Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Moralist

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Moralist

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Moralist

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Moralist

Excerpt

As the original Preface mentioned, the studies for this book began in 1914. That was two years after the bicentenary of Rousseau's birth when scholars took occasion to review his work as a whole and made fresh appraisals of its significance for the modern world. There were discussions in one form or another of "the problem" of Rousseau, which was that of the "unity" of his thought. A signal contribution was the article of G. Lanson on that subject of unity to the Annales de la Société Jean-Jacques Rousseau for 1912. With this in mind I opened the Preface with the quotation from Plato Republic which spoke of the challenge to push through to truth whenever contradictions seemed to obscure or stand in the way of unity in thought. The element of unity which I had perceived after my studies was the motif expressed in the characterization of Rousseau as "the moralist."

In pursuing this moral theme and intention through Rousseau's writings I made use at all times of biography as an indispensable aid to understanding. But in Rousseau's case the biography was very largely supplied by his own works of autobiography, notably in such writings as Rousseau Juge de Jean- Jacques, the Confessions and the Rêveries. However, there was newly available besides those published writings a very rich and still unexplored source of new light upon both the man and the author which was of inestimable value to me as well as being of absorbing intrinsic interest, viz., the correspondence published in the twenty volumes of the Correspondance générale de J.-J. Rousseau, edited by Pierre-Paul Plan from the materials assembled and edited by Th. Dufour (1924- 34). The letters in that collection seemed to me more truly . . .

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