Jean Jacques Rousseau

[Jean Jacques Rousseau] Franco-Swiss philosopher and writer. Born on 28 June 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland; died on 2 July 1778 in Ermenonville, France. His childhood was neglected, and at the age of 16 he ran away and began those wanderings which are characteristic of his life. At Annecy he was received by Mme. de Warens, who sent him to Turin, where he became a Catholic. After visiting Lyons, Freiburg, Geneva, Berne, and Paris, he returned to Mme. de Warens's home, "Les Charmettes," where he stayed about six years. He went again to Lyons as private tutor, then to Paris, where he met Diderot and the Encyclopedists. Having spent a year in Vellice as secretary to the French ambassador, he came back to Paris, wrote music, and began his liaison with Therese le Vasseur, a barmaid, by whom he had five children, consigning all of them to a foundling asylum. Later he retired to a cottage in the forest of Montmorency, as the guest of Mme. d'Epinay. Obliged to hide after the publication of Emile, he sought refuge in Switzerland, in England, and in Paris, everywhere obsessed by the delusion of persecution. Finally M. de Girardin offered him shelter at his Chateau of Ermenonyille, where he died. His chief works are: The Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, in which he, assails reason and science; the Discourse on the origin of inequality among men, in which he develops his favorite theory that man is by nature good and virtuous but is depraved by society; the Social Contract, which became the gospel of the Revolution; Emile, in which he develops his theories on education, and which contains, alongside of some excellent ideas, many utopian views and very grave errors; the New Heloise, a novel in which he preaches a return to the natural state; and the famous Confessions, in which imagination plays such a part that they are unreliable as an autobiography. The influence of Rousseau has been enormous in philosophy, in politics, in religion, and in literature. He paved the way for the Romantic School and the lyricism of the 19th century, prepared the revival of religious sentiment, and created a new literary style by which he is the forerunner of Chateaubriand and Lamartine. He was also the creator of a new false philosophy which he calls Instinctivism, and proclaimed the sacredness of sensual passion; he, the apostle of natural religion, was the enemy of all positive religion, and is responsible for some of the most dangerous social and political errors of the present time.

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