Jean Jacques Rousseau


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Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) "Citizen Rousseau of Geneva", writer, musician and political theorist, penned the well-known Social Contract in 1762. While his controversial writings contributed to the Romantic Movement and allegedly inspired the French Revolution, he emerged from fairly humble beginnings.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland, 28 June, 1712, the second son of Isaac Rousseau, descendant of French Huguenots, and Susanne Bernard (who died a week after he was born). Young Jean’s Calvinist father went into exile when he was charged with poaching and tried to slash his accuser.

Sent by his maternal uncle to a parsonage for basic religious schooling, Rousseau endured the severe straits of harsh discipline that would later form his basis of hatred towards authority. With school finished he attempted a few unsuccessful apprenticeships. The practically orphaned Rousseau (who felt he was responsible for his mother’s death) spent much of his spare time alone exploring his first love, nature, which he escaped to in life as a vagabond in 1728. His wanderings led him out of Geneva to Sardinia then France, where he met Madame de Warens, who for the next ten years provided for him an education and much needed moral support and maternal love. At this time Rousseau converted to Catholicism.

1742 and living in Paris, Rousseau hoped to establish himself in a musical career, unsuccessfully proposing a new system of music to the Academy of Sciences. He published musical theory and wrote for the opera, attracted the attentions of King and court, but ended up concentrating on the development of his political theories towards social reform. He also met Therese le Vasseur who became his mistress with whom he had five children. They married near the end of his life.

It was not until 1750 that he won his first prize for an essay A Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, its basis being that man (from his naive state of goodness) had become corrupted by society and civilization's progress. In 1755 he published his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, stating that original man was preferable while isolated from the corruption of social institutions; that vices develop out of a society where man starts to compare himself to others and becomes prideful. Catholic theologians concurred that humanity had not sufficiently advanced, yet disagreed that man was innately good. Rousseau eloquently expressed the problems of `law and order’ with greater clarity than most other of his contemporaries like Diderot and Voltaire, whom he eventually parted ways with, but he was heavily criticised for his condemnations as well. He reconverted to Calvinism around this time, causing some conjecture as to his mental health, which however was a legitimate concern for the rest of his life.

Rousseau wrote The New Eloise (1761) next, which escaped censor and was one of the most widely read works of the Romanticism period. He published Èmile in 1762, his `heretical’ education reform treatise. His next and most controversial work, The Social Contract (1762) while starting with the opening line "Man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains." suggested that there was still hope for mankind’s future, that he is essentially good, a `noble savage’, if only he realised the importance of a state of nature and worked to disarm the constraints of society. The publication of these two works caused uproar among French Catholics and Calvinist censors who were deeply offended and publicly burnt the books. Orders for his arrest were issued. Enduring this persecution but becoming paranoid and insecure, Rousseau lived in exile in Prussia and later England, to live with Scottish philosopher David Hume for a period of time. He returned to France under a false name after accusing Hume of disloyalty.

Rousseau continued to work in secret on his Confessions (1764 – 1778), inspired by St. Augustine’s Confessions as well as the Essays of Montaigne. His last opus proves to be a progressively more and more disquieting assay of self-justification, Rousseau seeming to need to plead his case for posterity, confess his sins. The lyrical Reveries of a Solitary Walker (1782), marks a period of inner peace for Rousseau in his declining years. On 2 July, 1778, while staying with the Marquis de Giradin in Ermenonville, just north of Paris, Rousseau, after taking one of his routine morning walks communing with nature, died of apparent apoplexy (or brain hemorrhage as it’s now known). He is buried in The Pantheon in Paris alongside Victor Hugo, Francois Marie Arouet, Voltaire and Emile Zola. As he says at the start of his Confessions, comparing himself to other men, “If I am not better, at least I am different.” His writings to this day are still well-known and widely available.


Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2005. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Jean Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau's philosophy of love

I know precious little about Rousseau; I have only a cursory knowledge about some of his biggest ideas. But I have read a few things about Rousseau that piqued my interest, particularly with respect to love. My question is for the Rousseau experts here: could you explain to me Rousseau's take on love? What did he say about it? How did it fit into his view of things? It would be much appreciated.:)


“Abbe Raynal”, another alias of “Rousseau-Saint Germain"

Introductory Doubts concerning the relations between abbe Raynal, Gioachino Cocchi, Charles Nicholas Cochin, Baron von Gleichen*, Dupin de Franceuil, Madame d’Epinay and comte de Saint Germain, have been expressed,11-17-2006, at http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15023&page=7 as follows: To begin with, when St Germain-Gioachino Cocchi "is in town", in 1748, theater lovers all around fall to his charms only, a "Dupin de Francueil" with a dubious theatrical expertise stepping quietly aside Furthermore, as Abbe Raynal and Baron von Gleichen are registered today among Mme d'Epinay's "elect few", often visiting her "salon", one can only wonder how St Germain is avoided when Cochin(CNC)- living nearby** btw at his Cheville cottage(Goncour)-took then(1770-80) his chances drawing the former's portrait for his " "Histoire philosophique " and the latter, the dane, was a friend of Cochin/Cocchi/St Germain.” With Dupin, Saint Germain and Rousseau in the meantime "enlisted” among Cocchi’s aliases , it’s now time inviting monsieur “Guillaume Thomas François Raynal”, who has so much in common with our hero, to the club. His portrait by C.N.Cochin…. http://c18.net/ra/ra_pages.php?nom=ra_presentation (same portrait "shortened" at http://www.antiquemaps-fair.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=10_23&products_id=2066. Also see http://pagesperso-orange.fr/dboudin/zGalerie/Raynal.html for more info on Raynal, his biography, works and portraits-including another one in profile resembling a rather heavier "Grimm".) …is of interest not just because of his casual attire- an indication of his close relations with the portraitist of “our” Rousseau and Ben Franklin-but also because it is, we believe, a “true” design*** providing us with the actual face characteristics of the subject in question Also to be praised therefore for likeness the unknown artist of his other portrait in relative Wikipedia article.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Guillaume_Raynal2.jpg ....the more so because of better depicting- in semiprofile- his rather long and dropping nose,shared by -other portraits of-"Grimm" and "Saint Germain". * Another alias of Saint Germain (as Goethe just disclosed to me personaly) to be examined in further down this thread. **This statement is wrong: At the time of writing I was still mixing up Epinay sur Seine, north of Paris (where Mme d'Epinay lived) with Epinay sur Orge, south of Paris, the "seigneury" of our hero (as Augustin Henry Cochin) near Versailles. Cheville is to the south as well. ***Raynal's portrait by Cochin and Rousseau's bust by Houdon( http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jahd/ho_08.89.2a.htm) speak for themselves as to the common identity of the two sitters.


Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Readers of "Friedrich Melchior Grimm (revisited)"*(footnote 1) are perhaps aware of certain, recently added, footnotes and modifications therein seriously affecting the french philosopher's true identity and fame! Because (hold your breath please): Rousseau was but another alias of comte de Saint Germain*(2)... ....ie Gioachino Cocchi, aka Augustin Henry Cochin, Melchior Grimm, Willibald Christ. Gluck, Marquis de Chastellux, Bricaire de La Dixmerie, Dupin de Franceuil, Carl Ludwig Cocceji, Alexander Serg.Stroganov, Ser. Saltycov, Nikolay Saltycov*(4), possibly Peter Sem. Solticof, Alessandro Cosimo Collini (Voltaire’s secretary)..abbe Raynal, baron von Gleichen, baron von Holbach, Dr Helvetius (see "Abbe Raynal" in next thread) ….. ....and “Rousseau”! Method used to reach this conclusion: With Rousseau’s talents- common with the other aliases of Saint Germain (music, botany, philosophy)-his writings concerning Mme D’Epinay’s relations with Grimm and his “falsity of character” as initial indications, Rousseau’s whereabouts were added to the detailed mastertimeline, as mentioned in above thread, including relevant data of all other aliases: Rousseau’s presences and absences (basicaly Paris, London, Italy and USA -in the making) fully coincide with those of other aliases with the exception of Collini (whose book on Voltaire, “Mon séjour auprès de Voltaire et lettres inédites que m'écrivit”- including letter xchange, is "suspect of slight*(3) misinformation", just like Rousseau's "Confessions" and other books on "Saint Germain" and his aliases!). Well aware of my finds gravity and significance, I really wish to openly debate the issue (Rousseau’s identity only, NOT the relevant implications) and kindly invite members or other readers of this site with sufficient interest and skill, to declare their willingless to defend “old” Rousseau*(5) and, if needed, also call any “outside assistance”, preferably French cousins or friends. Cheers. Relevant posts by undersigned: http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15023 (On Poe,Saint Germain,Cocchi-Cocchini-Cochin-Caussin de Perceval etc) http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35779 (On Melchior Grimm, Dupin de Franceuil, Stroganov, Chastellux, Gluck) http://forum.alexanderpalace.org/index.php?topic=11715.0(On Alexander Serg.Stroganov, La Dixmerie) http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?p=5787715#post5787715 (On La Dixmerie) http://www.sfcv.org/2007/06/05/at-long-last-gluck-2/#comment-547 (On Gluck) *(6) *1 Currently in # 4 of about 140,000 Google results for "Melchior Grimm". *2 Cocchi aka Saint Germain,Gluck, Grimm and Rousseau inspired Leroux to produce "The phantom of the opera" early 20th century. "They" -alltogether-will certainly "haunt" opera to eternity, there is however specific evidence as well: "Don Juan triumphant" points to Gluck's "Don Giovanni"-defined presently as a "ballet"-produced in Vienna 1761, ie early in Gluck's reformation period (1761-67), ie Leroux expresses a wish for his triumphant return . The phantom's persian companion-guard points furthermore to the "Gullistan" (Persia) history of the family, including our hero's Nikita "K" ancestor, himself as well as his grandson (Stroganov) who spent sometime in Persia. *3: On June 12 (1756) Collini leaves allegedly Voltaire's service (Geneva-Delices). However Augustin Henry Cochin's first Paris (Epinay) record is dated June 2nd of same year. *4:Nikolai Saltykov, Paul I's tutor for a time , succeeds Potemkin in the Russian war ministry in 1791 and as from 1802becomes head minister of Russia. One should add here "L.H.Nicolay", also Paul I's tutor (1769) and a poet, whose biography at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Heinrich_von_Nicolai seems rather "incomplete". Also see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simon-finland/2016541790/page2/ (L.H Nicolay's memorial, a "knight's temple", propably Saint Germain's, at Monrepos,Viborg, Carelia, near St Petersburg. ) *5. Rousseau's "lettre sur la musique francaise", just read(late February 09), clearly demonstrates that the author is the same person as Gioachino Cocchi. (The same conclusion is also to be reached via Diderot's: "Jacques le fataliste et son maitre" and "Rameau's nephew".) *6: As from early March, 09, the article on Gluck (by classical music professor M.Zwiebach) has been removed, possibly because of yourstruly's relative comments on Gluck's true identity.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

I've been studying The Social Contract all today. And though I didn't read the whole thing, I think I'm already a fan of Rousseau. I have a thing for idealists, who still had faith in human goodness, and the possibility of a Utopian Society. Or maybe it's just the fact that I just studied Mandeville right before Rousseau, so I was kinda happy to find out that there were still good people in the world :lol:


Jean-Jacques Rousseau on education

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on education We are born weak, we need strength; helpless we need aid; foolish we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education. This education comes from nature, from men or from things. The inner growth of our organs and faculties is the education of nature, the use we learn to make of our growth is the education of men, what we gain by our experience of our surroundings is the education of things We are each taught by three masters. If their teaching conflicts, the scholar is ill-educated and will never be at peace with himself; if their teaching agrees, he goes straight to his goal, he lives at peace with himself, he is well-educated. Now each of these factors in education is wholly beyond our control, things are only partly in our power; the education of men is the only one controlled by us; and even here our power is largely illusory, for who can hope to direct every word and deed of all with whom the child has to do. Viewed as an art, the success of education is almost impossible since the essential conditions of success are beyond our control. Our efforts may bring us within sight of the goal, but fortune must favour us if we are to reach it. What is this goal? As we have just shown, it is the goal of nature. Since all three modes of education must work together, the two that we can control must follow the lead of that which is beyond our control.


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