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I think I now understand why Jean-Jacques Rousseau was such an ungrateful little $%@*!

October 12, 2015

As I prepare to teach Rousseau again…



Someone once said that if all we knew about Jesus Christ was what his enemies said about him, then he would still be the greatest man who ever lived.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wasn’t Jesus.  In fact, if all we knew about Jean-Jacques Rousseau was what he said about himself – speaking, as it were, in his own defense, then he would still be a deeply creepy and unsavoury individual.

Fact is, that one of the most most dazzling and influential imaginations of the eighteenth-century is actually at the very very bottom of my list of philosophers whom I’d ever let babysit my kid.

In Confessions as well as Reveries of a Solitary Walker, we get an extraordinary self-portrait of a paranoid ingrate.  If anyone ever tried to extend a hand of friendship, he’d end up biting that hand.  Biting hands that fed him led to virtually every friend and patron…

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