Jean Jacques Rousseau

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was a Swiss-French philosopher, writer, political theorist, and self-taught composer of The Age of Enlightenment.

Rousseau was born at Geneva in Switzerland in 1712. He started education at an early age and had loved reading more and more books. He started writing articles and essays at the age of thirty. There was large scale corruption in the society. He was sensitive to it and wrote articles on social and political subjects. In 1750, he got a prize for essay writing on the topic - "Has the progress of the Arts and Sciences helped to corrupt or led to purity?" He also fell in love with a pretty woman.

Rousseau desired to build a career as a author. He had a sensitive mind and extraordinary writing power. His thoughts for equal and corruption-free society started stirring the minds, which had direct effect on the people.

His principles of Genera will and Return to Nature had great impact on people. Thus the new ideas which Rousseau thought and wrote influenced politics, society, philosophy, literature and arts. The French revolution of 1789 was influenced by his thoughts. His ideas paved the way for revolution. On the other side, his contribution in the field of education is also laudable. In his book 'Emile', he gave the idea of education to a child.

His other books are A Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of the Inequalities of Man, Confession, Introduction of Political Economy, etc. The basic idea of his thought was liberalism and democracy. He believed that 'Man established the state out of his free will'. He said that man is born free but has to live in chains. This versatile genius died in I778.

Philosophy of Rousseau

Rousseau contended that man was good by nature, a noble savage when in the state of nature (the state of all the "other animals", and the condition humankind was in before the creation of civilization and society), but is corrupted by society. He viewed society as artificial and held that the development of society, especially the growth of social interdependence, has been inimical to the well-being of human beings.

Rousseau's essay, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750), which won the prize offered by the Academy of Dijon, argued that the advancement of art and science had not been beneficial to humankind. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful and had crushed individual liberty. He concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of sincere friendship, replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion.


Tags: | Switzerland | France | Philosophy |


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