Jean Jacques Rousseau

J J Rousseau

Was a Francophone Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of the 18th century. His political philosophy influenced the Enlightenment in France and across Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the overall development of modern political and educational thought.

Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland in a small bourgeois family. Jean-Jacques father and grandfather had been watchmakers. The family was originally from Paris. At the time of his birth he lost his mother, which led him to believe that his coming into the world was accompanied by misfortune. “I claimed the life of my mother and my birth was the first of my misfortunes.”, he said. From his father he inherited the love for reading.

In 1743, Jean-Jacques becomes secretary of the French ambassador to the Republic of Venice and 2 years later, Rousseau meets Thérèse Levasseur at a hotel in Paris, where she was working as a housekeeper. He will remain with her until his death.

In 1754, Rousseau returns to Geneva, where he reacquires his citizenship and re-enters the Calvinist community. The Academy of Dijon refuses to award him a second essay on the origin of inequality. In 1759, the “Encyclopédie” is formally prohibited. Rousseau’s relations with other encyclopedistsare deteriorating. Two years later, he publishes“Julie” or the “La Nouvelle Héloïse”, an epistolary novel, which will be of a great success. Then, two of the most important books of Rousseau appear: “The Social Contract” and “Emile”, a pedagogic novel. He then writes a draft for a constitution of Corsica. Following vehement criticism of the two books, which culminated by being banned in France and Geneva, Rousseau is forced to flee.

Rousseau arrives in England in 1766 at the invitation of David Hume. Jean-Jacques begins to show signs of mental instability. Hume has the feeling that all is part of a conspiracy aimed to kill him. Only a year later, he returned to France under a false name. Officially, he was not allowed entry into the kingdom until 1770, after the intervention of some friends besides the King.Back in Paris, Rousseau begins to organize private readings of the Confessions. Outraged, Madam d’Epinay intervenes successfully to the police, as a result, the respective readings are prohibited. He then starts to write “Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne”.

In 1777, his health is worsening, and the relationships with his friends are affected. He then starts to write obsessive texts accusing others and justifying himself: “Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques” and “Muses of a Lone Wanderer”. Jean-Jacques Rousseau dies on the 2nd of July 1778 at Ermenonville, on Marquis de Giradin’s domain who invited him to sit at him. Rousseau was buried on an artificial island in the lake area. In 1794, his remains were taken to the Pantheon, where they rest today.

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