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Rousseau, the “self-taught genius”
History & Masterpieces

Rousseau, the “self-taught genius”

Tuesday, 29 May 2012
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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2 min read

So much has been written about Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), it would be unrealistic to try to give even a glimpse. These two portraits offer some insight into ideas which have endured the centuries.

“Writer, philosopher, musician, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a self-taught polymath and a man of genius. His works of literature, philosophy and music reveal an exceptional being, both a precursor of Romanticism and the first theoretician of democracy. An advocate of active education, he invented a new musical notation. He lived his life with rare intensity and dared to choose freedom. Never afraid to lay himself open to criticism, he was persecuted, exiled, and experienced sadness interspersed with moments of happiness, often in contact with Nature.”

From www.aidh.org, a public information site for the promotion of human rights and fundamental liberties.

“We are fascinated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both the man and his work. For many, he is at the centre of our essential values of liberty and equality, the French Revolution, the great themes of literature and the humanities. None better than Rousseau announced times to come. He is the only thinker who, from the fiction of the impossible, created the possible. His dream produced a new world. If Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the object of such contradictory judgements, it is because he took such a resolutely innovative position in each of the areas he addressed.

At the height of the eighteenth century, he pleaded in favour of the deprived and the disinherited; he affirmed that education should begin with the character and must seek to form individuals more than minds; he excelled at tracking the strategies of desire; he proclaimed sovereignty one and indivisible; he condemned the theatre-spectacle for isolating individuals; he advocated respect for Nature and warned against the dangers of the theory of progress. Nothing escaped his investigation, as the immensity of his oeuvre shows. Yet so much incomprehension and misunderstanding surrounds the man and his work! As Henri Bergson said: “Rousseau more than any other is the man everyone talks about yet nobody knows.”

From www.memo.fr

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