Rousseau

Rousseau

Rousseau

Rousseau

Synopsis

In this superb introduction, Nicholas Dent covers the whole of Rousseau's thought. Beginning with a helpful overview of Rousseau's life and works, he introduces and assesses Rousseau's central ideas and arguments. These include the corruption of modern civilization, the state of nature, his famous theories of amour de soi and amour propre, education, and his famous work Emile. He gives particular attention to Rousseau's theories of democracy and freedom found in his most celebrated work, The Social Contract, and explains what Rousseau meant by the 'general will'.

Excerpt

Although I have tried in this book to do justice to most aspects of Rousseau’s work, I should make it clear – as will no doubt be plain enough anyway from the body of the text – that I am more at home dealing with arguments and evaluating their cogency than I am with the perhaps more complex and subtle techniques of literary criticism and interpretation. I am conscious that this may have led to some imbalance, even though I tried to correct this.

Increasingly many writers on Rousseau argue for a real continuity of vision and intent between what would ordinarily be classified as his central philosophical works, such as the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Émile and The Social Contract, and his literary and autobiographical works, again as ordinarily classified, such as Julie (or La Nouvelle Héloïse) and The Confessions. That there are commonalities of theme and concern is undeniable; it would be more remarkable if this were not so. But for myself I have some difficulty in seeing them as all of a piece as components in one comprehensive edifice. I am inclined to agree with Iris Murdoch, in her essay ‘Literature and Philosophy’, in thinking that the aims and salient characteristics of philosophy and of literature are markedly different. But whether or not this is right, I must acknowledge the hesitancy I experience in trying to move freely between these modes and in treating the works as being on a par. I have written elsewhere on Rousseau, and have from time to time drawn on this material for this present book. But at no point do I rely on knowledge of this other work.

I have received much valued personal support from Professor . . .

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