought about all human misery. Many of the details of Rousseau's account are open to dispute, but the revolutionary impact of the argument is beyond doubt: by insisting that our understanding of modern society must be placed on a historical footing, Rousseau invites us to see social injustice and evil as products of pernicious social institutions--not permanent features of an unsatisfactory or fallen condition. He offers no clear solution to the evils he diagnoses, but the implication of his argument is clear: society's most serious problems are caused, not by human nature, but by social institutions, especially property; if we wish to address these problems, we must change those institutions. The unflagging passion, clarity, and rhetorical power of Rousseau's style have inspired many social reformers and revolutionaries. Even today, his words are still cited by those who wish to challenge just how free and happy our citizens are in a society that prides itself on economic and personal freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
One of the most respected translations of this key work of 18th-century philosophy, this text includes a brief introduction to the two works as well as abundant notes that range from simple explanations to speculative interpretations.
Author : Jean-Jacques Rousseau
ISBN : 0521424453
Genre : History
File Size : 88.69 MB
Format : PDF, ePub, Mobi
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The work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau is presented in two volumes, which together form the most comprehensive anthology of Rousseau's political writings in English. Volume I contains the earlier writings such as the First and Second Discourses. The American and French Revolutions were profoundly affected by Rousseau's writing, thus illustrating the scope of his influence. Volume II contains the later writings such as the Social Contract. The Social Contract was publicly condemned on publication causing Rousseau to flee. In exile he wrote both autobiographical and political works. These volumes contain comprehensive introductions, chronologies, and guides to further reading, and will enable students to fully understand the writings of one of the world's greatest thinkers.
Few thinkers have enjoyed so pervasive an influence as Rousseau, who originated dissatisfaction with modernity. By exploring polarities articulated by Rousseau—nature versus society, self versus other, community versus individual, and compassion versus competitiveness—these fourteen original essays show how his thought continues to shape our ways of talking, feeling, thinking, and complaining. The volume begins by taking up a central theme noted by the late Allan Bloom—Rousseau's critique of the bourgeois as the dominant modern human type and as a being fundamentally in contradiction, caught between the sentiments of nature and the demands of society. It then turns to Rousseau's crucial polarity of nature and society and to the later conceptions of history and culture it gave rise to. The third part surveys Rousseau's legacy in both domestic and international politics. Finally, the book examines Rousseau's contributions to the virtues that have become central to the current sensibility: community, sincerity, and compassion. Contributors include Allan Bloom, François Furet, Pierre Hassner, Christopher Kelly, Roger Masters, and Arthur Melzer.