Rousseau, Jean-Jacques

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques
(1712–78)
   Philosopher.
   Rousseau was born in Geneva into a Calvinist family, but he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1728. He moved to Paris in 1742 where he became a member of the ‘philosophe’ circle and led a somewhat unconventional private life. Then, in 1754, he returned to both Geneva and Protestantism and, two years later, he moved to Montmorency.
   He had already come to the attention of the public with his essay Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts. In 1761 he published Julie ou la Nouvelle Heloïse, which caused a sensation since he condemned the artificial nature of society and advocated a natural religion based on reason and the beauties of nature. The following year, he produced Emile ou de l’Education in which he took up a gentle Deist position. Finally, his Du Contrat Social recommended that the laws of a country should express the general will of the people. He also rejected all forms of religious intolerance and suggested that some sort of civil religion was necessary to ensure social stability. These works were put on the Index in 1762. Rousseau spent the next few years wandering through Europe (for a time he stayed with David hume). His Confessions were published in 1772. Rousseau’s ideas became hugely influential after his death and his political works were used by the French and the German Revolutionaries. With his emphasis on subjectivism, he is regarded as an important forerunner of Romanticism and, by emphasising the role of human reason in religion and in his advocacy of tolerance, he must be seen as anticipating modern liberal humanism.
   R. Grimsley, Rousseau and the Religious Quest (1968);
   T. McFarland, Romanticism and the Heritage of Rousseau (1995);
   M. Viroli, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and theWell-Ordered Society’ (1988);
   R. Wokler, Rousseau (1995).

Who’s Who in Christianity . 2014.

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