Rousseau 1712 - 1778 (66)

What wisdom can you find greater than kindness?



“I believed that I was approaching the end of my days without having tasted to the full any of the pleasures for which my heart thirsted...without having ever tasted that passion which, through lack of an object, was always suppressed. ...The impossibility of attaining the real persons precipitated me into the land of chimeras; and seeing nothing that existed worthy of my exalted feelings, I fostered them in an ideal world which my creative imagination soon peopled with beings after my own heart.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712- 1778) was a philosopher, writer, educator and political theorist. Born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva, his father was a watchmaker, his mother died nine days after his birth. He never went to school, but his father taught him to read and write, using various romance novels of the time and Plutarch's "Parallel Lives". At the age of 10 his father clashed with a strong family in the city and was forced into self-exile leaving his 2 sons to their uncle. Uncle placed Jean Jacques first as a scribe and later as an apprentice engraver. When he turned 16, he left Geneva and wandered to Switzerland and France earning a living doing whatever job could find. He was associated at this time with Madame de Varennes, who influenced his intellectual formation, and in 1740 he worked for a time as a teacher. In 1741 he settled in Paris and in years 1743-1744 became the secretary of the French commissioner in Venice. He returned in 1744 to Paris where he collaborated on the writing of the "Encyclopedia".

From 1742 he had begun to write essays on music, of which he was self-taught. In 1745 he became associated with Teresa, a young innkeeper, with whom he would cohabit at times and with whom he would have 5 children whom he gave to institutions to raise. In 1749 he wrote for the Encyclopedia all the articles related to music while in 1750 he won the first prize in a competition of the Dijon Academy with his work entitled Thesis. In this he argued that progress led to corruption and degeneration. He provoked intense discussions about his revolution and two years later he wrote an opera that was quite successful. In 1756 he settled in the Hermitage, in the farmhouse of Madame d'Epinae, to devote himself to writing. In 1757 he cooled down with her and went to stay with a friend near Paris.

The next five years were the most creative of his life, culminating in his two most famous and important works published in the same year, 1762. These are "Emile, or On Education and "The social contract". Both provoked strong reactions. The first was dismissed by the archbishop as he expressed the view that man does not need mediators in his relationship with the Divine, the second was thrown into the fire as he wrote about equality and equity, and for both he was convicted by a Paris court and forced to go through the next years persecuted and hidden under false names in small provincial towns and cottages. In 1765 he went to England at the invitation of the philosopher David Hume but soon came into conflict with him and returned to Switzerland, to live as a wanderer and persecuted. The only one who still attended him was Teresa, with whom he legalized their relationship after so many years. Among the other writings of this period, "Confessions" stands out as a series of dialogues with itself. In 1778 he retired to the estate of a marquis admirer, died there, suddenly, on July 2, 1778. Rousseau has been recognized as one of the most important writers of the French language, his works inspired the French Revolution and changed the way of thinking in his time.