Jean Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is one of the most well-known philosophers to ever live. A Swiss born philosopher, writer, and political theorist, Rousseau’s writing inspired the leaders of the French Revolution, Enlightenment movement and the Romantic generation. Rousseau is thought to be the least academic of the modern philosophers and his thought brought the Age of Reason to an end. Rousseau was extremely influential at his time. He had a direct impact on people’s way of life, opened people’s eyes to see the beauty of nature, and made liberty an object that should be sought and attained by everyone. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712. Most of the known information about Rousseau's early life comes from his Confessions, which was published after his death Rousseau was raised by his father, a watchmaker and rebel, Isaac Rousseau because his mother died 9 days after his birth from complications. Isaac oversaw Jean-Jacques' early education and encouraged his to read at the early age of 5. When Rousseau was 10 Isaac got into a legal quarrel that forced him to leave Geneva for Nyon where he got remarried. Rousseau was left behind with his uncle and rarely saw his father again. At the age of 15 Jean-Jacques ran away from Geneva and upon his return found the gates locked due to curfew. That night, Rousseau stayed with a Roman Catholic priest and his wife Francoise- Louise de Warens in the adjoining city of Savoy and did not return to Geneva. The couple had Rousseau converted to Catholicism. In doing so Rousseau had to denounce his original religion Calvinism and thus give up his Genevan citizenship. Rousseau lived with de Warens for many years, and even became her lover at the age of 20. Under her protection, Rousseau used de Warens large library and other accommodations to educate himself and become knowledgeable in the studies of philosophy, mathematics, and music. In 1742, Rousseau left the protection of de Warens and moved to Paris to present a new system of musical notation to the French Academy of Sciences. His proposal was shut down but his expertise in the subject was recognized and applauded. After the rejection, Rousseau became the secretary to the French ambassador to Venice but quit after 11 months because of irregular pay and a boss he couldn’t trust. He left with a strong distrust for the government bureaucracy. Jean-Jacques then returned to Paris where he met his lover Therese Levasseur. The couple had as many as 5 children all of which were given to the orphanage at birth. Rousseau's first big break came when his essay won a contest sponsored by the Academy of Dijon. In the essay, Discourse of the Sciences and Arts, he answered the question: "Has the progress of the sciences and arts contributed to the purification of morals?" His response, influenced by French philosopher Diderot, revealed his critical views of modern society. "He contrasted the moral corruption of contemporary society with the natural goodness of simple human beings." (2) This essay vaulted Rousseau and his works into the public eye and he began to publish other discourses that further developed his critical beliefs. In later years his works were banned in Geneva, among many other places, and Rousseau was forced to flee arrest. His works were distributed throughout France disguised as other books to avoid detection. Rousseau was allowed to live his last years in France under the promise that he would not publish any more works. He died a celebrity at the age of 66. Central to Rousseau's beliefs was the theory of the natural human. Rousseau used two principles to describe the natural man at his very core: the first is a natural, positive self-love and the second is a pity and compassion felt for others who are suffering. He believed that uncorrupted morals prevailed when humans were in their natural state. This was in direct contrast with Hobbes who said that man in his natural state are naturally wicked because he...
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