Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a very significant man not only during his time, the time of the Enlightenment, but also in the formation of some of the modern principles and ideals seen today. He led an interesting yet controversial life and had opinions of the same sort. He made important contributions to philosophy, literature, and music with his presenting of his ideas, publishing of books, and composing of music. He is still regarded today as an important intellectual figure.

Rousseau was born June 28th, 1712, in Geneva, Switzerland and died July 2nd, 1778, in Ermenonville, France ( His mother died only nine days after his birth due to complications and his father abandoned him when he was just ten years old in order to avoid being arrested for fighting a duel. He was then put in the care of a pastor by his uncle. As a child he read a great deal. He left Geneva at the age of sixteen on March 3rd, 1728. He met Francoise-Louise de Warens and converted to being a Catholic. He presented a new system of numbered musical notation to the Academie des Sciences but was rejected as impractical and unoriginal. He then went on to become secretary to a French ambassador in Venice for a year and then met Therese Levasseur. According to Rousseau, she bore him five children and each of them was put into a foundling home because Rousseau did not think he would make a good father. He became friends with Denis Diderot and published several articles which were out into Diderot's Encylopedie. He published several books, many of which were banned. He was forced to flee France. He returned years later under a fake name and continued writing. He died during a morning walk in France from a hemorrhage.

Rousseau published several books that illustrated his philosophical views. Perhaps his most important work was The Social Contract, which was published in 1762 ( In it he described the relationship between man and society. He claimed that, "The state of nature is brutish condition without law and morality and that there are only good men as a result of society's presence." It also outlined the basis for a legitimate political order and developed some of the ideas he had presented in his article Economie Politique ( In this book he also explained his idea that men are competitive with one another but at the same time, they are dependent on one another and that this, so called, double pressure threatened both man's survival and freedom. He said in this book, "that by joining together through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free and this is because submission to authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are the authors of the law." This book outlined many of Rousseau's theories about politics. He wrote a different book to outline his views on education and how children should be educated. He wrote Emile, which was also published in 1762 ( He wrote this book as semi-fictitious about a boy named Emile. In it he says that the goal of education is to learn how to live and this is accomplished by following a guardian, or role model, who can point you in the correct direction of how to live. He divided the growth of a child into three stages, the first being when the child is around the age of twelve and the child lives like an animal because calculating and complex thinking is not is not possible. The second stage takes place when the child is from the age of twelve to sixteen and this is when reason begins to develop. The final stage happens after the child reaches sixteen years old and this is where the child begins to...
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