Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) - HISTORY
Rousseau was a Swiss writer and philosopher. He is considered one of the most important figures for his contribution to modern European intellectual history and political philosophy. He is best known for Social Contract (1762) with its famous opening line: ‘Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains’. His books have attracted both admiration and hostility during his lifetime and exerted profound influence on French revolutionaries, his contemporaries and later thinkers such as Kant, Hume, Wollstonecraft, Hegel, and Marx.
Here are 5 interesting facts about Jean-Jacques Rousseau you might not know:
1. After his father’s exile to avoid arrest for political reason, Rousseau left Geneva, the city of his birth at the age of sixteen and served as a domestic servant in a noble household of Madam de Warens in 1728. He later found a new home in Chambéry with Madame de Warens and remained with her throughout 1730s, during which time, he taught himself philosophy and literature. She became for him his mentor, surrogate mother and lover.
2. Whilst in Paris during 1744, before he was famous, Rousseau contributed various articles on music and political economy to the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and d’Alembert, an encyclopedia representing Enlightenment thoughts. He also composed the successful opera, Le Devin du Village for a court production in 1752.
3. In 1749 Rousseau came across a newspaper announcement of the Academy of Dijon’s essay competition. The question asked whether the development of arts and sciences had improved mankinds. Rousseau wrote Discourse on the Arts and Sciences in response and won the first prize with a counter thesis that civilization had fostered moral corruptions. He wrote the Second Discourse, continuing the theme of social inequality.
4. On their publications in France and Geneva in 1762, The Social Contract, Rousseau’s most famous work on political philosophy, and Emile, his treatise on education, were condemned as subversive and met with outrage. The Genevan authorities ordered the burning of his books on account of Emile’s blasphemous views on religions. For many years throughout 1760s, Rousseau had to flee to escape arrest, seeking refuge in Switzerland, and England, and French provinces under an assumed name.
5. Towards the end of his writing career, Rousseau composed more personal and introspective works. He wrote the extraordinary and candid autobiography Confessions while in exile. In 1770, he wrote Reveries of the Solitary Walker which became a seminal text in its development of Romantic sensibilities.