Philosophy Jean-Jacques Rousseau
by
James Delaney
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0256

Introduction

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (b. 1712–d. 1778) is one of the most influential figures of the 18th century and French Enlightenment period, As a philosopher (though he himself claimed he did not embrace that label for himself), his works broach topics in ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of education. He is probably most famous for his social and political philosophy. Rousseau’s work was not limited to philosophy however. His first love, he claimed, was not philosophy but music. He wrote a successful opera, and designed a new system of musical notation. He also wrote a successful novel, Julie or the New Héloïse. It is difficult to categorize Rousseau’s philosophical thought. He is often characterized as an Enlightenment thinker, and he does express some core Enlightenment ideals such as the rejection of certain established dogma. However, his work is also counter-Enlightenment in important ways. In his first successful work, the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, he argues that morality and virtue can actually be corrupted by progress. Additionally, Rousseau understands the creation of civil society itself as the source of the worst of human vices. The theme of nature, and specifically human nature, as inherently good is one of the most important in his writings. Against the criticism that his works are inconsistent with one another, he claims that this is the central idea underlying the system of his thought. In one of his principal writings, the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, he explains how the primitive “savage man” gradually moves from the pure state of nature to the state of civilized society through a long and complex historical process. Current society, however, is united under a specious social contract put in place by those in power to keep their advantage. It is nearly impossible to achieve virtue in such a society. Two later important works, the Emile and the Social Contract, are Rousseau’s attempt to show how this difficulty can be overcome. The former focuses on the moral education of an individual in a corrupt society. The latter is Rousseau’s vision of an ideal political regime that can preserve equality and freedom for its citizens. This entry focuses primarily on these and related philosophical themes, showing how others of Rousseau’s works have been shown to have influence on them.

General Overviews

There are many general overviews written on Rousseau. What are common to nearly all such overviews are their expository accounts of Rousseau’s criticism of society as given in the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, his account of human beings in the state of nature in the Discourse on Inequality, his political philosophy in the Social Contract, and his discussion of education in the Emile. The sources listed here provide a sampling of some of the more influential of these works and provide sources aimed at various different audiences. For those coming to Rousseau for the first time, Delaney 2009 and Simpson 2007 give very accessible and basic introductions. Dent 1988, Dent 2005, and O’Hagan 1999 provide the most comprehensive overviews that include substantial references to the large amount of secondary literature on the topic. Wokler 2001 is another important resource for scholars, which is relatively short. Broome 1963 and Grimsley 1973 are useful for showing how some of the more core philosophical ideas in Rousseau’s work relate to other less discussed philosophical themes.

  • Broome, Jack H. Rousseau: A Study of His Thought. London: Edward Arnold, 1963.

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    Geared toward students as well as general readers, this overview attempts to give a comprehensive analysis of Rousseau’s works, and to show that these works must be read in conjunction with one another in order to achieve an accurate understanding of Rousseau’s thought as a whole.

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  • Delaney, James. Starting with Rousseau. London: Continuum, 2009.

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    Written as an introduction for those with little or no background knowledge. Can be used as supplementary material in an undergraduate-level course. Chapters cover the Enlightenment period, the state of nature, political philosophy, education, and Rousseau’s autobiographical works.

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  • Dent, Nicholas. Rousseau: An Introduction to His Psychological, Social and Political Theory. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

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    A general discussion of the most fundamental aspects of Rousseau’s philosophical thought. Chapters are divided thematically rather than by individual works of Rousseau. They focus on Rousseau’s notions of self-love, the problem of the self in isolation, the state, and religion.

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  • Dent, Nicholas. Rousseau. New York: Routledge, 2005.

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    A comprehensive overview of Rousseau’s thought. It is useful for those with little background, but is also an important source for more advanced students and scholars. Chapters cover all of Rousseau’s major works as well as discussion of Rousseau’s historical influence and legacy.

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  • Grimsley, Ronald. The Philosophy of Rousseau. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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    A relatively short yet thorough overview of Rousseau’s philosophy. Chapters are divided topically and discuss major works in the context of their relevant topic. In addition to standard topics about the state of nature and politics, there are chapters devoted to religion and aesthetic ideas.

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  • O’Hagan, Timothy. Rousseau. London: Routledge, 1999.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203354407Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the most thorough and complete recent overviews of Rousseau. Gives a systematic analysis and interpretation of Rousseau’s works and a comprehensive account of the major themes of his philosophy. Provides a chapter on Rousseau and the origin of language. An important resource for those pursuing advanced research.

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  • Simpson, Matthew. Rousseau: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: Continuum, 2007.

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    Written for those with limited background knowledge. It attempts to explain the more difficult and inaccessible aspects of Rousseau’s thought. Chapters cover Rousseau’s life and works, the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, the Discourse on Inequality, the Social Contract, and the Emile.

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  • Wokler, Robert. Rousseau: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780192801982.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A compact work that is a helpful resource for both beginning and advanced students. Chapters cover Rousseau’s theory of nature and political philosophy and also include discussions of music, religion, education, and sexuality.

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Reference Works

There is a vast amount of secondary literature on Rousseau, and the reference works here are a helpful guide for putting this literature in context and for outlining the principal themes in Rousseau’s philosophical thought. Bertram 2010 and Delaney 2005 are the two most reputable online sources in English. Both are updated periodically. Rousseau Studies is an online resource in French dedicated to Rousseau. Dent 1992 is a comprehensive dictionary that provides succinct explanations of Rousseau’s ideas and works. Trousson and Eigeldinger 2006 is a French dictionary.

  • Bertram, Christopher. “Rousseau.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2010.

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    Clear and accessible introduction to Rousseau’s thought. Includes sections on Rousseau’s life as well as discussions of the major tenets of his philosophy, which include morality, political philosophy, language, and education. Also contains links to other Internet resources.

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  • Delaney, James J. “Rousseau.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden, 2005.

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    A broad overview of Rousseau’s philosophy that is aimed at readers with little or no background knowledge. Includes expository sections on each of Rousseau’s major philosophical works as well as brief biographical information and the historical context of Rousseau’s work.

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  • Dent, Nicholas. A Rousseau Dictionary. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

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    A comprehensive research tool for Rousseau scholars that can also be of help to those with limited background. Includes entries on Rousseau’s major works as well as its central philosophical principles. Also includes a substantial bibliography surveying the primary and secondary literature.

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  • Rousseau Studies.

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    This website contains information and updates about Rousseau scholarship as well as upcoming events, colloquia, and conferences dedicated to Rousseau.

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  • Trousson, Raymond, and Frédéric Eigeldinger. Dictionaire de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Paris: Honoré Champion, 2006.

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    Originally published in 1996, this French dictionary is comprehensive in its scope and is a valuable reference tool for researchers and scholars already familiar with Rousseau.

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Anthologies

The most comprehensive anthology on Rousseau is the recent four-volume collection edited by John Scott, Scott 2006. Though the focus is on political philosophy, the essays in this volume span an impressive range of topics that will be of interest to scholars and specialists working on Rousseau. Riley 2001 is another important collection of essays, the focus of which is more general. Harvey, et al. 1980 and Leigh 2010 contain essays on some of the less-discussed aspects of Rousseau’s thought such as intellectual relationships, writing, literature, and music. O’Hagan 1997 is a collection that approaches core texts and principles in Rousseau’s thought with a focus on the notion of the self. The Cranston and Peters 1972 collection includes essays on both Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes.

  • Cranston, Maurice, and Richard Peters, eds. Hobbes and Rousseau. Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1972.

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    A collection of essays on various topics in Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes, whose accounts of the state of nature and civil society contrast sharply. Contributors writing essays on Rousseau in the volume include Strauss, McManners, Shklar, Masters, and Grimsley.

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  • Harvey, Simon, Marian Hobson, David Kelly, and Samuel S. B. Taylor, eds. Reappraisals of Rousseau: Essays in Honour of R. A. Leigh. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1980.

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    The essays in this volume are divided into the following topics: “Manières de sentir et de voir” (manners of seeing and feeling), politics, writing, and intellectual relationships. Some essays in the volume are in English and others in French. Contributors include Starobinski, Gagnebin, Derathé, and Wokler.

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  • Leigh, R. A., ed. Rousseau after 200 Years: Proceedings of the Cambridge Bicentennial Colloquium. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    A collection of essays that is divided into two parts: Part 1, Politics and Sociology, and Part 2, Language, Literature, and Music. Some essays in the volume are in English and others in French. Contributors include Starobinski, Grimsley, Gagnebin, Derathé, and Wokler.

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  • O’Hagan, Timothy, ed. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Sources of Self. Aldershot, UK: Avebury, 1997.

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    A collection of essays on the complex notion of the self in Rousseau’s thought. Essays approach this concept through discussions of Rousseau’s writings on the state of nature, self-love, and citizenship. Contributors include Gauthier, Dent, O’Hagan, and Wokler.

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  • Riley, Patrick, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Rousseau. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521572651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The essays in this volume span a variety of topics in Rousseau’s thought. In addition to entries by Riley on Rousseau’s life and works, and a general overview by Kelly, the volume also includes essays on the general will, religious thought, music and theater, the Confessions, and postmodernism.

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  • Scott, John, ed. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Critical Assessments of Leading Political Philosophers. 4 vols. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    A collection of essays with a focus on Rousseau’s political thought. Includes several essays that were not previously available in English. A comprehensive collection for scholars. Contributors include Lovejoy, Cassirer, Leo Strauss, Gay, Shklar, Derrida, Claude Levi-Strauss, Starobinski, Wokler, Kelly, Scott, and Neuhouser.

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Journals

Études Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a journal devoted to Rousseau.

Biographies

Rousseau’s life has drawn a great deal of attention from scholars and critics. Rousseau’s autobiography, the Confessions, as well as some other later autobiographical works, give insight into what motivated his writing. Thus, a biography is a particularly valuable resource for those interested in his work. The most comprehensive biography is Cranston’s three-volume collection in Cranston 1982, Cranston 1991, and Cranston 1997. Readers who want a more succinct biography will find Damrosch 2005 to be a valuable resource.

  • Cranston, Maurice. The Early Life and Work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712–1754. London: Allen Lane, 1982.

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    In this first volume, Cranston discusses Rousseau’s early life, from his birth in Geneva in 1712 to his return in 1754. The book discusses Rousseau’s childhood, youth, and early adulthood. During this time, Rousseau began his writing career, including the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts.

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  • Cranston, Maurice. The Noble Savage: Jean Jacque Rousseau, 1754–1762. London: Allen Lane, 1991.

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    The second volume covers the period in which produced his most famous philosophical works, beginning with his efforts to publish the Discourse on Inequality. It continues through the period in which he wrote the Emile, the Social Contract, and Julie.

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  • Cranston, Maurice. The Solitary Self: Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Exile and Adversity. London: Allen Lane, 1997.

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    The third volume discusses the final period of Rousseau’s life, which was marked by his increasing paranoia. It was also during this time that he wrote his most noted autobiographical works including the Confessions. This volume was published after the author’s death and completed by Sanford Lakoff.

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  • Damrosch, Leo. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

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    This biography is comprised of one volume but is nevertheless a comprehensive account of Rousseau’s life from his childhood, to the beginnings of his writing career, and his final years. It gives insightful context for the conditions under which Rousseau produced his most influential works.

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Primary Sources

Rousseau’s work touches on several philosophical topics as well as additional subjects outside of philosophy. There are many editions of his writings, but those listed here are the most comprehensive in French and English.

French Texts

The standard French version of Rousseau’s works is Oeuvres complètes in five volumes, series edited by Gagnebin and Raymond (1959–1995). In terms of Rousseau’s principal works, the volumes contain the following. Rousseau 1959 contains the Confessions. Rousseau 1964a contains Julie or the New Héloïse. Rousseau 1964b contains the first and second Discourses as well as the Social Contract. Rousseau 1969 contains the Emile. Rousseau 1995 includes writings on music and the theater. Leigh 1965–1998 is composed of fifty-two volumes and is a comprehensive collection of Rousseau’s letters and those of his contemporaries. Rousseau 2008 includes the Principles of the Right of War.

  • Leigh, R. A., ed. Correspondence complète de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 52 vols. Geneva, Switzerland: Institute et Musée Voltaire, 1965–1998.

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    This fifty-two-volume work contains hundreds of texts of Rousseau’s letters and those of his contemporaries. The texts are thoroughly annotated.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 1. Edited by Bernard Gagnebin, Robert Osmont, and Marcel Raymond. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1959.

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    Includes the Confessions; Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques: Dialogues; and the Reveries of the Solitary Walker.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 2. Edited by Bernard Guyon, Jacques Scherer, and Charly Guyot. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1964a.

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    Includes Julie or the New Héloïse and Narcissus.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 3. Edited by Robert Derathé, François Bouchardy, Jean Starobinski, Sven Stelling-Michaud, Jean-Daniel Candaux, and Jean Fabre. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1964b.

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    Includes the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (First Discourse), Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (Second Discourse), Discourse on Political Economy, the Social Contract, Project for a Constitution for Corsica, Considerations on the Government of Poland, and Letters from the Mountain.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 4. Edited by Marcel Raymond, Pierre Burgelin, Bernard Gagnebin, et al. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1969.

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    Includes Emile or On Education, Emile and Sophie or The Solitaries, Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, and Writings on Botany.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Oeuvres complètes. Vol. 5. Edited by Samuel Baud-Bovy, Brenno Boccadoro, Xavier Bouvier, et al. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1995.

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    Includes Letter to d’Alembert on the Theatre, Dictionary of Music, Letter on French Music, Essay on the Origin of Languages, and Project for a New Musical Notation.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Principes du droit de la guerre ecrits sur la paix perpetuelle. Edited by Bruno Bernadi and Gabriela Silverstrini. Paris: Vrin, 2008.

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    This is the most recent reconstruction of Rousseau’s Principles of the Right of War, which although an incomplete work, includes Rousseau’s treatment of the relationship between countries.

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English Translations

The most comprehensive and authoritative English translation of Rousseau’s works is the Collected Writings of Rousseau in thirteen volumes, edited by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters, 1992–2009.

Major Philosophical Works

Though much can be gained by reading all of Rousseau’s works, those interested in learning his about his core philosophical ideas will gain most by reading texts contained in the volumes of the Collected Writings listed in this section. Rousseau 1995 contains Rousseau’s autobiography, the Confessions, in which Rousseau states that the driving idea behind his philosophy was expressed in the Discourse on Inequality (Second Discourse) (see Rousseau 1993), the Social Contract (see Rousseau 1994), and the Emile (see Rousseau 2009). These three works, along with the Confessions themselves and the work that originally made him famous, the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (First Discourse), which is included in Rousseau 1992, are the most central primary sources for the study of Rousseau’s philosophy.

  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 2. Edited by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters. Translated by Judith Bush, Roger Masters, and Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1992.

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    Includes the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (First Discourse) and Polemics. The First Discourse was originally published in 1750 as the winner of an essay contest put forth by the Academy of Dijon. In it, Rousseau criticizes the idea that progress in the arts and sciences serves to improve human beings morally.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 3. Edited by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters. Translated by Judith Bush, Roger Masters, Christopher Kelly, and Terence Marshall. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1993.

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    Includes the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (Second Discourse), Polemics, and Political Economy. The Second Discourse gives Rousseau’s account of the state of nature and the way in which society corrupts human beings. The Discourse on Political Economy lays out central themes in Rousseau’s political philosophy.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 4. Edited by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters. Translated by Judith Bush, Roger Masters, and Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1994.

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    Includes: Social Contract, Discourse on the Virtue Most Necessary for a Hero, Political Fragments, and Geneva Manuscript. The Social Contract is perhaps Rousseau’s most influential text and is his most substantial work of political philosophy.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 5. Edited by Christopher Kelly, Roger Masters, and Peter Stillman. Translated by Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1995.

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    Includes the Confessions and correspondence, including the Letters to Malesherbes. The Confessions is Rousseau’s autobiography. It is both an interesting and influential piece of literature in its own right as well as an insightful resource for understanding the motivation behind Rousseau’s other philosophical works.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 13. Edited by Christopher Kelly. Translated by Christopher Kelly and Allan Bloom. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 2009.

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    Includes Emile or On Education and Emile and Sophie or The Solitaries. The Emile is principally a work on education but fits more broadly into Rousseau’s concern for how one can be virtuous in a corrupt society. Also contains a brief yet important discussion of religion entitled “The Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar.”

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Other Writings

These works are less influential and perhaps less central philosophically to the other works cited. Nevertheless, Rousseau’s other writings, which are included in the volumes of the Collected Writings in this section, span a number of topics on politics, language, literature, and botany. They also include additional autobiographical works and Rousseau’s work on music, which he actually describes as his first love. Rousseau 1990 contains Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques. Rousseau 1997 contains Rousseau’s novel, Julie or the New Héloïse. Rousseau 1998 includes Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music. Rousseau 2000 includes the Reveries of the Solitary Walker. Rousseau 2001 includes Rousseau’s correspondence defending some of his most famous works. Rousseau 2004 includes Rousseau’s Letter to D’Alembert. Rousseau 2005 includes On the Government of Poland. And Rousseau 2007 includes others of Rousseau’s writings on a range of philosophical topics.

  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 1. Edited by Christopher Kelly and Roger Masters. Translated by Judith Bush, Roger Masters, and Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1990.

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    Includes Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques: Dialogues. This is an autobiographical work composed late in Rousseau’s life, written as a dialogue between Rousseau and himself as represented by the characters “Rousseau” and “Jean-Jacques.” There is also a third character, “The Frenchman.”

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 6. Edited and translated by Philip Stewart and Jean Vaché. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1997.

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    Includes Julie or the New Héloïse: Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps. This is work is a novel that was very successful in France. It tells the story of Julie d’Etange and St. Preux, a former lover who reenters her life.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 7. Edited by John Scott. Translated by John Scott. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 1998.

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    Includes Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music. Rousseau’s most explicit discussion of how languages develop, and the connection between philosophy and his views on music.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 8. Edited by Christopher Kelly. Translated by Charles E. Butterworth, Alexandra Cook, and Terence E. Marshall. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 2000.

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    Includes the Reveries of the Solitary Walker, Botanical Writings, and Letter to Franquières. The Reveries is another late autobiographical work.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 9. Edited by Christopher Kelly and Eve Grace. Translated by Christopher Kelly and Judith R. Bush. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 2001.

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    Includes Letter to Beaumont and Letters Written from the Mountain. The Letter to Beaumont defends the religious teachings in the Emile. The Letters from the Mountain responds to a political crisis in Geneva caused by a dispute over the burning of Rousseau’s books.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 10. Edited by Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 2004.

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    Includes the Letter to D’Alembert and Writings for the Theater. The letter is a response to D’Alembert’s support for building a theater in Geneva. Rousseau vehemently objects and argues that it will negatively affect virtue. Also includes some of Rousseau’s own theatrical writings including his successful opera, The Village Soothsayer.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 11. Edited by Christopher Kelly and Eve Grace. Translated Christopher Kelly and Judith R. Bush. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 2005.

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    Includes the Plan for Perpetual Peace and On the Government of Poland. These and the other works in the volume contain Rousseau’s attempts to apply the principles of his philosophical writings in works such as the Social Contract.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Collected Writings of Rousseau. Vol. 12. Edited and translated by Christopher Kelly. Hanover, NH, and London: University Press of New England, 2007.

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    Includes additional autobiographical, scientific, religious, moral, and literary writings.

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Other Translations

In addition to the complete works, readers will also find Gourevitch’s two-volume edition a helpful resource. Rousseau 1997a (vol. 1) contains the two Discourses. Rousseau 1997b (vol. 2) contains the Social Contract. Readers looking for a translation of the Principles of the Right of War should see Rousseau 2012.

  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Rousseau: The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings. Vol. 1. Edited by Victor Gourevitch. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997a.

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    In addition to the Discourse on the Sciences and the Discourse on Inequality, this volume also includes several of Rousseau’s letters, replies to critics, the Essay on the Origin of Languages, and Rousseau’s discourse on heroic virtue.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Rousseau: The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings. Vol. 2. Edited by Victor Gourevitch. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997b.

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    In addition to the Social Contract, this volume contains the Discourse on Political Economy, the Considerations on the Government of Poland, and several of Rousseau’s letters.

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  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Of the Social Contract and Other Political Writings. Edited by Christopher Bertram. Translated by Quintin Hoare. London: Penguin, 2012.

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    This volume is most significant because it contains the best and most recent English translation of the Principles of the Right of War. It also includes translations of the Social Contract, Letters Written from the Mountain, Constitutional Proposal for Corsica, and Considerations on the Government of Poland.

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Intellectual and Historical Context

There is debate on Rousseau’s philosophical and historical influence. Cassirer 1989 is one of the most comprehensive discussions of Rousseau’s ethical thought. Leigh 1990 provides an historical analysis of documents so as to determine the accuracy of the many claims made about Rousseau’s influence. Wokler 2012 provides an extensive discussion of Rousseau’s place in the Enlightenment. Babbit 2009 provides an account of Rousseau’s relationship with the romantic movement. Gourevitch 1972 provides a nuanced reading of Rousseau’s views about the sciences and arts, which were the subject of the First Discourse, the work that initially made Rousseau famous. Horowitz 1987 examines the various and often unsuccessful attempts to categorize Rousseau’s thought. Rosenblatt 1997 examines the influence of Geneva on Rousseau and his work.

  • Babbit, Irving. Rousseau and Romanticism. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2009.

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    Originally published in 1919, this book surveys Rousseau’s relationship to the romantic movement. Specifically, chapters deal with romantic love, romantic morality, romantic irony, and romanticism and nature.

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  • Cassirer, Ernst. The Question of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 2d ed. Translated and edited by Peter Gay. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.

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    Originally published in German in 1954, this is one of the most influential discussions of Rousseau’s thought. Surveys criticisms that Rousseau’s work is internally inconsistent. Specifically, it investigates the problem of identifying the basis of Rousseau’s ethical thought by examining the tension between natural instincts and a pre-Kantian deontological basis. This serves to show part of Rousseau’s place in the philosophical history of ethical theory.

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  • Gourevitch, Victor. “Rousseau on the Arts and Sciences.” Journal of Philosophy 69 (1972): 737–754.

    DOI: 10.2307/2024671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In his First Discourse, Rousseau gained notoriety for his indictment of the arts and sciences, which became one of his most significant historical influences. This article carefully analyzes Rousseau’s view of the arts and sciences by considering not only the First Discourse, but other key texts as well.

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  • Horowitz, Asher. Rousseau, Nature, and History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

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    Written in such a way that it can be of value to the specialist as well as to readers with limited background. An examination of Rousseau’s historical influence and the difficulty in attempts to categorize his work.

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  • Leigh, R. A. Unsolved Problems in the Bibliography of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    A thorough historical analysis of documents to determine the accuracy of claims made about Rousseau’s historical influence, particularly on the French Revolution.

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  • Rosenblatt, Helena. Rousseau and Geneva: From the First Discourse to the Social Contract, 1749–1762. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511582936Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the difficulties involved with various attempts to categorize Rousseau’s thought. Points out that while Rousseau is most often read as a French political thinker, it is important to understand his ties with Geneva.

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  • Wokler, Robert. Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and Their Legacies. Edited by Bryan Garsten. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

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    A collection of essays on numerous aspects of Rousseau’s thought including liberty and equality, music, and anthropology. Essays also explore Rousseau’s relationship to other important thinkers such as Marx, Rameau, Pufendorf, and Voltaire as well as the impact of the Enlightenment on the 20th century.

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The Unity of Rousseau’s Thought

Rousseau’s thought has often been criticized for being internally inconsistent. On the surface, there seem to be obvious instances in which Rousseau contradicts himself. However, Rousseau himself claimed that his works as a whole represented a coherent philosophical system. There are several works that attempt to explicitly formulate this system. These efforts are not limited to the works in this section. Those listed under General Overviews make thoughtful attempts to do this as well. In terms of literature, where the primary task is to reconcile the apparent inconsistencies in Rousseau’s thought, the two best general accounts are Gauthier 2006 and Melzer 1990. Two recent articles that offer more specific theses are Douglass 2010, which examines an attempt to reconcile conflicting claims about the origin of evil, and Scott 1994, which argues that the Social Contract should be read from a theological perspective.

  • Douglass, Robin. “Free Will and the Problem of Evil: Reconciling Rousseau’s Divided Thought.” History of Political Thought 31.4 (2010): 639–655.

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    Attempts to resolve an apparent contradiction in Rousseau’s work concerning the origin of evil in human beings. The seemingly conflicting views are given in the Second Discourse and the Emile, specifically in the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar.

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  • Gauthier, David. Rousseau: The Sentiment of Existence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511616235Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the question of how freedom and the independent self can be regained once humans have entered civil society. The book examines Rousseau’s different approaches to this central question in the Emile, the Social Contract, and his later autobiographical works.

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  • Melzer, Arthur. The Natural Goodness of Man: On the System of Rousseau’s Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

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    Rousseau claims that the natural goodness of man is the foundation of his philosophical system, and presumably resolves any apparent contradictions in his various works. This book attempts to show how to form such a unified system by examining Rousseau’s principal works.

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  • Scott, John T. “Politics as the Imitation of the Divine in Rousseau’s Social Contract.” Polity 26 (Summer 1994): 473–501.

    DOI: 10.2307/3235155Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The central thesis of this paper is that some of the most important difficulties in interpreting the Social Contract can be resolved if one reads the text from the perspective of Rousseau’s natural theology.

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State of Nature

The “state of nature” is generally used as a way to reference the state in which human beings existed prior to a formal system of government. Especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, hypothesizing about the state of nature was used as a method to argue about the nature of morality and the legitimacy of political regimes. Hobbes and Locke are two prime examples. Rousseau’s most thorough and explicit account of the state of nature is given in the Second Discourse. He criticizes previous philosophers’ accounts, arguing that all of them have attributed traits (such as a highly developed sense of reason) to “natural” or “savage” man that he could only have acquired through the long historical process of civilization. The picture of savage man is thus very primitive, but for Rousseau this simple existence frees him from many of the ills that plague civilized man. Savage man has no abstract thought, no social ties, and no language. The state of nature is a fundamental part of Rousseau’s thought and has been the subject of much discussion. In addition to the works in this section, all of the works in the General Overviews section give extensive treatments of the state of nature. Lovejoy 1948 gives one of the most accessible and sustained discussions of the state of nature and shows the errors with perhaps what is the most common misreading of Rousseau on the subject. Other articles give interesting perspectives on how the state of nature and the transition to civil society in Rousseau should be understood. Scott 1992 argues that this process should be understood as a theodicy. Against more standard readings, Skillen 1985 argues that the foundational source of vice in the departure from the state of nature is erotic love. Wokler 1978 shows the influence of Rousseau’s view of the state of nature on anthropology. Havens 1968 explains the events in Rousseau’s life that led him to write the Second Discourse.

  • Havens, George. “The Road to Rousseau’s Discours sur l’inégalité.” Yale French Studies 40 (1968): 18–31.

    DOI: 10.2307/2929765Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based largely on Rousseau’s own description of his experiences in the Confessions, this article examines the events in Rousseau’s life that would influence his understanding of inequality, and ultimately, his writing of the Second Discourse.

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  • Lovejoy, Arthur. “The Supposed Primitivism of Rousseau’s ‘Second Discourse.’” In Essays in the History of Ideas. Edited by Arthur Lovejoy, 14–37. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1948.

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    Since its publication, a common reading of the Second Discourse is that Rousseau is arguing for the preferability of the state of nature over the state of civil society. This article argues against this as a misreading, showing that a more nuanced reading of the text reveals that this is not Rousseau’s position.

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  • Scott, John T. “The Theodicy of the Second Discourse: The ‘Pure State of Nature’ and Rousseau’s Political Thought.” American Political Science Review 85 (September 1992): 696–711.

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    Argues that the Second Discourse, and the progression of human beings from the state of nature to the state of civil society, is best read as a theodicy. At the core of this theodicy is Rousseau’s view of nature as a good and ordered whole.

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  • Skillen, Anthony. “Rousseau on the Fall of Social Man.” Philosophy: The Journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy 60 (1985): 105–122.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0031819100068212Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against the standard view that technical and economic development is at the core of the human vices that result from human beings’ progression from the state of nature to civil society. Instead, this article claims that the competiveness associated with erotic love has this negative effect.

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  • Wokler, Robert. “Perfectible Apes in a Decadent Culture: Rousseau’s Anthropology Revisited.” Daedalus 107.3 (Summer 1978): 107–134.

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    Shows the influence of Rousseau’s writings, especially in the arguments about the state of nature, for the discipline of anthropology.

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Ethics Moral Psychology, and the Self

Rousseau claimed that at its core, human nature is good. This is evident especially in the Second Discourse, in which he claims that the most serious human evils are the result of leaving nature and forming civil society. Once in society, however, the central ethical question is whether human beings can salvage the good of nature in a civilized society. Rousseau is usually taken to give two answers to this question, although in other writings he seems pessimistic that either is actually achievable. The first is the ideal political society he envisions in the Social Contract. The second is the moral education of the individual described in the Emile. A crucial part of these discussions is in Rousseau’s account of self-love, which he believes comes in two forms. The first, amour de soi, is a natural self-love based on the interest we take in our own preservation. The second, amour propre, is a love of self that is based on comparing oneself with others. Rousseau sees this second form of self-love as extremely dangerous because it is easily corrupted in civil society. Cooper 1999 provides an overview of the fundamental ethical question and topic of amour propre. Neuhouser 2008 and Kolodny 2010 are the two most important recent works on amour propre specifically. Shklar 1985 has a different focus, arguing that Rousseau ultimately had two visions of utopia, Sparta and the household. Some of the most important and influential work on Rousseau, especially on the notion of the self, is in the work of literary scholar Jean Starobinski (Starobinski 1988, Starobinski 1989, and Starobinski 1999).

  • Cooper, Lawrence. Rousseau, Nature, and the Problem of the Good Life. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

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    A compelling and thoughtful book on what is perhaps the most central ethical question in Rousseau’s thought, namely, how can nature (which is fundamentally good) be the standard for humans who are in a the unnatural state of a civilized society.

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  • Kolodny, Niko. “The Explanation of Amour-Propre.” Philosophical Review 119.2 (2010): 165–200.

    DOI: 10.1215/00318108-2009-036Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the possibility for human goodness. It proceeds by surveying a tension in Rousseau’s thought, the goodness of our nature versus the seemingly inevitable evils resulting from civilization.

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  • Neuhouser, Frederick. Rousseau’s Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199542673.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the most important recent works on the subject of amour propre. Though when inflamed and corrupted this faculty can result in the worst of human vices, a compelling argument is made that amour propre is necessary for Rousseau’s understanding of human flourishing.

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  • Shklar, Judith. Men and Citizens: A Study of Rousseau’s Social Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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    Originally published in 1969, this book surveys both Rousseau’s political and his fictional writings. Argues that Rousseau envisioned two versions of utopia: Sparta and the household, which were incommensurable with one another.

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  • Starobinski, Jean. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

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    Originally published in French in 1971. This highly influential work examines Rousseau’s thought by way of understanding Rousseau the individual. Thus, it is part biographical and part philosophical analysis.

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  • Starobinski, Jean. Le remède dans le mal. Paris: Gallimard, 1989.

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    Translated as “The remedy in evil.” This work examines the use of language in the 17th and 18th centuries and discusses Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Voltaire.

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  • Starobinski, Jean. L’oeil vivant. Paris: Gallimard, 1999.

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    Originally published in 1961 and translated as “The living eye,” this work discusses the nature of sight and its meaning in literature. Rousseau’s work is analyzed from this perspective, as well as other authors including Corneille, Racine, La Bruyère, and Stendhal.

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Political Philosophy

Rousseau’s political thought is one of his most important contributions to philosophy. Some of his works are specifically aimed at political philosophy, most notably the Social Contract and the Discourse on Political Economy. It is a matter of scholarly debate as to whether these works should be read as standalone texts or should be read within the context of his other less overtly political works. The sources listed here survey both perspectives but are dedicated specifically to Rousseau’s political philosophy. For book-length general treatments of Rousseau’s political philosophy as a whole, Hall 1973 and Masters 1968 are valuable assets to the beginning or advanced reader. For more advanced readers, Derathé 2000 is an important French work. For discussions of the Social Contract specifically, Bertram 2004 and Lay Williams 2013 are excellent resources. For a more succinct general account, see Bloom 1987. Dent 1988 is an essay dedicated to the notion of toleration in Rousseau’s political thought. Roosevelt 1990 treats Rousseau’s views on peace and international relations.

  • Bertram, Christopher. Rousseau and the “Social Contract.” London: Routledge, 2004.

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    A thorough and accessible discussion of Rousseau’s most important work on political philosophy. Discusses the various and wide-ranging interpretations of the work. Chapters discuss central key topics. Among these are nature and moral psychology, law, sovereignty, the general will, and civil religion.

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  • Bloom, Allan. “Jean Jacques Rousseau.” In History of Political Philosophy. 3d ed. Edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, 559–580. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226924717.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Part of an anthology covering a large number of influential figures in the history of political philosophy. Bloom’s entry on Rousseau is an excellent and succinct account.

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  • Dent, Nicholas. “Rousseau and Respect for Persons.” In Justifying Toleration. Edited by Susan Mendus, 115–136. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511735295Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Part of an anthology about philosophical justifications of toleration, what is required for it, and its proper limits. Dent’s entry examines Rousseau’s views on toleration through the lens of his political thought.

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  • Derathé, Robert. Jean-Jacques Rousseau et la science politique de son temps. Paris: Vrin, 2000.

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    Translated as “Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the political science of his time,” Originally published in 1950, this work will primarily be of interest to specialists working on Rousseau. It is a comprehensive discussion of the historical influences on Rousseau’s political philosophy.

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  • Hall, John. Rousseau: An Introduction to His Political Philosophy. London: Schenkman, 1973.

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    An accessible and succinct introduction to Rousseau’s political philosophy. Chapters include Rousseau’s conception of natural man, the theory of existing society, the genesis of the Social Contract, the general will, law, and compromise.

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  • Lay Williams, David. Rousseau’s Social Contract. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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    Provides an analysis of the Social Contract. Chapters are dedicated to each of its books. There are two appendices, one on the notion of the “general will” and the other on women in the social contract.

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  • Masters, Roger. The Political Philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.

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    An excellent and comprehensive discussion of Rousseau’s political philosophy and its context within the rest of Rousseau’s work. Provides a detailed and careful analysis, and is a valuable asset to read as a supplement to the primary texts themselves.

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  • Roosevelt, Grace. Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

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    Gives an analysis of Rousseau’s discussion of war and peace by drawing connections between his accounts of politics and education.

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Freedom and the General Will

At the core of Rousseau’s political thought is what he regarded as the basic question of political philosophy: how can an individual remain free while constraining his or her will to the rules imposed by the society in which he or she lives? In short, how can citizens be truly free? Rousseau believed that the specious social contract that he describes in the Second Discourse fails to preserve this freedom. It is also not possible to leave civil society and return to the state of nature. The vision in the Social Contract and his other political works is of the type of society or state in which individuals can be both fully citizens and fully free and autonomous. Rousseau argues that this can be done when individuals submit their particular wills to the “general will” of society, which in some sense relates to the common good. Though it is a central theme, Rousseau’s discussion of the general will is neither systematic nor very clear. Thus, there are many interpretations of what it is and how it solves the basic political problem. The works here represent some of the best of these interpretations. They will be of use primarily to specialists and those with significant background knowledge of Rousseau. Bertram 2012, Neuhouser 1993, and Sreenivasan 2000 speak to the basic issue of how to define the general will and how it preserves freedom. Cohen 1986 and Neuhouser 2011 discuss the general will and freedom with special emphasis on the notion of autonomy. Cohen 2010 discusses the general will with special emphasis on the goodness of human nature, another core element of Rousseau’s thought.

  • Bertram, Christopher. “Rousseau’s Legacy in Two Conceptions of the General Will: Democratic and Transcendent.” Review of Politics 74.3 (2012): 403–419.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0034670512000514Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines two distinct ways in which Rousseau discusses the general will in the Social Contract. The first, the “democratic,” refers to the collective decisions of citizens. The second, the “transcendent,” is facts about society that may be independent of these decisions. Examines possibilities for reconciling these two accounts.

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  • Cohen, Joshua. “Reflections on Rousseau: Autonomy and Democracy.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 15 (1986): 275–297.

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    Surveys and gives critical analysis of several other interpretations of the general will and freedom in Rousseau’s philosophy. Themes discussed are the basic problem of creating a social order that preserves the freedom of its members, the role these institutions play in shaping the motivation of citizens, and the form of social order that best promotes autonomy.

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  • Cohen, Joshua. Rousseau: A Free Community of Equals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199581498.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Though it could also be described as a general work on Rousseau’s political philosophy, the relationship between the general will and freedom is the central focus. Attempts a systematic reading, which claims that natural goodness makes Rousseau’s democratic ideals possible.

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  • Neuhouser, Frederick. “Freedom, Dependence, and the General Will.” The Philosophical Review 103 (1993): 363–395.

    DOI: 10.2307/2185902Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the sense in which the principle of free will is the foundation of Rousseau’s political thought. Argues that there are two distinct conceptions of political freedom that Rousseau uses in explaining how the general will secures the freedom of individuals.

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  • Neuhouser, Frederick. “Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Origins of Autonomy.” Inquiry 54 (2011): 478–493.

    DOI: 10.1080/0020174X.2011.608880Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A discussion of Rousseau’s conception of autonomy, which is marked by four features: autonomy is a type of freedom, it is not merely a component of negative freedom (freedom from interference), it depends on recognizing one’s social relationship with others, and it is distinct from the modern notion of autonomy as merely being self-directing.

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  • Sreenivasan, Gopal. “What Is the General Will?” Philosophical Review 109.4 (October 2000): 545–581.

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    Through careful analysis of Rousseau’s texts, an argument for the claim that the general will includes any decision made by the political community when its deliberations are subject to certain constraints.

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Education

Rousseau’s influence on philosophy of education would be difficult to overestimate. His principal work on education is the Emile (though Rousseau gives a different view of public education geared at inculcating patriotism in other works such as the Considerations on the Government of Poland). Originally published in 1762, Emile has the form of both a novel and a philosophical treatise. Rousseau writes from the perspective of the tutor, with the character of Emile as his pupil. The education process starts from the very beginning, during the child’s infancy. Even at this stage, Rousseau expresses strong views about how to treat the child. The book continues through Emile’s childhood and his adolescence, and culminates in his early adulthood when he meets and falls in love with a young woman named Sophie. Education in the Emile must be understood in a very broad sense. While Rousseau is concerned with the best way to teach a child to comprehend information and to learn the skills of different academic disciplines, he is principally concerned with a holistic moral education. He seeks to show how a human being can be educated in such a way that nature, which is good, can be preserved even in an unjust society. The program is controversial in many ways. The tutor must use deception in order to teach many of Emile’s lessons, for example. The Emile has generated a great deal of secondary literature both on education specifically and on how the education program contained in it fit into the larger context of Rousseau’s thought. All of the sources cited under General Overviews contain valuable resources on the Emile and on Rousseau’s views of education. In addition to these, there are several other valuable sources that are informative. Dent 1988 gives a careful analysis of the role of nature in moral education. Tröhler 2012 examines the role of passion in Emile’s education. Scott 2012 discusses how Rousseau educates his own reader through his writings with a particular focus on the Emile. Duschinsky 2013 attempts to show that Rousseau’s views on education and childhood share themes with Saint Augustine.

Religion

Rousseau’s most important philosophical discussion of religion, often referred to as his “natural religion,” is given in Book 4 of the Emile. Rousseau recounts an imaginary conversation he had with a priest, the Vicar of Savoy, in which he discusses the nature of God, the moral order, free will, and sin. The controversy over some of these claims, particularly Rousseau’s rejection of the doctrine of original sin, is what resulted in the Emile being immediately banned in France. Rousseau’s discussion of civil religion in the Social Contract is also influential as well as controversial. The sources cited under General Overviews all give valuable treatments of these subjects. One of the most comprehensive and historically significant treatments of Rousseau’s religious thought is Masson 1916 (three volumes). Dickstein 1961 writes a critical response. For a helpful and accessible expository treatment of Rousseau’s views on religion, Grimsley 1968 is a good resource.

  • Dickstein, Morris. “The Faith of a Vicar: Reason and Morality in Rousseau’s Religion.” Yale French Studies 28 (1961): 48–54.

    DOI: 10.2307/2928942Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critical response to interpretations of the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar that claim that the work should not be read as an intellectual writing subject to philosophical scrutiny. Against this sentimentalist approach associated with the romantics and Masson 1916, it is argued that the Vicar’s speech fits into Rousseau’s larger moral project.

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  • Grimsley, Ronald. Rousseau and the Religious Quest. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.

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    A general work on Rousseau and religion. In addition to discussions of the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar, the book includes chapters about Rousseau’s own encounters with religion during his life. The third part of the book is dedicated to Rousseau’s religious mythology.

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  • Masson, Pierre-Maurice. La formation religieuse de Rousseau. 3 vols. Paris: Hachette, 1916.

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    A comprehensive and influential work dedicated specifically to religion in Rousseau, but which also speaks more generally to religious development in France during the 18th century.

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Views on Women

Rousseau’s views on the nature of women, the role of women in society, and feminine virtue have generated a wealth of literature in recent decades. Rousseau’s most explicit discussion of these issues is given in the final book of the Emile, in which the pupil Emile is “given” a woman named Sophie as his companion. Rousseau’s discussion of Sophie and the proper education of women has evoked strong criticism from many feminist writers. Rousseau argues that by their nature, women are made to be subservient and obedient to men. That Rousseau believed the sexes to be different and that they should play different roles in society cannot be disputed. However, the fundamental basis of these differences and the degree to which they follow from the rest of his general thought is a matter of debate. For the most comprehensive collection of different views on these issues, Lange 2002 is an excellent source. Green 1996 examines feminist interpretations of Rousseau via a reading of Derrida. Larrère 2011 discusses Rousseau’s conception of women and citizenship. Weiss 1987 discusses the root of Rousseau’s claims that women should play different societal roles than men.

  • Green, Karen. “Rousseau’s Women.” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 4.1 (1996): 87–109.

    DOI: 10.1080/09672559608570826Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that there is a conflict between feminist interpretations of Rousseau as a patriarchal ideology and his adulation of nature. Attempts to show that this conflict can be resolved through a reading of Derrida.

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  • Lange, Lynda, ed. Feminist Interpretations of Jean Jacques Rousseau. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

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    This is the most comprehensive set of essays on Rousseau and feminism, which is composed of a collection of previously published articles. Different feminist interpretations are represented. Contributors include Lange, Weiss, Harper, Bradshaw, Morgenstern, Ormiston, Wiestad, Makus, Butler, Marso, Wingrove, Wittig, Okin, Kofman, and Kukla.

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  • Larrère, Catherine. “Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Women and Citizenship.” History of European Ideas 37.2 (2011): 218–222.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2010.10.014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Beginning with Montesquieu’s model of the republican condition of women, this paper examines why Rousseau excluded women from citizenship. Argues that Rousseau believed women must be in the private sphere in order to establish the social conditions necessary for citizenship (of men) to be possible.

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  • Weiss, Penny A. “Rousseau, Antifeminism, And Woman’s Nature.” Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (1987): 81–98.

    DOI: 10.1177/0090591787015001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Rousseau’s claims that men and women should play different societal roles is not based on natural differences between the sexes, but rather on the basis of the beneficial social consequences these different roles produce.

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Rousseau’s Autobiographical Works

Rousseau wrote several autobiographical works later in his life. The largest and most comprehensive of these is the Confessions. Others include Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques: Dialogues and the Reveries of the Solitary Walker. These works, especially the Confessions, have been of literary interest in their own right. They have also generated interest as philosophical works on a number of levels. Kelly 1987 examines the Confessions, arguing for how we should understand its various philosophical themes. Gourevitch 2012 undertakes a similar project on the Reveries of the Solitary Walker. Cooper 2012 argues for a reading of the Confessions as a spiritual drama. Davis 1999 discusses autobiography of philosophy generally, with the Reveries of the Solitary Walker as the paradigm example. Hartle 1983 shows the historical and conceptual influences of Saint Augustine on Rousseau’s Confessions.

  • Cooper, Laurence D. “Nearer My True Self to Thee: Rousseau’s New Spirituality—and Ours.” Review of Politics 74.3 (2012): 465–488.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0034670512000526Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a reading of the Confessions as a spiritual drama, in which Rousseau is describing how he himself made a partial return to nature.

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  • Davis, Michael. The Autobiography of Philosophy: Rousseau’s The Reveries of the Solitary Walker. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.

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    The first part of the book interprets works by Heidegger, Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Plato as implicitly autobiographical. The second part is dedicated to Rousseau’s Reveries of the Solitary Walker. Argues that this work is a paradigm for articulating the human soul’s relationship to the world.

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  • Gourevitch, Victor. “A Provisional Reading of Rousseau’s ‘Reveries of the Solitary Walker.’” Review of Politics 74.3 (2012): 489–518.

    DOI: 10.1017/S003467051200054XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A discussion of the Reveries of the Solitary Walker that shows how Rousseau dealt with themes common to the rest of his work such as God, man’s place in the world, and amour propre from a nonpolitical perspective.

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  • Hartle, Ann. The Modern Self in Rousseau’s Confessions: A Reply to St. Augustine. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

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    An influential interpretation of Rousseau’s Confessions, which shows the importance of Saint Augustine and the history of theology in the conception of the modern self. Proceeds by giving a reading of Rousseau’s Confessions against Augustine’s Confessions (Augustine’s own autobiography).

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  • Kelly, Christopher. Rousseau’s Exemplary Life: The Confessions as Political Philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

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    An interpretation of the Confessions as a philosophical text and its connection to Rousseau’s other works. Argues that the text works on a number of different levels. It is a treatise on human nature as well as an epistemological theory, and it has a practical reformist purpose.

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