Talk:Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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The article misses out what is important - for example nothing on the "Lawgiver".

As can be seen in his work "The Social Contract" Rousseau held that the "Lawgiver" articulated the "General Will", the true interests of the people, and if most individual persons opposed this they were expressing "the will of all" which is trumped by the "General Will" articulated by the "Lawgiver", and that such resistance is motivated by false "pride" rather than true "self love". Thus, according to Rousseau, the private property rights of individuals or private organizations, such as Churches, may be trumped by the true interests of the people as articulated by the Lawgiver. This is just about the opposite of the opinion of the U.S. Framers who held that government exists to safeguard the private property rights of individuals and private organizations. But all this is ignored in the article - which instead claims, for example, that the Founding Fathers of the United States wished most people to be educated at the "public expense", an assertion for which the article presents no evidence. (talk) 13:25, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

re: 1754 return to Geneva[edit]

Can anyone post a source for the statement "In 1754, Rousseau returned to Geneva where he reconverted to Calvinism and regained his official Genevan citizenship. " ?

Most bio information of that sort, I believe, I added from a timeline in one of the Everyman translations. I will see if I can dig up the specific volume. However, if you have material that contradicts this feel free to remove it. As I understand it regaining his citizenship would have required him to reconvert, his sincerity in doing so can obviously be questioned.
In the future, new posts at the bottom please. Thanks, Christopher Parham (talk) 03:58, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
until I manage that, see this gutenberg bio (morley 1886) which at least describes the period. [1] (begin at reference [i.220]). Christopher Parham (talk) 04:05, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
fair enough. would it be nessecary to cite it in the article? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 04:32, 28 February 2007 (UTC).
If desired, feel free, although as far as I know it is uncontroversial. Christopher Parham (talk) 04:46, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
As uncontroversial as his name (that is, not at all controversial). 17:39, 6 March 2007 (UTC)


From the intro biography, I removed this:

" Never exceed your right, and they will become unlimited." this means that you should never disobey a priveledge or law,and if you obey them, you will be free and have more priveledges and less laws.

At the very least it was poorly placed. I also don't think it's wikipedia's job to explain what random quotes mean.

I also reverted the "man is born free" line to the standard (and more literal) translation (it's pretty hard to argue for a translation that includes "but" when the original French says "et" not "mais."). -- 23:32, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

Addition to Émile[edit]

I added the following to the section on Émile:The education proposed in Émile has been criticized for being impractical, and the topic itself (the education of children) has led the text to be ignored by many studying Rousseau’s more “political” works. However, of particular interest to anyone interested in Rousseau’s intentions in Émile is a letter he wrote to his friend Cramer on October 13, 1764. In the letter, Rousseau answers the criticism of impracticability: “You say quite correctly that it is impossible to produce an Emile. But I cannot believe that you take the book that carries this name for a true treatise on education. It is rather a philosophical work on this principle advanced by the author in other writings that man is naturally good” (Italics in the original).

I think this is important information for anyone interested in Rousseau's philosophy (especially those who believe he has a "system"). The quote comes from a footnote in Arthur Melzer's book "The Natural Goodness of Man" (including the reference to italics being in the original; that is, Mezler did not add the italics).-- 21:09, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

I also deleted the part about him being a "Swiss" philosopher. As someone else said, he wasn't Swiss, but Genevan (and that's what he called himself

Re: Does Rousseau have "a system"?
According to Victor Gourevitch, the most influential modern study of Rousseau’s political philosophy is Robert Derathé’s Jean-Jacques Rousseau et la science politique de son temps (Vrin, Paris, 1970), which stresses the “coherence and cogency” of Rousseau’s thought. (see Victor Gourevich, introduction to The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Gourevich, ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1997), p, cxxxvii.Mballen (talk) 18:41, 11 March 2009 (UTC)
Re: Rousseau on education and women
Regarding Emile, and criticism of Rousseau, I think the paragraph does not do justice to the criticism he received in his own time; it feels like criticism directed at him is mainly contemporary. However, Belle van Zuylen, or Isabella Tuyll de Charrière, the name she used to publish in France, criticised Rousseau extensively. In her 1791 book 'Three women' she rejects Rousseau's idea of natural inequality between man and woman (which I don't see mentioned here either, by the way). She writes, and I will try and translate from Dutch:‘I doubt whether Rousseau ever saw anything, like it really was. (...) All faculties are originally identical between man and woman, and if the intellectual faculty in men is more perfected, then that is caused by study and by study alone.'. She also wrote that ‘in Émile ou de l’éducation (Rousseau) hardly gave a thought to the ambitions and rights of Sophie, who is a slave raised on behalf of her master’. In the earliest letters Van Zuylen already complains about Rousseau's ideas that it was unseemly for women to study and try to develop intellectually; in her letter to Constant d’Hermenches she writes about the joys studying always brings her.
The above criticism can be read in an essay by Joke Hermsen, in Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, (nr.23, 6/6/2012). Hermsen is a philosopher who also wrote her dissertation ('Nomadisch narcisme' Nomadic narcism), as well as a novel ('De liefde, dus' / So it's love - Arbeiderspers (2008)) about Belle Van Zuylen. In the same essay Hermsen also mentions that Mme de Staël, who wrote the positive 'Lettres sur les ouvrages et le caractere de J.J. Rousseau' in 1788 recanted her positive descriptions in 1814, claiming the 'lettres' were published without her knowledge or consent. Most likely a lie, of course, as earlier in life she apparently agreed with Rousseau: in her book 'De l’Allemagne' she agreed with him that women should stay out of politics - it would be contrary to a woman's calling, and would only create tension between the sexes. Finally, not surprisingly, considering what I read on this page about her, Mme d’Épinay also criticised Rousseau's ideas, although I do not have any specifics. Considering how Rousseau clearly saw women as having a very specific role, that of wife and mother, and considering the fact he objected to their intellectual development, I think the attention given to Rousseau's stance towards women should at least be expanded. The above essay, letters and the book may help in finding relevant information, although I doubt the book will be translated in English. The magazine I mentioned the article was published in, is a respectable one in The Netherlands, albeit left of the political centre. Personally my interest here is not criticism of Rousseau, merely accuracy - I am currently studying for my bachelor in philosophy at the Erasmus University. Dekritischelezer (talk) 20:08, 11 June 2012 (UTC)
Nicholas Dent, a modern scholar of Rousseau, mades no bones about calling Rousseau a "sexist". And so he undoubtedly was by our standards, influenced as he was by the ideas of Fenelon, who was an out and out misogynist, not to mention Rousseau's own weird ideas about sexuality and his fixations on women in their maternal role (resulting from his deprivations in that area). As for Madame d'Epinay, she was Rousseau's avowed enemy so one could expect her to criticize him. Both Rousseau and Fenelon influenced the concept of the Victorian role of women as the "angel in the house" -- but so did other people. I think the section on education and child-rearing does mention Rousseaus attitudes toward women, and the attitude of feminists toward him. On the other hand, I feel myself, that Rousseau's idea of economic equality applied to both sexes and was taken -- he was part of a trend that increasing recognized the dignity and humanity of people from all walks of life, not just the aristocracy. As far as the "criticism" section -- I think it would be better not to have a "criticism section at all, but to focus on the responses to Rousseau both positive and negative. This would better convey the impact of his ideas on future generations. Mballen (talk) 22:42, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Content worries[edit]

The content of this article sticks pretty close to Has proper permission been granted? matt 01:02 Feb 26, 2003 (UTC)

Rousseau the composer[edit]

Needs some mention of his work as a composer, but the article is so tightly written I'm not sure where to work it in without breaking it up. Le Devin du Village was wildly popular in France, and he was pretty well known for his music at the time. Antandrus 22:38, 16 Apr 2004 (UTC)

It would be also quite interesting who were his friends in Paris. --PhilipP 21:03, 26 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Like Denis Diderot, but I am not so much into Biography to fix this. --PhilipP 21:05, 26 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Antandrus, you're right: and in 1755-6, as a reaction to the immense (overwhelming) success due to his Discourses, he drew back from the mundane scene and for a while he chose to live off copying sheet music... he could'nt stand popularity. (and: he wrote some musical theory articles for the Enyclopédie, and a short Essay on the origin of languages with some Observations on Melody; and took part in the French-Italian opera controversy.)--zuben 21:32, 11 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Anon edit[edit]

An anon recently made some changes to the bio, particularly altering the order of some items; I've brought this back into line with my timeline of Rousseau's life, which comes from the Everyman editions of his various works. Christopher Parham (talk) 17:42, 2005 July 26 (UTC)

Religion section[edit]

I've made a stab at editing the religion section though there's much more that could be said here, obviously. Bristoleast 11:14, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

That man is good by nature does not conflict with original sin. At least in the Catholic view of man, (Since man is created in the image of God his nature is good only fallen.)This might contradict Luther's idea of "man being a pile a dung covered in snow." I do not know the Calvinist view on the subject. (JFH)

At I saw this:

Rousseau took an ambiguous stance towards Christianity. He seems to have admired the religion of the gospel as "saintly, sublime and true" as well as egalitarian, recognizing all men as brothers, children of the same God. But he vigorously condemned post-Augustine and Catholic Christianity. In his eyes it detached people from earthly concerns, and laid them open to tyranny and slavery. Rousseau claimed that the ideal state would have to have a state religion, but this would be concerned with social obligations rather than supernatural beliefs.

Could/should details pertaining to this be added? X37 08:18, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Removed from "Legacy"[edit]

I've removed the following para from "Legacy"

Political thinkers across the spectrum of politics, from Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson to Benito Mussolini and the Khmer Rouge, have claimed some influence from Rousseau to varying degrees. In particular, 19th century nationalist movements in Europe were heavily inspired by Rousseau's ideas about nations and General Will.

I don't think this should be in without substantiation and I don't think this can be had for either Jefferson or the Khmer Rouge (don't know about the others).

Bristoleast 08:22, 6 September 2005 (UTC)

In the case of Jefferson, Saul Padover's biography of Jefferson mentions Rousseau's influence on his thought, as does Eric Hobsbawm in "The Age of Revolution". Hobsbawm also mentions Rousseau's influence on Paine.

Legacy section is a mess and contains bits of commentary on individual works that really belong elsewhere. This section is also being repeatedly revised by anonymous users with strong pov about Rousseau being (along with Hegel) a "theorist of the closed society" or similar. As well as being a controversial label of Popperian provenance, this description is hardly transparent to the average reader.

Bristoleast 21:08, 7 September 2005 (UTC)

An example of the mess: in the subsection "French Revolution" (4.1), the bit of info "Among other things, the ship of the line Jean-Jacques Rousseau (launched in 1795) was named after the philosopher." Not uninteresting, but out of place. Someone must have removed a more pertinent sentence meant to illustrate how Rousseau was blamed for the excesses of the Revolution.Svato (talk) 00:21, 5 November 2012 (UTC)

Rousseau wasn't Swiss[edit]

The article says Rousseau was Swiss. He wasn't. Geneva was an independent republic at the time Rousseau was born and did not form part of Switzerland until the 19th century.

Several people here claim that Rousseau was French which is not true (although he loved France). Since ca. 1536 the City of Geneva was an independent city but nevertheless part of the Swiss Federation. Everyone can check that easily. It was only for a short time (1798-1813) annexed by French troops.( (talk) 12:23, 30 November 2008 (UTC))

L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers[edit]

I don't see the point in debating about that so-called ambigious sentence. French is my mother tongue and i've always interpreted this as "Man IS born free, etc..." not WAS. As part of mankind, i am free. Perfectible and vulnerable, but free. Then society makes me stronger. Therefore, it alienates me to others, and that alienation can lead to some new kinds of injustice. "L'homme EST né libre, et partout il EST dans les fers" ---> I think the emphasis is on those two events he considers to be not fundamentally contradictory. Any opinions, folks? :) --Kubrick 908 22:19, 23 November 2005 (UTC)

"...In the Social Contract he claims..."

Link should be to "the social contract (Rousseau)" not "social contract"

We are not talking about social contracts in a general sort, but specifically Rousseau's book

First of all, I also would never read this line as "was born free" in French, but that isn't the point. The note itself is what bugs me. Right from the first line: "Interestingly, though all scholars of note consider this to be Rousseau's epigrammatic statement, there is less than universal agreement as to its translation." Two problems: ALL scholars of note consider it to be Rousseau's epigrammatic statement? That's a pretty bold statement. Maybe some references.

Second, to state that there is "less than universal agreement" about the translation would probably call for a reference as well. The Cambridge/Gourevitch translation makes no note of it, nor does the Masters translation (if I remember correctly, I could be wrong). Those are the two "standard" translations. If a translator is not going to make a note of a debate over translation they're not doing their job (today anyway).

So I think some references should be added, or this should be cut. This seems to be a case of creating debate, rather than bringing awareness to it.-- 23:53, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

Not to mention he wrote "et" instead of "mais." Which, if you were to be literal, would mean he is/could be saying "Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains." That leads to a confusion of tenses (having "et"/"and" linking the two clauses, instead of "mais"/"but" which would compare/contrast them).

Plus, in the context of Emile, we see that he does believe "that each individual who comes into the world every day is born free" (in the context of being free from the social chains).

So once again, if someone doesn't come out in defence of this, I think it should be removed.-- 18:57, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

I think the sentence under discussion is not only ambiguous, it is beautifully ambiguous. I mean, I do agree with the above comments, that without sourcing (both as to the opinions of scholars and the choices of translators), the claim was properly removed. But I certainly find the claim credible. I find unpersuasive the arguments offered above about the alternate translation rendering the tenses inconsistent. Why can't I say something like, "Dinosaurs were roaming the earth millions of years ago, but their bones litter the earth", or something along that line? Remember, the Citizen of Geneva wasn't just writing normal text, but he was writing, as have many philosophers, with a sense of style. I certainly wouldn't argue that the sentence should be accepted as the alternate translation, merely that the alternate is plausible, especially if we postulate that Rousseau was trying to be ambiguous. Anyway, it's a moot point, per no original research.
By the way, I gently request that people would utilize the tools we have to make our conversations easier to follow. Indentations, or asterisks, as well as always dating one's comments just make it easier to follow who says what. And I don't know what to do about figuring out what is being discussed when the edit in question is long gone. I must have spent 15 minutes going through edit revisions looking for the edit in question here. 02:42, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, The correct translation is "man was born free". "Est né" is the passé composé.

Man was born free: in French 'L'homme est né libre", often translated and quoted as "Man is born free", which would be the equivalent of "l'homme naît libre". The past tense implies that natural liberty existed once; the present, that it exists for every man at birth, as in the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789, "Men are born and remain free, and with equal rights". In I, iv, Rousseau writes, about the children of slaves: "they are born men and free," but IV. ii has "each man having been born free". --Christopher Betts, editor and translator of Rousseau's Discourse on Political Economy and Social Contract (Oxford University Press, 1994), note, p. 183.

So says Professor Betts (and also the French-English dictionary and all the grammar books). It seems to me, however, that "to be born" is one of those strange intransitive verbs that doesn't really have a present. Even in English "is born" has a feeling of the past, as in the archaic, "He is risen" (to rise is another one in that group of those verbs that take être as a past participle -- perhaps they did so in Indo-European). At any rate it doesn't strike one as wrong to translate it as "is born", even though technically it is wrong. (talk) 06:29, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

It is even more complicated: "est né" translated in Dutch, for instance, might end up in: "is geboren", "werd geboren" or was geboren." If you translate "est né" into German, it is impossible to translate it in "war geboren" it probably would be "ist geboren (geworden), and the "geworden" is skipped, which you would translate into English "has been born." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:02, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

Rousseau, precursor to anarcho-primitivism / green anarchism[edit]

I think this should be discussed, as there is clearly a similarity in thinking

  • Find some authors that identify this similarity and add some information; however substantial differences in thinking are clear, Rousseau was certainly not an anarchist and didn't advocate a return to primitivism, or believe such a return was possible. Christopher Parham (talk) 02:12, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

As a matter of fact Roussseau advocated a European union, as had Colbert, the Protestant minister of Henry IV. The summary of Rousseau's beliefs about the natural man and his ideas of education are travesties. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mballen (talkcontribs) 18:15, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Criticism of Rousseau (namely, in Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals")[edit]

There's no appreciable criticism of Rousseau in the article at present. It seems prudent to me to include a section detailing his shortcomings as well as lauding his lasting influence.

I haven't read "Intellectuals," so I may be being unfair, but I imagine it's an attack against Rousseau's philosophy based on character flaws which may or may not have existed (i.e.: how can a man who is claimed to have fathered multiple children, and abandoned them all write a treatise on education). I don't know what ad hominem attacks offer to understanding the writings and philosophy of a writer.
That being said, real criticisms (the contradictions in his writing perhaps) are always useful, but perhaps too academic if they are to be looked at thoroughly.-- 21:22, 3 June 2006 (UTC)
It seems to me legitimate to discuss the hostility of some commentators on Rousseau, especially during the Cold War period. (talk) 02:26, 7 March 2009 (UTC)2009
Come now! Doesn't trivializing as "ad hominem attacks" any mention of the fact that he callously consigned his five infant offspring to an orphanage ... go rather too far in sanitizing the history of a man who so famously used the foibles of society to discredit many of its most deeply held beliefs?
The article as written seems to shamefully avoid much that gives insight into Rousseau and his peculiar worldview. ChulaOne (talk) 14:40, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Legacy Quote[edit]

There is a serious problem with the quote. The article says Rousseau was against property rights. The quote says that "property right is certainly the most important right, sometimes more than liberty itself." I don't know enough about Rousseau to say, but there is a clear contradiction there.

"The article says Rousseau was against property rights." <--- I can't find such a claim. By the way, I don't believe Rousseau was against property rights: he saw them as a consequence of society, and compared them to the so-called natural rights. --Kubrick 908 11:08, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

Jean Jacques was a famous man, he was know for being a famous writer and against child labor. His descendants still survive today.

Rousseau maintained that disputes about property and envy of men against their neighbors were the cause of civilization's problems -- "the fall of man" if you will. Rousseau's views here are not very distinguishable from the teachings of the Bible or from that of other seventeenth and eighteenth century thinkers. He certainly does not say that people should not own property.

Rousseau believed that a society made up of independent, middle class people is the most healthy and desirable. He believed that the Republic of Geneva, which was a state of this kind, was the ideal state, as opposed to absolutitist France, which was characterized by great extremes of wealth and poverty. Rousseau contrasted the prosperity of independent farmers of Geneva with the misery of the French peasantry just across the border. Like most Eighteenth Century Philosophes, Rousseau was a critic of unbridled consumption, and like them admired the militaristic Spartan way of life (as opposed to the Athenian), an admiration that many modern people might find difficult to share (though the success of the movie the 300 shows that many folks still admire the Spartans). Nevertheless, Rousseau's preference for a more equitable distribution of goods and his disapproval of excessive and wasteful consumption is one that modern peoples can sympathize with. Mballen (talk) 18:22, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

As a matter of fact, in the Social Contract Rousseau states that he believes that property rights are the most important thing that civil society conferred on the citizenry. A "state of nature" offers no protection to property, because where "might makes right", anyone can take things from anyone else. In this Rousseau agreed with Locke. However, he drew from this the conclusion that since people with property have the most to gain from the existence of civil government, they should pay the most (taxes) toward its upkeep. He also felt that a society would be more stable if it had a preponderance of people in the middle station, rather than extremities of rich and poor. Rousseau also believed in sumptuary taxes (sales taxes on luxuries) and in state regulation inheritance practices. In a Discourse on Political Economy he says that he favors private property along side of large tracts of state-owned land, as was the case in Roman times. (talk) 19:09, 24 March 2009 (UTC)March 24, 2009

Catergory: Vegetarians[edit]

I have added Rousseau to this category. He is considered Vegetarian by the International Vegetarian Union and others due to his book Emile: Or, On Education which has many paragraphs with clear vegetarian thoughts such as:

The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character; for how can one explain away the fact that great meat-eaters are usually fiercer and more cruel than other men; this has been recognised at all times and in all places. The English are noted for their cruelty [Footnote: I am aware that the English make a boast of their humanity and of the kindly disposition of their race, which they call "good-natured people;" but in vain do they proclaim this fact; no one else says it of them.] while the Gaures are the gentlest of men. [Footnote: The Banians, who abstain from flesh even more completely than the Gaures, are almost as gentle as the Gaures themselves, but as their morality is less pure and their form ofworship less reasonable they are not such good men.] All savages are cruel, and it is not their customs that tend in this direction; their cruelty is the result of their food. They go to war as to the chase, and treat men as they would treat bears. Indeed in England butchers are not allowed to give evidence in a court of law, no more can surgeons. [Footnote: One of the English translators of my book has pointed out my mistake, and both of them have corrected it. Butchers and surgeons are allowed to give evidence in the law courts, but butchers may not serve on juries in criminal cases, though surgeons are allowed to do so.] Great criminals prepare themselves for murder by drinking blood. Homer makes his flesh-eating

Cyclops a terrible man, while his Lotus-eaters are so delightful that those who went to trade with them forgot even their own country to dwell among them.

He also quoted Plutarch's The Eating of Flesh:

"You ask me," said Plutarch, "why Pythagoras abstained from eating the flesh of beasts, but I ask you, what courage must have been needed by the first man who raised to his lips the flesh of the slain, who broke with his teeth the bones of a dying beast, who had dead bodies, corpses, placed before him and swallowed down limbs which a few moments ago were bleating, bellowing, walking, and seeing? How could his hand plunge the knife into the heart of a sentient creature, how could his eyes look on murder, how could he behold a poor helpless animal bled to death, scorched, and dismembered? how can he bear the sight of this quivering flesh? does not the very smell of it turn his stomach? is he not repelled, disgusted, horror-struck, when he has to handle the blood from these wounds, and to cleanse his fingers from the dark and viscous bloodstains?

I will not continue to quote his thoughts as I feel that these two quote are plenty. You can find the copy of the book [[2]].

On a slighly unrelated note: Does anyone know what follows the above quote of Plutarch? It would seem to be a continuation of the quote but when comparing this [3] (Find the page for "The eating of flesh" to arrive to the proper part) version of Plutarch's writing and Rousseau's transcription things get confusing after the poem. Even when keeping in mind that they are not only different versions but that one was translated from Greek to (?) French to English, and the other is a translation of Greek to (?) English, it still doesn't seem to fit.

Best Wishes, --A Sunshade Lust 05:08, 26 March 2006 (UTC)


Hi, I would like to add an external link to the World of Biography entry

  • probably the most famous portal of biography to this article. Does anybody have any objections?
The site does not seem to offer much beyond what is already in the article (or at Wikiquote). So I would tend to say no, don't add it. Christopher Parham (talk) 14:42, 14 April 2006 (UTC)
Stop hand.png
please do not add this to the article, and please read the incident report before giving the go-ahead. This is spam and not link-worthy under WP:EL; the articles contain many distortions, lack citations, and contain nothing that wouldn't fit directly in the wiki article. a link to worldofbiography has been placed on over 70 talk pages by User:Jameswatt. thanks. --He:ah? 20:57, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

This article needs serious work by a thoughtful & deep reader of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This does not even begin to capture the impact Rousseau had in his century, let alone through all those who have followed in his footsteps. Rousseau's work was the basis and the inspiration for thinkers and writers as varied as Kant, Marx, Tolstoi and Freud. His autobiography revolutionized the biography, created the 'disadvantaged' as a class, and irretrievably changed the manner by which we moderns reason over our worlds.

The article definitely needs three further detailed sections. One is needed on music to cover both Rousseau's theoretical contribution and his compositions. A second is needed to cover fictional works, especially Julie. And a third should deal with his near invention of the genre of autobiography, covering the Confessions, the Dialogues and the Reveries. Bristoleast

I agree, I think the section entitled The Theory of the Natural Man should be retitled The Two Discourses and the anthropological implications of the discourses should be highlighted. Then, instead of Political Thought, the next section should be called The Social Contract, and it should be emphasized that this was seen as part of a larger unfinished work that Rousseau projected which would include modern national politics. This would be the place to emphasize, as scholars of Rousseau now do, the continuity and coherence of his thought. It should also be mentioned that Rousseau supported federalism and proposed the creation of a European union (after the idea of Henri IV's minister Sully), that would prevent future wars.
There should also be a section on Rousseau and anthropology and Rousseau and ethnomusicology, perhaps, since he wrote a Chanson negre and a Chinese melody, used by Hindemith in the twentieth century. Also Mme de Stael, who was Swiss, remarked that when she heard Rousseau's music, it always evoked for her her native Switzerland. This shows that Rousseau recognized and tried to reproduce the particular national characteristics of different musics well in advance of the nineteenth century, when this became more common.
Also Rousseau was a keen botanist, interested in the sexual reproduction of plants, and himself authored a Botanical Dictionary.
Perhaps also, the section about writers hostile to Rousseau (who I gather includes, from the Cold War period, Karl Popper, author of The Open Society and Its Enemies, ) could expanded and modified with care to preserve an objective tone. (talk) 05:17, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

Cultural depictions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau[edit]

I've started an approach that may apply to Wikipedia's Core Biography articles: creating a branching list page based on in popular culture information. I started that last year while I raised Joan of Arc to featured article when I created Cultural depictions of Joan of Arc, which has become a featured list. Recently I also created Cultural depictions of Alexander the Great out of material that had been deleted from the biography article. Since cultural references sometimes get deleted without discussion, I'd like to suggest this approach as a model for the editors here. Regards, Durova 17:45, 18 October 2006 (UTC)

I don't know where to put this but I just found a description of Rousseau's philosophy in Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence. Barzun is a conservative, but, unlike many, who blame Rousseau for modern developments they oppose, he reads Rousseau carefully and correctly and he describes very well the myths and mistakes that have arisen in depictions of Rousseau's philosophy, including the accusations that he advocated a "return to nature":

Rousseau did inveigh against the characteristics of high civilization, but he did not preach a return to the savage state. He thought it in many ways unattractive—lacking morality, acting by instinct without thought and at one stage without language, and living from hand to mouth. What is preferable, when society and property have become established and the inequality of talent is revealed, is that ability should be rewarded for the advantage of the community. That state, Rousseau says, is the happiest and most lasting in the history of mankind. But he says nothing about returning to it . . .. He does say that when in time wealth and rank no longer correspond to merit, the disparity becomes an injustice and leads to instability . . . . .

Taken together, these first two essays [arts and sciences and origins of inequality] form a negative critique of things as they are. The later, positive recommendations show that the society to be reconstituted is a revised form of the middle stage . . . the model man is the independent farmer, free of superiors and self-governing. This was cause enough for the philosophes hatred of their former friend. Rousseau’s unforgivable crime was the rejection of the graces and luxuries of civilized existence. Voltaire had sung “The superfluous, that most necessary thing.” Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, p. 384

Voltaire, one of Rousseau's earliest opponents, admired the aristocratic life and was notoriously opposed to the education of the children of servants. (Though ironically, the end of his Candide Voltaire himself recommends a simple country life of the middle station similar to that admired by Rousseau.) Barun suggests that one reason for the opposition of the other philosophes to Rousseau was that every work he wrote, on every topic, immediately became a best seller.
Barzun also agrees with those who identify Rousseau's "general will" with the "common good" , i.e., the "general welfare" in our constitution. So that scholar who is quoted in the entry here as thinking that Jefferson was not very influenced by Rousseau's thought may not be entirely correct. Rousseau's recommendations for the constitutions of Poland and Corsica are among the those reproduced on the University of Chicago's website of documents that influence the U.S. Constitution.
I am thinking that the "Theory of the Natural Man" is not an adequate heading and the quote chosen (about property) is misleading -- through an implication that he favored abolishing property, which he did not. It was his style to state things in a forceful way, using paradox. Here is Barzun again:

The best known of the political works, The Social Contract . . . in which occurs, near the beginning, the over-quoted sentence about men born free and everywhere in chains. The journalist mind assumes that the words can only mean "Break the chains." But Rousseau's next sentence, left unquoted, says, "I will now endeavor to show how they [the chains] are legitimate." Farther on we come upon the savage once more and learn that although he is free of some faults, he is not a moral being--not immoral, amoral. So he cannot be the material for building a society and running a government. So much for the charge of wanting us "to walk on all fours." (Barzun, pl 384-85) (talk) 04:35, 3 March 2009 (UTC)March 02, 2009

should his works be listed in English or French?[edit]

Hello, I've done some work with Julie, or the New Heloise and Le Devin du Village, and I've noticed that in the main Rousseau article, his works are sometimes listed in English, sometimes in French, sometimes with both languages. It's just not consistent. Should they be all listed in English (because this is English Wikpedia) or in French with translation (because the works were written in French)? Thanks. --Kyoko 17:17, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

IMO, historical authenticity, please. So in French. I think this is best practice. Moreschi Deletion! 18:59, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Well, we don't list Jules Verne works in French (Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, etc..). This is the English Wikipedia, not the French Wikipedia. Generally, article titles are in English, and the English translation of the work is used in the body of the text. For the bibliography section you might list the English name and the French name side by side. Same with the first sentence of the article. Other than that stick with English (assuming there is a known English translation of the work). -- Stbalbach 21:43, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
OK, now we have a conflict between two different standards on Wikipedia. I know that with a lot of the music-related articles, the original language is preferred, e.g. Così fan tutte and not "They (women) all do that" or "Thus do all women", etc. This contrasts with many literature articles as mentioned above. I guess my comment doesn't solve this problem, but it does highlight different views on Wikipedia. --Kyoko 02:24, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Doubtless Rousseau's literary works should be in English but the operas should most certainly be in French. They are commonly referred to in a popular and musicological context in French, and the article titles should be in French per WP:WPO guidelines. "Nevertheless most operas are performed in English-speaking countries under their original names (e.g. Così fan tutte and Der Freischütz) and English titles for them should not be invented." Rousseau's operas come under the same category. Moreschi Deletion! 08:52, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

It depends on the title by which the work is best known in English. The titles should be in the original unless there is a generally accepted and widely used English equivalent. That means we shouldn't be making up our own English versions. In the case of opera, we have The Magic Flute alongside Così fan tutte. This applies to literary works too. See the list of novels by Emile Zola for instance. La Bête humaine is almost always given under that title in English reference books rather than "The Human Beast". Some titles remain in the original because nobody can agree on an exact equivalent, e.g. Les Misérables. A rebours by Huysmans should stay under that title because it has variously been rendered as "Against the Grain", "Against the Flow" and "Against Nature" and there is no particular reason why we should pick one of those above the others. In general, I favour keeping the original title unless the work is best known by its English name. --Folantin 09:53, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree with the above and don't think there is a problem with inconsistency. Some of Rousseau's works, particularly the more popular ones, have clear and accepted English translations. The operas, and some of the works which are discussed only in the philosophy or political theory press, are used in English mainly under their French titles. Christopher Parham (talk) 16:36, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
OK, I originally asked this question because of the first paragraph in the article, which uses the French title Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse. I don't think this work is well known in the English-speaking world of today, though I gather that in the 1700s, it was widely read throughout Europe. So in this case, should the paragraph be changed to use the English or French spelling? Thanks. --Kyoko 19:11, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
For what it's worth the Oxford Companion to English Literature (1967 ed.) gives it as La nouvelle Héloïse as does The Reader's Encyclopaedia. I've almost always seen it given under the French title. --Folantin 19:35, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Citation Style[edit]

The article lists sources, but there are almost no inline citations, making the references themselves useless for the verifiability of the article. --Yono 01:19, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Uh... he had no effect on Thomas Jefferson and America? That wasn't what I was taught in my government class last semester...

Resilient Barnstar.png The Resilient Barnstar
I hereby bestow this Barnstar of Resilience upon Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for lasting 48 hours without IP vandalism from some high school. Cheers, JJ!  But|seriously|folks  08:53, 14 October 2007 (UTC)

Possible copyright violation?[edit]

I noticed while working on a paper for world history that there was a possible copyright violation in this article.

Under the Legacy section, paragraph #2 is exactly the same as a paragraph from: [4].

I think this has been brought up before, but instead of "sticking very close to" this article, it's exactly the same in this instance.

I didn't exactly have time to check the rest of the article, but I agree that it either should be rewritten or the author (Robin Chew) needs to be contacted.

--GorillaWarfare talk 17:38, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

I removed the paragraphs in the legacy section that were obviously cut-and-pasted from the source (which is non-free), basically paragraphs 2-4. They are there in the history if someone wants to rewrite them.--DO11.10 (talk) 19:13, 24 January 2008 (UTC)


On what grounds is it claimed that Rousseau had a "distorted view of sexuality"? Martin —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:48, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Apparently no one can justify this.. so I will delete the sentence: "he was extremely interested in Romance Novels in his youth, which likely contributed to his distorted view of sexuality". Breiten (talk) 16:23, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Romance novels in the eighteenth century referred to works like Gil Blas, Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberato and Ariosto's Orlando (romance epics) and were not at all the same as what we think of as Romance novels today, They were stories of knights, battles, and magic weapons, and were more like adventure comics, westerns, or action movies. Samuel Johnson and Voltaire also were entranced by this extremely popular genre as youths. There is no reason at all to think it could have affected Rousseau's sexuality (about which we know little, by the way) one way or the other. Whoever wrote this article has an ax to grind against Rousseau and is lacking in historical perspective, knowledge and objectivity and appears to be motivated by a desire to blame Rousseau for the evils of modern life. Rousseau was and is criticized because he had the temerity to claim that all men are equal. That is what his detractors cannot stand.Mballen (talk) 16:19, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

He didn't say that all men are equal. In his Discourse on inequality, he wrote that all men were equal when they were simple, original savages. As soon as they became socialized, however, differences became apparent and have resulted in today's heterogeneousness. People have some things in common, making them equal to each other in certain ways. They also obviously have great differences with each other, making them unequal in many ways. Lestrade (talk) 18:06, 9 February 2010 (UTC)Lestrade


"Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (June 28, 1712 – July 2, 1778) was a philosopher and composer of the Enlightenment whose political philosophy influenced the French Revolution, the development of both liberal and socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism. With his Confessions and other writings, he practically invented modern autobiography and encouraged a new focus on the building of subjectivity that would bear fruit in the work of thinkers as diverse as Hegel and Freud."

The sentence is kind of long, but what really gets me is "a new focus on the building of subjectivity." Building? What does that mean? Should it be 'the understanding of subjectivity'? Or is the author trying to say, 'the development of subjectivity'? Or something else?

GeneCallahan (talk) 14:13, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

I would think that it should read: "…a new focus on subjectivity that would…." Subjectivity had been an important viewpoint for many centuries, especially after the writings of St. Augustine.Lestrade (talk) 23:52, 6 February 2010 (UTC)Lestrade

Someone defaced the page[edit]

Someone defaced the page about 1/4 of the way down. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:33, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Location of birth in infobox[edit]

The location of Rousseau's birth in the infobox currently reads "Geneva, Switzerland". However, because Geneva was, at the time of his birth, an independent republic, shouldn't this simply be Geneva? --Credema (talk) 07:17, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

"Composer of the Enlightenment"?[edit]

Try critic of the Enlightenment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:19, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

"The Social Contract"[edit]

Does "The social world is all screwed up" sound like it could be reworded better? (talk) 05:01, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Contemporary criticism[edit]

Dr. Johnson was highly critical of Rousseau. From Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson: "I think him one of the worst of men; a rascal who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been. Three or four nations have expelled him; and it is a shame that he is protected in this country." (talk) 23:56, 16 August 2008 (UTC)

Voltaire was highly critical of Rousseau as well. He said that reading Rousseau's Social Contract made him want to get down and walk on all fours. Edmund Burke was also highly critical of Rousseau, his tone in writing about him came close to hatred because he blamedi him for the excesses of the terror. The philosopher David Hume said that the reason Rousseau was criticized was that alone of other philosophers he did not dissimulate or disguise his real views. On the other hand Claude Levi-Strauss and others have written in praise of Rousseau. Many who have criticized Rousseau have not actually read him carefully.Mballen (talk) 18:41, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

"It is notorious that Voltaire objected to the education of laborers' children" – Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom,p.36.

Hume professed no surprise when he learned that Rousseau's books were banned in Geneva and elsewhere [and he was threatened with imprisonment]. Rousseau, he wrote, "has not had the precaution to throw any veil over his sentiments; and as he scorns to dissemble his contempt for established opinions, he could not wonder that all the zealots were in arms against him. The liberty of the press is not so secured in any country … as not to render such an open attack on popular prejudice somewhat dangerous. --Peter Gay, The Enlightenment, The Science of Freedom, p.72.Mballen (talk) 19:39, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

This cannot be seen as criticism though, as Hume admired Rousseau enough to allow him to join him in England when he was exiled nearly everywhere else. In fact, if you are familiar with Hume's writings, this seems more like a very strong and flattering compliment. Tancrisism (talk) 01:15, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

"Not all the realism in the world can make it easier to forgive the world its inability to accomodate Rousseau's principles. For his principles are those which most forcibly demonstrate the connection between politics and moral life, which more clearly associate manhood and political activity. When we have understood Rousseau's principles, it is not too much to say, we have understood the distinction between a fully acceptable political order and one that is not." --George Kateb, Utopia and its Enemies (1963) quoted in Mario Einaudi, The Early Rousseau, pp 8-9.

Rousseau was well aware that his vision of the ideal man was "perhaps a fanciful one." He wrote in a letter "This man does not exist, you will say. So be it, but he can exist as a hypothesis." --Letter to Beaumont, quoted in Mario Einaudi, p. 245.

Summary way to long[edit]

Headline says it all - the "summary" on this article is way to long and needs to be shortened. Not to mention there are a few nonsensical sentences (e.g. beginning of second paragraph) within the summary. Triindiglo (talk) 01:40, 28 September 2008 (UTC)

Something's missing, I think.[edit]

Read the beginning of the second paragraph. Does that read a bit funny to you? Zazaban (talk) 00:19, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Molly Maureen Nelson, where can her information be found?[edit]

There was just a short statement about his marriage. It seems difficult to verify up. (talk) 05:17, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

Please, please please, Jean Jacques Rousseau was not a swiss philosopher but a French one as Geneva was part of France until 1815. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:19, 22 November 2008 (UTC)

Several people here claim that Rousseau was French which is not true (although he loved France). Since ca. 1536 the City of Geneva was an independent city but nevertheless part of the Swiss Federation. Everyone can check that easily. It was only for a short time (1798-1813) annexed by French troops.( (talk) 12:25, 30 November 2008 (UTC))


Contrary to what is written in the article, Rousseau's denial of original sin and his supposed belief in the goodness of man is arguably much the same as that of conventional religion:


Rousseau’s denial of original sin is not an assertion that man is innately good. In the Second Discourse, Rousseau maintains, in opposition to Shaftesbury’s benevolist tradition, that man’s desires are selfish and thus opposed to society. Man is no less “an ingenious machine” [Rousseau is alluding to La Mettrie’s mechanistic physiology] than a beast, the only difference resting in his capacity to resist desire: “Nature commands every animal, and the beast obeys. Man feels the same impetus, but he realizes that he is free to acquiesce or resist; and it is above all in the consciousness of this freedom that the spirituality of is soul is shown” --Donald R. Wehrs M, "Desire and Duty in La Nouvelle Héloïse" (Modern Language Studies, 18: 2 [Spring, 1988]), p. 82.

For Rousseau the state is founded on repudiating the moi particulier to attain moral freedom; the purpose of a wise Legislator and Tutor is to make the hard choice of ethical self-subordination as hearable as possible. --Donald R. Wehrs M, "Desire and Duty in La Nouvelle Héloïse" (Modern Language Studies, 18: 2 [Spring, 1988]), p. 87.

Mballen (talk) 19:19, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Rousseau and Anthropology[edit]

Neither Rousseau nor any other European had access to accurate information about non-Europeans in the 1750s. Rousseau recognized and deplored that fact. He felt that contemporary travelers' accounts were superficial -- either written solely for money or that the writers were mostly writing about themselves. But he would not let this deter him from speculating about man's basic nature in order to diagnose and propose a remedy for the ills of his time:


All of Africa and its numerous inhabitants, as distinctive in character as in color, are still to be examined; the whole earth is covered by nations of which we know only the names -- yet we dabble in judging the human race! Let us suppose a Montesquieu, Buffon, Diderot, Duclos, d'Alembert, Condillac or men of that stamp traveling in order to inform their compatriots, observing and describing, as they know how: Turkey, Egypt, Barbary ... Morocco, Guinea, the land of the Bantus, the interior of Africa and its eastern coasts, the Malabars, Moguk, the banks of the Ganges, the kingdom of Siam ... China ... and especially Japan; not forgetting the Patagonias .. Tucuman, Paraguay, .. Brazil; finally the Caribbean Islands, Florida and all the savage countries: this [is the] most important voyage of all and one that must be undertaken with the greatest care. Let us suppose that these new Hercules, back from these memorable expeditions, then, at leisure wrote the natural, moral, and political history of what they had seen; we ourselves would see a new world come from their pens and we would thus learn to know our own." --Rousseau, Ouvres completes III, 213-214 (quoted Mario Einaudi, p. 117)

Rousseau even anticipated foundation-sponsored research, recommending that a wealthy philanthropist underwrite such a ten-year journey "by a man of genius."

From Mario Einaudi's Early Rousseau (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967):

Rousseau's work, and especially the Discourse on Inequality, is now seen as a major study of the evolution of mankind. Bertrand de Jouvenel gives Rousseau the place he deserves: "Rousseau is the first great exponent of evolution. His was the first attempt to depict systematically the historic progress of human society. He comes a full century before Engels and all the others who were to make the evolution of human society a popular theme. ...."

For these reasons, Claude Levi Strauss has recognized Rousseau as an anthropologist among philosophers: "Rousseau our master, Rousseau our brother, toward whom we have shown so much ingratitude ..."

Unlike Diderot [Rousseau] never glorified the state of nature but was the only one to use it as a tool "to show us how to get out of the contradictions where we are still lost in the wake of his enemies.' In describing what we today call the neolithic age, he had come close to identifying the 'unshakable bases of human society."

Rousseau, the student of evolution, the anthropologist, can also give a new accent to the age-old polemics about wealth and poverty, the rich and the poor, property, luxury, and conspicuous consumption. He appears as a pathbreaker for later socialist thought, with this difference, however, that his conclusion is not that everything hangs from economics, but that everything hangs from politics.

Mballen (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 19:49, 31 January 2009 (UTC).

Bias in the Philosophy section[edit]

There seem to be many loaded phrases in this section. The worst offender is: "There is no inconsistency but rather a strong unity in Rousseau's thought." Whoever wrote this didn't even find a respectable source for his opinion. I'm not entirely sure how unified Rousseau's thought is, but commentators seem to spend an awful lot of time trying to make his apparent contradictions cohere. Rather than balance these views with some opposing them, could someone (more knowledgeable than me about J.J.!) strip out the P.o.V.? Cheers. IanDavidMorris 13:40, 26 Feb 2009 (GMT)

I agree that a citation would be appropriate here. I believe, however that modern scholars do incline to the view that contrary to popular misconception Rousseau's theories are consistent rather than otherwise. The main problem is that the author of the offending sentence was sentence probably was not an English speaker and was merely stating what they regarded as a commonplace. (talk) 21:32, 1 March 2009 (UTC)03-09

Rousseau himself maintained that "one great principle" was evident in all his books (Confessions [IX Oeuvres Completes, Paris: Hachette, 1871-77] VIII, 290-91). A small band of scholars at the beginning of the 20th century, notably Gustave Lanson, a historiographer of French literature, and E.H. Wright of Columbia, began to study Rousseau's complete works with a view to finding this underlying unifying principle. In 1932, the great scholar Ernst Cassirer wrote "Das Problem Jean Jacques Rousseau," demonstrating that the consistency of Rousseau's thought lay in his "rationalist conception of freedom." Within a few years his interpretation was accepted by the majority of scholars, though some persist in seeing Rousseau's thought as contradictory (see Ernst Casssirer, The Question of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Peter Gay editor and translator; Columbia Bicentennial Editions, General editor, Jacques Barzun, New York: Columbia University Press, 1954).
Those who maintained that Rousseau was an irrationalist and questioned the consistency of his thought were exhaustively refuted by Charles W. Hendel (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Moralist, 2 volumes, Oxford University Press, 1934). Beginning in the 1950s Robert Derathé showed that "the political theory of Rousseau emerged from his reflections on the theories held by thinkers who belong to what has been called the school of the law of nature and law of nations." Derathé traced Rousseau's debt to Grotius and Pufendorf as well as to Hobbes and Locke. He concludes that "Rousseau never believed that one should fail to employ one's reason. . . . Quite to the contrary, he wanted to teach us how to use it well. . . . Rousseau is a rationalist aware of the limits of reason." (Quoted in Peter Gay, introduction to The Question of Jean Jacques Rousseau by Ernst Cassirer. (talk) 17:36, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

Attn: Someone with edit permissions[edit]

In the second paragraph of the section labeled Theory of Natural Man, "Orangutang" should be spelled "orangutan" (no caps) and the link to Buffon should point to this Buffon.L1ttleTr33 (talk) 04:05, 3 April 2009 (UTC)L1ttleTr33 Done! Mballen (talk) 20:52, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

Comment about Noble Savage[edit]

I have moved this criticism from the body of the article to the discussion page where it belonged instead of in a footnote (no. 17), where someone inserted it:

This comment is untrue. An idea of the "noble savage" --thought it may have differed from that of the British--certainly existed in the French colonial context. For more information about French racial thinking, see The Libertine Colony by Doris Garraway, There are No Slaves in France by Sue Peabody, The Avengers of the New World by Laurent Dubois, The French Atlantic Triangle by Christopher Miller. For information about the relationship between the French and English colonial contexts, see Sentimental Figures of Empire by Lynn Festa.

There is a misunderstanding here. The term "Noble Savage" is used now by scholars writing about French colonialism to refer to idealizing attitudes toward indigenous people. No one disputes that. However, the term "noble savage" was not used in French during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Although L'Escarbot did use the phrase: "The Savages are noble" as the heading of a chapter in his History of French Canada (c.1609), from where Dryden may have picked it up. The usual French term was and is: "le bon sauvage."

According to Ter Ellingson:

A few recent articles in French (e.g., Trudel 1996: 7ff.; Duvernay-Bolens 1998: 143) have abandoned the long-established bon sauvage in favor of a new expression, noble sauvage; and some German scholars use edle Wilde, “Noble Savage,” in place of gute Wilde, “good savage” (Bitterli 1976: 367 ff.; Sammer 1992: 932). Such cases seem obvious imitations of English usage, often arising in context of explicit references to English writers such as Berkhofer (1978 . . .) and Lovejoy and Boas . . .1935 ) in whose writings the “Noble Savage” plays a prominent role. Nor is it clear that the English-derived usage is moving toward a general acceptance in these languages, particularly in French; for many French languages continue to use bon sauvage (e.g.Todorov 1989; Doiron 1991; Guille-Escuret 1992), just as some (but perhaps fewer) German writers retain the term gute Wilde (e.g., Kohl 1981). Ellingson, The Myth of the Noble Savage (2001), p. 377

In the book by Doris Garraway, The Libertine Colony, the author explicitly states (in English) "I am going to use the term 'Noble Savage' to describe these settlers". She and the other writers cited above are using English, not French. See the wikipedia entry on Noble Savage.

In any case, no scholar of Rousseau argues that he used either the term or the concept. On the contrary. He did not idealize primitive peoples as his detractors have claimed. The discussion about racist attitudes toward colonial subjugated peoples belongs somewhere else.


Hi, if there is anyone who watches this page who knows a lot about Emile Durkheim, could you contact me? Thanks, Slrubenstein | Talk 12:28, 29 May 2009 (UTC)


I'm thinking of nominating this for GA. What do you think? Maurreen (talk) 20:24, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

On a quick check, I would suggest reducing the size of the external links. Among them and "Online texts" (which are basically the same thing), they are a lot, and a reviewer may point that. It would be better to select the best ones, or seek some "Portal" that links to many online works rather than link them individually here. There's also a bare link at the "Religion" section, that should be removed or turned into a reference MBelgrano (talk) 23:52, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, I'll work on that. Maurreen (talk) 15:42, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I changed the link in the "Religion" section to a reference, using another as an example. It's the first time I've done that, so I'd appreciate if someone would check it. Thanks. Maurreen (talk) 15:47, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I have placed a tag of Wildbot, a bot that will check if any link leads to a disambiguation page or an incorrect article section. If there are any, it will list them, and they should be fixed. The bot will remove itself the template when the work is done, or remove it right now if all liks are correct. MBelgrano (talk) 03:52, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, I fixed them. Maurreen (talk) 04:35, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

American Revolution[edit]

I thought Rousseau didn't influence the American Revolution because he advocated straight democracy. The other stuff that the founding fathers and Rousseau happened to agree on weren't directly from himself but indirectly through other philosophers.Somethingthathasnotbeentaken (talk) 01:11, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

Point taken, but it's hard to prove a negative. You have to grant that Rousseau was part of the zeitgeist. (talk) 00:22, 28 July 2010 (UTC)
See also
Rousseau's Considerations of the Government of Poland (1772) and Mably's proposed Constitution of Poland were important precedents for the drawing up of the U.S. Constitution. (Mably was Rousseau's pupil). Rousseau had recommended a the creation of a federal system for Poland. In this, his final work, Rousseau was much less radical than in the Social Contract. However, it is my impression that these documents do not appear to have had a direct or specific influence on the U.S. Constitution. (talk) 01:09, 28 July 2010 (UTC)
At the very least, the opening paragraph provides a logical error: "His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution and subsequently the American Revolution" - Subsequent implies later in a series of events (following in time or order; "subsequent developments" according to the Princeton dictionary), and the American Revolution (1775) occurred before the French Revolution (1789). I am going to change this.
Tancrisism (talk) 02:49, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
You are right, the meaning intended was "subsequent American constitutional convention" or something along those lines.Mballen (talk) 14:46, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
There is a factual error in the "Youth" section; at the time Rousseau met Madame de Warren, she was 28, not 29, according to Confessions. They met in 1728, and Rousseau mentions her having been "born with the century". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:19, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Even this is not right: Françoise-Louise de Warens, également connue sous les noms de Madame de Warens ou Louise Éléonore de la Tour du Pil (née le 31 mars 16991 à Vevey et décédée le 29 juillet 17622 à Chambéry), est la tutrice et maîtresse de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (qui l'appelait Maman). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:10, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

Political philosophy[edit]

The whole political philosophy section, shall we say, lacks citations. It quotes the Economie Politique once, the Social Contract once, and refers to a chapter for a grand total of three citations in four paragraphs; not really enough for the subject matter. And as a whole it seems a simplified version of part of Rosseau's political theory, but it doesn't give a clear idea of his theory as a whole. I can't say I know his writings very well, but from the books I've read he spends at least as much time explaining what forms and manners of government will be stable in various situations as he does imagining his ideal government.

And this sentence in the opening paragraphs, " His Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and his On the Social Contract are cornerstones in modern political and social thought and make a strong[citation needed] case for democratic government and social empowerment." isn't quite true. In On the Social Contract, book three ch 4, he writes “So perfect a government is not for men.”

I'd be glad to help, but as mentioned hereinabove, I'm only so familiar with so much of his writings. Cynops3 (talk) 02:19, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

I contributed a great deal to various section of this article, but not to the philosophy, except to try to make it more idiomatic (I think it may have been contributed by someone whose first language was not English) because I felt I needed to read a great deal more before attempting to. So, yes. That section could use improvement.Mballen (talk) 14:27, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

Unbalanced tag in Legacy section[edit]

An editor has placed an Unbalanced tag in the Legacy section, but not stated the reason for it. Since I was reverted in removing it on that account, I thought I would start this section, and perhaps oblige the editor to state their reason for adding it on the talk page, as is usually the custom. --Saddhiyama (talk) 21:12, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

I have to ask. Did you read the section and find it balanced? Please answer.
What I get is:
  1. the volonté générale was not original with him.
  2. The cult that grew up around Rousseau after his death, caused him to become identified with the Reign of Terror
  3. the blame for the excesses of the French Revolution is directly linked to the revolutionaries' misplaced adulation of Rousseau
  4. In America the direct influence of Rousseau was not great
...and all this before we get to the full section detailing the Criticisms of Rousseau.
Where is the positive legacy of this original, influential thinker? ~ Alcmaeonid (talk) 23:18, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Thank you for providing an explanation for your placement of the tag on the talk page. Hopefully it will help improve the quality of the article. --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:25, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

Durkheim deux[edit]

Hi, if there is anyone who watches this page who knows a lot about Emile Durkheim, could you contact me? Thanks Slrubenstein | Talk 20:24, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Tomb picture[edit]

It appears to be sideways, I'm pretty sure it needs to be turned 90° to the left. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:06, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

Influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States[edit]

I think Jean-Jacques Rousseau influenced definetely the Founding Fathers of the United States. I found this source about it[5]: "Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke each took the social contract theory one step further. Rousseau wrote The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right in which he explained that the government is based on the idea of popular sovereignty. Thus the will of the people as a whole gives power and direction to the state. John Locke also based his political writings on the idea of the social contract. He stressed the role of the individual. He also believed that revolution was not just a right but an obligation if the state abused their given power. Obviously these ideas had a huge impact on the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison." (talk) 22:41, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

"" unfortunately doesn't qualify as a "reliable source", 81. As a matter of fact, I, too, believe the founding fathers were influenced by Rousseau, at least at first. However, I have not found reliable sources to confirm that this was so. Most say they took from Locke's Social Contract theory not that of Rousseau. On the other hand, we are emerging from a period (the Cold War) in which Rousseau tended to be disparaged, so perhaps more evidence that the founders looked to Rousseau will emerge, perhaps in the areas of Civic Religion, federalism, and human rights. Mballen (talk) 14:42, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
A book like Frederick William Dames Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Political Literature Colonial America would probably be a good source for some of this. --Saddhiyama (talk) 14:55, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

Suzanne Bernard Rousseau[edit]

This article claims that she died of puerperal fever nine days after giving birth, but the article on puerperal fever claims she survived the infection. Can someone please correct this discrepancy? (talk) 22:00, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

Theory of the Natural Human[edit]

There is a problem with a section on "Theory of the Natural Human" -- Rousseau's prizewinning first essay, on the Arts and Sciences, ought to be discussed first. The quotation about property is also not very apt, since it comes from the second essay. Rousseau described the problem in the first essay (Arts and Sciences), namely, that progress, rather than improving life for everyone, had brought misery to millions and luxury to a few. In the Second Discourse (which deals with the natural man), he described how this happened, giving an explanation based on cultural evolution. This is the essay in which he sometimes appears, on a superficial reading, to be advocating primitivism, as used to be thought by his critics ( Rousseau himself anticipated this criticism). Quoting Rousseau out of context can be very misleading. In the third essay, The Social Contract, dedicated to the city of Geneva, Rousseau proposes a political remedies. (His ideas about education and religion are set forth in Emile. There is also the essay on Political Economy and the proposal for the constitution of Poland). In any case, neither the title of the section, nor the epigraph about property does justice to Rousseau's thought, and both need to be changed. "Social Criticism"might be better for the title; and something from Rousseau's writings about amour propre (self-regard, or vanity), on which Rousseau blamed all mankind's troubles (not property, as now implied), for example, might be more appropriate for the epigraph. Mballen (talk) 03:01, 28 May 2012 (UTC)


I have a 2007 edition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau Restless Genius. The citation given to back the claim that Rousseau was a Freemason does not do so. It refers to the picture "Allegorie Revolutionnaire" by N H Jeaurat de Berry, which contains a single instance of an alleged masonic symbol (an Egyptian obelisk). The only other reference to Freemasonry in the book is on page 393 where it refers to his friends Pury and Du Peyrou being Freemasons. If no-one can supply solid evidence for this statement, I'll remove it.--Swahilli (talk) 23:51, 27 March 2013 (UTC)

Removed the statement from the lead.Swahilli (talk) 18:53, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Enlightenment v. Romanticism[edit]

I know it's common to say that Rousseau was a romanticist writing in the Enlightenment era and all that, but to my mind, it would be fair to add an 'Enlightenment philosophy' category under school in his infobox, and perhaps mention the ambiguity in the opening paragraph. Even if he has some idiosyncratic ideas for the time, a lot of his thinking is far closer to what you'd traditionally call Enlightenment philosophy than Romanticism, and I think it's misleading to include one and exclude the other. -- (talk) 14:01, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

Actually there is a large difference between the philosophers of the Enlightenment school and that of Rousseau who is held by many to be the originator of the philosophical school of Romanticism. Rousseau's criteria for truth were emotion and feeling over reason which puts him at odds with the Enlightenment thinkers who held reason as the criteria for truth. Often Rousseau is called the founder of the "anti- Enlightenment" and this can throw off people as they think that this title would make him in favor of the ancient-regime in France, but in fact it’s more of an argument over what humans should do once they stand on the rubble of monarchy, aristocracy, and theocracy (both schools rebelled against this order).

Rousseau was dear friends with Diderot (until later in life personality conflicts break them up), and Diderot is among the very top of the Enlightenment philosophers. While Rousseau did write a few pieces (mostly on music) for the Encyclopedia that Diderot was making (to spread reason and knowledge) Rousseau’s First Discourse marks a radical departure from Diderot's school and is commonly held as the beginning of Romanticism.

For Rousseau the arts and sciences were actually evils and humans would be better if they had never joined together in societies but had stayed in the wilderness where he pictures they would wander around in solitary lives - which though they might seem short and brutal to us, would just seem normal to them. He held that this would be more authentic and driven by pure emotion – instead of worrying about status and being constantly anxious on what others thought about you and your place in society. He felt this "original innocence" was unrecoverable due to the corrupting habit of being in societies, but that humans would be better if they tried to reach for that ideal as much as possible. Diderot and the Enlightenment philosophers held emotion suspect, as it could introduce bias and cloud a person's reason - which alone was the way to reach truth. So it would be a mistake to place Rousseau in the school of 'Enlightenment philosophy' – he openly rejected this school. --Wowaconia (talk) 16:19, 24 April 2013 (UTC)

Private property as 'conventional' and the 'beginning of true civil society'[edit]

I am by no means an expert on Rousseau being only vaguely acquainted with most of his works, however the phrase at the end of the second paragraph quoted here

"He argued that private property was conventional and the beginning of true civil society."

Seem to me to wildly misrepresent his views. Indeed in this very article the only references to private property are in the context of explaining how Rousseau saw them as a root cause for inequality. The quote at the beginning of the section 'Theory of Natural Human' seems to me to be incompatible with the sentence I am talking about: "The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."

Rousseau saw the idea of property as a bit of a sham - in Noam Chomsky's essay 'Language and Freedom'[1] he quotes Rousseau on the idea of private property and wealth as follows:

"These are 'usurpations .. established only on a precarious and abusive right ... having been acquired only by force, force could take them away without [the rich] having grounds for complaint.' Not even property acquired by personal industry is held 'upon better titles.'"

followed by

"Rousseau argues that civil society is hardly more than a conspiracy by the rich to guarantee their plunder."

The sentence itself does not reference a source and the topic of it being "conventional" is not returned to once in the entire article.

My request therefore is that someone reformulate such a summary of his views on property such that his views are more accurately represented. As it is (and I may be alone in my interpretations here) when I read that sentence the information i feel it is imparting to me is "Ah, so Rousseau thinks the idea of private property is normal, reasonable, and a pre-requisite for any 'civil' society.' When, to the best of my knowledge (unless Chomsky is wildly deceiving in his essay, which I doubt) Rousseau's views could not be any further from that! Am I mistaken? Regardless I feel it should be explained that his views can not be summed up so simply. If I am entirely wrong then I will hold my hands up and admit it!

Certainly he sees the concept of private property as an essential part of what formed what we consider 'civil society', I am however more concerned with the implications of the way in which this sentence was phrased as I believe it may give people (referring to this wikipedia article as a source for what he thought) an inaccurate representation of his true thoughts on the idea of property, leading them to think that he was far more positive and accepting of the idea of private property than he really was. KronosAlight (talk) 20:34, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

unreferenced opinion[edit]

The principles of the American Founding Fathers and those of Rousseau are directly opposed.

The American Founding Fathers primarily believed in individual liberty (at least for fellow Americans - the problem of slavery and of indian tribes is well known, in theory the Founders believed in the liberty of these persons also, but in practice.....) based upon respect for private property - both of individuals and private organizations such as Churches.

Rousseau believed in collective (collectivist) "liberty". Even if the majority of individual persons opposed a government that followed his principles such individuals were not expressing the "General Will" they were simply expressing the inferior "will of all" out of "pride" not true "self love", the latter being expressed by the "General Will" as established by the "Lawgiver". If the Lawgiver decides that the private property of an individual or private organization (such as a Church) is against the "General Will" then the government should, according to Rousseau, take action against it. Thus the principles of Rousseau are directly opposed to the principles of the American Founding Fathers - as can be seen by reading Rousseau's the "Social Contract" and, for example, the speeches of George Washington. The American Founders were aware that their principles were directly opposed to those of Rousseau - see, for example, the comments of John Adams (and his son John Q. Adams) in his book written in reply to Thomas Paine. (talk) 12:43, 2 February 2015 (UTC) The principles of Rousseau are in direct conflict with those of the American Founding Fathers.

The American Founding Fathers primarily believed in individual liberty (at least for fellow Americans - in theory they believed in it for slaves and Indians also, but in practice...), based on respect for private property both of individuals and private organizations, such as Churches. This can be seen by reading the speeches of George Washington or the writings of the other Founders.

Rousseau believed in collective (collectivist) liberty. Even if a majority of individual persons opposed a government that followed his principles that meant, according to Rousseau, that such individuals were expressing the inferior "will of all" out of "Pride", not the true "Self Love" of the "General Will" as expressed by the "Lawgiver".

For example, if the "Lawgiver" decided that the property of an individual or a private organization (such a Church) is not in the interests of the "General Will" the government, according to Rousseau, may take action against this private property - even if the majority of individuals (supposedly deluded by "pride" from seeing their own true interests) oppose such government action. Thus the principles of Rousseau are directly opposed to the pro individual liberty (based upon respect for private property)principles of the Americans Founding Fathers - a fact of which the Founders themselves were well aware. See, for example, the comments of John Adams (and his son John Q. Adams) in his book written in reply to Thomas Paine.

Also - I see no evidence that most American Founding Fathers were in favor of most young people being educated at the expense of taxpayers. Whoever wrote the article on Rousseau seems to have made this up - possibly to fit their own political principles. (talk) 13:01, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

Karl Popper?[edit]

I'm only here in passing on vandal patrol, but noticed an odd, uncited sentence:

During the Cold War, Karl Popper criticized Rousseau for his association with nationalism and its attendant abuses.[citation needed] This came to be known among scholars as the "totalitarian thesis". An example is J. L. Talmon's,...

Which reads as if Popper was a principal critic of Rousseau, and appears to attribute the totalitarian thesis to him. The original text as inserted in 2009[6] puts much weaker emphasis on this:

During the Cold War, even some liberals, among them Karl Popper criticized Rousseau for his association with nationalism and its attendant abuses. This came to be known among scholars as the "totalitarian thesis" (the word "totalitarian" having been coined during the reign of Mussolini). An example is J. L. Talmon's,...

I presume the sentence eroded over time. Popper does not appear to have criticized Rousseau in these terms (I stand open to correction on this). In fact, in The Open Society and Its Enemies (Vol II), he says, of Rousseau's "General Will":

There was a great deal of romantic collectivism in this invention, but no tendency towards nationalism. But Rousseau's theories clearly contained the germ of nationalism, whose most characteristic doctrine is that the various nations must be conceived as personalities.

...and that's as strongly as he puts it. Nor does he appear to have originated the totalitarian thesis (that appears to be Talmon & Aron, [7]).

I'm not expert in this subject, so I'd hesitate to make this edit, but reading around the subject it seems that Popper is given undue emphasis here, and the "totalitarian thesis" should be more closely attributed to Talmon; so for example: "During the Cold War, Rousseau was criticized for his association with nationalism and its attendant abuses, for example in J. L. Talmon's, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (1952). This came to be known among scholars as the "totalitarian thesis". " Bazzargh (talk) 15:40, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

Being bold, went ahead and made that change. Both the footnote attached to Talmon's book and the General Will article/references provide support for associating the thesis more directly with him than with Popper. If Popper deserves a mention in the criticism section, maybe it's for his more quotable "his romanticism...was one of the most pernicious influences in social philosophy." (The Open Society vol 1, ch 6, note 20); though this is taken from a paragraph that otherwise praises Rousseau. Bazzargh (talk) 01:43, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Deletion of 'Personal Life' Section[edit]

I just deleted the entire 'Personal Life' section. This section contained the following words:

Rousseau was said to be married to Thérèse Levasseur, a seamstress who was at the same time his longtime partner. Rousseau took Thérèse and her mother in to live with him. They had five children and all of them were handed over to orphanages. Nigel Rodgers and Mel Thompson's book Philosophers Behaving Badly has found all of them died due to their ill treatment at the orphanage, which was very common at the time.[2]

The reason for my deletion is that Therese has been mentioned earlier in Rousseau's WP page. It has also been mentioned earlier in Rousseau's WP page that the children were given away to an orphanage. There is nothing new in this section which has not been covered earlier except for only one detail: the claim that all of Rousseau's children died in the orphanage due to ill treatment. Two points. First, this detail of Rousseau's children dying in the orphanage is not mentioned in the standard biographies of Rousseau like that of Maurice Cranston, or the famous 10th volume of the Story of Civilization Series 'Rousseau and Revolution' of Will Durant (which won the Pulitzer Prize), or in the latest biography of Rousseau by Leo Damrasch. Second, the solitary source that is being given for this piece of information (the book 'Philosophers behaving badly') has been dismissed as a gossipy work having no historical value. Please see for example: (do a control-F on 'Philosophers behaving badly') As the review article by Michael Herriman says:

Some of the scandal in the book is unattributed, some of it is hedged by "reputedly" and "apparently" and some of it implied...The authors's interest in their subjects' sexual activities is either prurient or disingenuous. Are they writing for the sensationalist tabloid press's masses?...If you wish to read the book you may find it on the rack before a supermarket checkout.


  1. ^ Chomsky, Noam.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Rogers, N; Thompson, M (2004), Philosophers Behaving Badly, London: Peter Owen .

The above unsigned and undated intervention had the effect of mangling the narrative. When "Therese" first appears in the current version of the article, an ordinary reader will have no way of knowing who she is, since she is nowhere introduced.-- (talk) 05:44, 11 August 2016 (UTC)


This article is becoming filled with trivia and far too reliant on a rather outdated source that was intended for the "dumbed-down" household market. Rousseau is much-discussed in genuine modern academic sources and we really should be using those. - Sitush (talk) 09:57, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

The 1967 book of Will Durant (Rousseau and Revolution, the 10th volume of the Story of Civilization) which Sitush imagines was intended for the "dumbed down household market" won a Pulitzer prize for the year 1968. Apparently it is not as "dumb" a book as Sitush imagines it to be. Of course in the biographical section i have used this book as a reference in conjunction with the 2005 biography of Rousseau ("Restless Genius") by Damrosch. Secondly, common sense tells us that when unsourced edits are being replaced with similar sourced edits then the article is experiencing an improvement, not a deterioration. Of course we can argue whether some of the new sourced edits should be condensed or even removed. Soham321 (talk) 11:47, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
Another point: The question of being "outdated" makes sense in science, but not always in humanities, certainly not in anything to do with philosophy or anything philosophical. And Rousseau was a philosopher. I have with me a translation of Sun Tzu's two thousand years old book The Art of War translated by Samuel Griffith. In the preface, Liddell Hart writes:

Among all the military thinkers of the past, only Clausewitz is comparable, and even he is more 'dated' than Sun Tzu, and in part antiquated, although he was writing more than two thousand years later. Sun Tzu has clearer vision, more profound insight, and eternal the middle of the Second World War, I had several visits from the Chinese Military Attache, a pupil of Chiang Kai-Shek. He told me that my book and General Fuller's were principal textbooks in the Chinese military academies---whereupon I asked: 'What about Sun Tzu?' He replied that while Sun Tzu's book was venerated as a classic, it was considered out of date by most of the younger officers, and thus hardly worth study in the era of mechanized weapons. At this, I remarked that it was time they went back to Sun Tzu, since in that one short book was embodied almost as much about the fundamentals of strategy and tactics as I had covered in more than twenty books. In brief, Sun Tzu was the best short introduction to the study of warfare, and no less valuable for constant reference in extending study of the subject.

Soham321 (talk) 20:34, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

Removal of Edmund Burke's comments[edit]

From the main article, i am deleting the following words comprising Edmund Burke's view about Rousseau's influence on the French Revolution:

Opponents of the Revolution and defenders of religion, most influentially the Irish essayist Edmund Burke, therefore placed the blame for the excesses of the French Revolution directly on the revolutionaries' misplaced (as he considered it) adulation of Rousseau. Burke's "Letter to a Member of the National Assembly", published in February 1791, was a diatribe against Rousseau, whom he considered the paramount influence on the French Revolution (his ad hominem attack did not really engage with Rousseau's political writings). Burke maintained that the excesses of the Revolution were not accidents but were designed from the beginning and were rooted in Rousseau's personal vanity, arrogance, and other moral failings. He recalled Rousseau's visit to Britain in 1766, saying: "I had good opportunities of knowing his proceedings almost from day to day and he left no doubt in my mind that he entertained no principle either to influence his heart or to guide his understanding, but vanity". Conceding his gift of eloquence, Burke deplored Rousseau's lack of the good taste and finer feelings that would have been imparted by the education of a gentleman:

Taste and elegance ... are of no mean importance in the regulation of life. A moral taste ... infinitely abates the evils of vice. Rousseau, a writer of great force and vivacity, is totally destitute of taste in any sense of the word. Your masters [i.e., the leaders of the Revolution], who are his scholars, conceive that all refinement has an aristocratic character. The last age had exhausted all its powers in giving a grace and nobleness to our mutual appetites, and in raising them into a higher class and order than seemed justly to belong to them. Through Rousseau, your masters are resolved to destroy these aristocratic prejudices.[1]


  1. ^ Burke, Edmund. "A letter to a member of the National Assembly, 1791". Retrieved 23 February 2009. 

The reason for the deletion is as follows. First, the source being used is a website ( and this cannot be considered a reliable source. The website is being operated apparently by one Philip Atkinson who says he has written the book A study of our decline. Viewing this book on google books indicates that this is a self published book. On his website, Mr Atkinson claims to be the "First Philosopher"; he claims there have been no philosophers before him in accordance with his definition of the term "First Philosopher". This raises questions about WP:FRINGE. Second, to give Burke's view about Rousseau's influence on the French Revolution one must use a secondary source, as per WP guidelines, whereas here the primary source (Burke himself) is being used and this is not permissible due to the Fallacy of quoting out of context. Soham321 (talk) 11:54, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Here I disagree with you, if Burke's opinion about Rousseau's influence on the French Revolution is from a proper source, Burke himself, then, it could and should be used. I think the "permission" of Wikipedia you refer to deals with real "false" quotations and citations. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Munadulap (talkcontribs) 10:45, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

Given that the quotation in question contains omissions, I agree with the deletion suggestion at least until a more reliable contribution is made about Burke's opinion of Rousseau. Moreover, from my own past study of Burke, I do remember that there are relevant passages on this topic in Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France." Given no mention of that work by the original author of this section, that may be further reason to question the neutrality of his contribution. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cyrusbell (talkcontribs) 23:05, 20 December 2015 (UTC)

removal of two links from Online texts section of main article[edit]

I removed two links from the Online texts section of the main article because they were dead links. One was supposed to be a link to Emile and the other to Creed of a Savoyard Priest. Working links for these two texts can be added later. I will point out though that Creed of a Savoyard Priest is actually a section within Emile so giving a separate link to it might be superfluous. Soham321 (talk) 01:51, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

Language and translation[edit]

Looking at all the discussions, it seems to me that there are and have been many, many misunderstandings because of the fact that most native English/American speakers have read Rousseau in English, and, moreover, that the basis for commentaries is formed by secondary sources. Seeing Damrosch, who indeed wrote a fine, but definitely not complete biography of Rousseau, ignores the hundreds of biographies written in French in the first place, and all the others written in dozens of other languages. Checking your facts is done by turning firstly to primary sources, not secondary ones, and written in the original language - many things are lost in translation, or just translated wrongly - and then the secondary ones. Checking facts when writing or commenting foreign personas is made easy by going to the Wikipedia-page in the relevant language.


The article states mysteriously that Rousseau was 'afflicted with a painful and humiliating disease ...', seemingly starting in his youth (the text is in the article's Appreciation And Influence section). But the rest of the article seems to omit mention of any disease, illness, or sickness. Can anyone clarify? Bo99 (talk) 02:31, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

See this link. General Ization Talk 18:03, 6 January 2016 (UTC)
Extended content
Regarding this Diff page, and its Edit Summary claiming 'You can't insert the name of the malady, dysuria, into Durant's quote, because Durant didn't say it, and if you could, you'd need to provide a citation for the source of the information':
One can insert the name of the malady, dysuria, into Durant's quote in the article, though Durant didn't say the name, if one puts the insertion in square brackets. That's what square brackets mean, that the quoted author did not expressly say what's in the brackets.
And if one did make the insertion, one would not need to provide a citation for the source of the information, because it's not disputed by Durant or the source.
And if someone did dispute it, it would be productive for that someone to retain the insertion (as is or with massaging) and add the source.
Bo99 (talk) 14:23, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
As I think you saw, I added a link to the relevant Wikipedia article, and a reference to the source I cited, in an appropriate section of narrative within our article rather than within the quote. General Ization Talk 14:37, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Are you referring to this Diff page? (No, i had not seen that, or had not recognized it as relevant to this topic of solving the seeming mystery of the disease's name.) Bo99 (talk) 14:44, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Yes. General Ization Talk 14:47, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Thx4tht. That article text does not seem to resolve the article's mystery regarding what the disease was. That article text is talking about his Final Years, and merely mentions a vague 'urinary complaint', which might just be part of many persons' old age, and does not use the words disease, illness, sickness, etc. In contrast, the Durant quote in the article states that Rousseau had an actual disease, and implies that Rousseau had it starting in his youth and/or the main part of his life. Bo99 (talk) 14:53, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
I interpret the 12 years to which Durant refers ("left to wander for twelve years among alien cities and conflicting faiths") as being the period 1765-1777, which roughly corresponds to the last 12 years of Rousseau's life and his residence in Môtiers, Ile de St.-Pierre, Strasbourg, Paris, Calais, Dover, London and Staffordshire, hence his "Later years". Note our text: "Around this time [1767], Rousseau started developing feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and of a conspiracy against him", a condition which is referenced in the 1908 citation. I agree that if a reliable source can be found to show that he suffered in his early life as a result of the congenital defect mentioned at the source I cited, it should be added to the narrative about his earlier years, but the source I cited doesn't say that that is the case, and I don't see anything in the Durant quote that clearly does. The 1908 citation merely describes what its authors concluded was a congenital defect that would have likely been, at some point, both painful (in that it caused dysuria) and humiliating (we are, after all, talking about a defective penis). Given their references to his altered mental status and to premature senility, it seems reasonable to conclude that they at least are talking about the final years of his life. General Ization Talk 15:34, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
That's a lot of detail and inferring about periods of Rousseau's life. Here's a perhaps shorter approach: is there any dispute that the reference in the Durant quote to a painful and humiliating disease is a reference to dysuria (without anyone thinking about a particular period of life)? Bo99 (talk) 15:57, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Only Durant could say for certain if that is what he was referring to, and unfortunately he is unavailable. Given that, I suggest we not add any novel interpretation to his quote, unless you can find some scholarly, published analysis that does so. Anything else is synthesis. General Ization Talk 16:08, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Of course no one is talking about doing original analysis or research. Is there any dispute that the reference in the Durant quote to a painful and humiliating disease is a reference to dysuria? Bo99 (talk) 16:27, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Please reread my reply above. Unless Durant said he was referring to dysuria (or a reliable source is found that says so), the introduction of an interpretation that dysuria is what Durant meant, even in brackets, within his quote is the synthesis of multiple sources to arrive at a conclusion not stated at any of the sources, a form of WP:OR. The specific name of the medical issue is hardly critical to an understanding of Durant's quote (and actually a distraction from his fundamental point about Rousseau). General Ization Talk 16:33, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
The threshold question posed to you was and is: is there any dispute that the reference in the Durant quote to a painful and humiliating disease is a reference to dysuria? Would u answer the question if i presented u with Wikipedia text saying that u shd answer when a question is posed to you? Bo99 (talk) 16:44, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't mean to seem dense, and I do understand your thought process on this. The issue, however, is specific to Wikipedia. If you were writing a book on Rousseau, and wanted to express an opinion that Durant was referring to dysuria, you'd be more than justified in doing so. However, whatever we type here is in the voice of the encyclopedia, not your voice or my voice. Hence we are unable to publish inference or synthesis (about Rousseau, or about what Durant was referring to in writing about him) as if it was the encyclopedia's opinion, much less fact. So, disputed or not, we cannot insert words (even in brackets) into Durant's quote. General Ization Talk 16:49, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
As a more direct answer to your question: I, personally, don't dispute that it is probable that Durant was referring to dysuria. I do, however, dispute that verifiable evidence has presented that allows us to state (or even imply) that there is no reasonable doubt that Durant was referring to dysuria. Hence the introduction of the word dysuria into Durant's quote is, indeed, disputed by me, as a violation of Wikipedia's policies concerning verifiability and synthesis. General Ization Talk 17:07, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Is there any dispute that the reference in the Durant quote to a painful and humiliating disease is a reference, not to dysurea, but relating to the urinary system? Bo99 (talk) 17:12, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

Yes, since neither the phrase urinary system nor anything that could be regarded as a synonym for it appears in Durant's quote. General Ization Talk 17:16, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
If the article's mysterious claim that Rousseau had a painful and humiliating disease does not refer to the urinary system, what might that claim conceivably refer to? Bo99 (talk) 17:33, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
I clearly don't know what else Durant might have been referring to, but there are certainly other diseases that are painful and some that are at least potentially humiliating. (Crohn's disease? Chronic and severe flatulence? Severe hemorrhoids?) The absence of a specific, known alternative is not the same as the absence of reasonable doubt. Even if I thought he could be referring to nothing else, my thinking that would not permit me to express my thought as if it was a fact in the encyclopedia. General Ization Talk 17:40, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Do u insist on trying to censor the following?: one could solve the article's mysterious, un-encyclopedic claim that Rousseau had a painful and humiliating disease by stating anywhere that Rousseau appears to have suffered from an illness relating to the urinary system, with a 'source needed' tag. Bo99 (talk) 17:53, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
It's already there, with a source. And it isn't the article's (i.e., Wikipedia editors') claim you're describing as mysterious and unencyclopedic, but Durant's. Durant wasn't writing in Wikipedia, so wasn't required to cite independent sources within or adjacent to the text we quoted (he may well have cited them elsewhere, as he was a fine historian) or to avoid any ambiguity (as we are here). General Ization Talk 18:00, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
If the article is rejecting the cited source's claim about a humiliating disease, then the source should not be in the article. But the article is not rejecting the source's claim.
The other cited source uses the word 'disease' (near bottom of page). Is there any objection to changing the article's 'urinary complaint' to 'urinary disease'? Bo99 (talk) 18:15, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't have (and have never expressed) any objection to adjusting our language (that is, the language outside of quotes) to better agree with our sources. "Urinary disease" in this case is reasonably synonymous with "urinary complaint", especially given the diagnosis suggested in the 1908 citation. I have never said that the article was "rejecting the source's claim"; only that we cannot publish claims not made by our sources, whether they be about what ailed Rousseau or whether Durant meant something he did not write. General Ization Talk 18:23, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Then pls make the edit. I have to run for now. Bo99 (talk) 18:26, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Thx4 having made that edit. Still, the article has a childlike element, violating the basic writing rule of prioritization: loads of text, and then finally: 'Oh, and he had a painful and humiliating disease. The End.' So, do u have any objection to the addition, into some appropriate spot, of something like: 'At some point in Rousseau's infancy, youth, adulthood, or old age, he developed a painful and humiliating urinary disease.' The supporting source would be the 1908 Bruce Alexander source that is currently footnote 71. Bo99 (talk) 22:15, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
It seems odd to me to enumerate all the stages of his life and then suggest that some time, somewhere, he developed an illness (or perhaps more accurately began to suffer from what the 1908 citation suggests, based on analysis of his reported symptoms by others 125+ years later, was a congenital defect). Since this is clearly important to you, I think it would make far more sense for you to spend the time looking for a better source for details. Damrosch (2005), cited in the same section as the 1908 citation, seems to have more to say about Rousseau's health issues. I think I've pretty much spelled out all of the relevant policies above. General Ization Talk 23:37, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Omit needless words, especially regarding any Wikipedia rule, policy, essay, or style page. No such words u have spent your subjective opinion on have been elucidating. Answer questions posed to you, especially yes/no question like the one u did not answer just above. You don't dispute the noted childlike element of the article u have been active on. Start to care about that. I'll work within the limitation u suffer from: Do u have any objection to the addition, into some appropriate spot in the Biography, of something like: 'At some point in Rousseau's life he developed a painful and humiliating urinary disease.' Bo99 (talk) 00:00, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
I answered your question very clearly: you asked if I had an objection, and I offered one, with a suggestion to remedy it to boot. You should avoid the seeming arrogance of telling other editors here what they should and should not do, except in the context of Wikipedia policies, or what you think they do or do not, or should or should not, care about. It will not serve you well if you do this here. General Ization Talk 00:06, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
Omit needless words. Do u have any objection, supported by a cited Wikipedia guideline, to the addition, into some appropriate spot in the Biography, of something like: 'At some point in Rousseau's life he developed a painful and humiliating urinary disease.' Bo99 (talk) 00:13, 8 January 2016 (UTC)\
Yes. General Ization Talk 00:18, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
What's the support? Bo99 (talk) 00:32, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, already explained, won't do again. General Ization Talk 00:35, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
If u had cited any support on the relevant point, it wd serve your image and self-image to point to it. Bo99 (talk) 00:42, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
Both my image and self-image are fine, thank you. I think we're done here. General Ization Talk 01:14, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
Don't hide text. Care not just about your image and self-image. You don't dispute the noted childlike element of the article u have been active on. Bo99 (talk) 01:22, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

French or Swiss[edit]

Google: "Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a French" 5170 hits, "Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss" 10 hits.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:58, 22 February 2016 (UTC)

At the French wiki they define him as a "Francophone Genevan", I think that is a fine and accurate solution here also. I have made the change.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 20:02, 22 February 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Jean-Jacques Rousseau/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

needs inline citations plange 03:33, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Last edited at 03:33, 30 July 2006 (UTC). Substituted at 19:41, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

"Huguenot city"[edit]

Besançon Hugues (b. 1487 - d. 1532) was a member of the Grand Council of Geneva

Yes, and French Huguenots derive their name from him.

Geneva is in Switzerland and has been called variously Protestant Rome, Calvinist/Reformed faith capital. But Huguenot city? This is the first time I see such designation, as "Huguenot" is not used outside France or French Protestant diaspora that was created when Huguenots were forced out of the country.Ernio48 (talk) 06:32, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Reading this article one would not have any idea that Rousseau largely opposed the whole enlightenment project, and that he is considered an anti-enlightenment philosopher. Romanticism was his philosophy, and it directly contradicts the basic foundations of enlightenment. In fact this is probably the most important thing to know about Rousseau, yet it is missing from his page. Amazing! This is a egregious omission, and contributes to many misunderstandings I see about what enlightenment values were. I hope those active on this page will keep this in mind for future improvements. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mark Beronte (talkcontribs) 22:23, 3 February 2017 (UTC)