Jean-Jacques Rousseau: A Study in Self-Awareness

Excerpt

Unlike many previous studies of Rousseau, this book is not intended primarily as a discussion of his 'psychology' or 'philosophy', for its main object is to trace the development of his self-awareness as it gradually emerges from the correspondence and personal writings. What is kept constantly in view is Rousseau's effort to treat his personality as a subject of conscious and deliberate reflection, and I have tried to follow his at first hesitant and uncertain, and then his more confident and explicit desire to see himself as a certain kind of person, and ultimately as one who was prepared to relate this knowledge to the specific task of self-realization. That this approach to Rousseau is permissible will already be apparent from the personal writings themselves, although these are merely the culmination of a long process of psychological development. At first, the lure of ambition had inspired him with more worldly feelings, while the subsequent sense of literary vocation had caused him to devote his energies to didactic ends, but as he grew older, he became increasingly aware of himself as a man who was confronted by the need to resolve certain enigmatic and contradictory traits in his own character. It is with this specific problem of Rousseau's personal existence--and especially with his determined efforts to clarify its meaning through the medium of writing--that the present study is mainly concerned.

Although this brief introduction cannot hope to deal adequately with all the complex problems involved in such an undertaking--for an adequate discussion of methodological principles would require a volume at least as large as the one now devoted to Rousseau himself--a few preliminary indications may help to eliminate possible doubts and misunderstandings about the nature of the present inquiry. In the first place, I should like to emphasize that its principal concern is with the implications of the literary evidence itself rather than with any attempt to apply to Rousseau's case some preconceived notion of personality and consciousness; the initial task has been to describe as accurately as possible the course of his personal development and to make a careful examination of the various writings which still allow us to follow the main stages of that evolution. At the same time, it has to be recognized . . .

Additional information

Contributors:
Includes content by:
  • R. G.
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Cardiff, Wales
Publication year:
  • 1961

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