Rousseau as a Figure of the Enlightenment

Topics: Immanuel Kant, Age of Enlightenment, Voltaire Pages: 2 (432 words) Published: September 19, 2013
De la Garza 1

Jesús De la Garza Professor Michael S. Roth MOOC: The Modern and the Postmodern 18 August 2013 Rousseau as a figure of The Enlightenment In order to consider Rousseau as a figure of The Enlightenment, we need to analyze his philosophical work and see what it has in common with the philosophical position of The Enlightenment. What can we define as Enlightenment? Kant opens his philosophical work An answer to the question: “What is Enlightenment?” defining The Enlightenment as “man emergence from his self-incurred immaturity” and adds it a motto: Sapere aude! Dare to know. In this work, Kant also explained that the power of

knowledge that will be gained by the people will not destroy the social structure instead they will work to achieve their freedom gradually, which seemed, at the time, adequate. However we should state here, that the French Revolution owes much of its philosophical propulsions to Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Rousseau is a key figure for The Enlightenment. Rousseau wrote Discourse on the Sciences and Arts for a competition organized by the Academy of Dijon answering the question: “Has the restoration of the sciences and the arts contributed to refining moral practices?” In this essay we can see that Rousseau takes position against the Sciences and Arts, since he considers them corrupted, arguing that they contribute to vanities, decreasing human virtue and happiness.

De la Garza 2

Rousseau’s second essay, Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men, shows again how he goes against conventional thinking, by saying that the “natural” man has been corrupted by civil society. He argues that Humanity is naturally innocent and happy. We can clearly see a confrontation of ideas regarding knowledge. For Kant, man should work is way towards freedom gradually by using knowledge. For Rousseau, man is born free and knowledge is responsible for corrupting him. Even if...

Cited: Kant, Immanuel. Answer to the Question: "What Is Enlightenment?" Web. 18 Aug. 2013. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Sciences and Arts. Web. 18 Aug. 2013. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men. Web. 18 Aug. 2013.
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