POLITICAL THEORY – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Modern life is deeply attracted to the
idea of progress in the 18th century as European societies became ever richer
and more technological, the conventional view was that mankind was firmly set on
a positive trajectory from savagery and ignorance toward prosperity and
civilization. But there was at least one eighteen century philosopher who
violently disagreed and who continues to have very provocative things to say to
our own era. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born to an educated watchmaker in Geneva in 1712.
when he was 10 his father got into a legal dispute and the family was forced
to flee Geneva. From that point on Rousseau’s life was marked by deep
instability and isolation. As a young man who went to Paris and there was exposed
to the opulence and luxury that was the order of the day in Austin regime Paris.
It was a far cry from his birthplace of Geneva a city that was sober and deeply
opposed to luxury goods. Then one day in 1749 he read a copy of a newspaper, The
Mercure de France that contained an advert for an essay on the subject of whether
recent advances in arts and sciences have contributed to what was called the
“purification of morals” in other words was the world getting better? Rousseau experienced something of an
epiphany. It struck him that civilization and progress had not in fact improved
people. Instead they’d exacted a terrible destructive influence on the morality of
human beings who had once been good. Rousseau took this insight and turned it
into the central thesis of what became his celebrated discourse on the Arts and
Sciences. His argument was simple: Individuals had once been good and happy
but as people had emerged from their pre social state and join society they had
become plagued by vice and sin. In this work and its twin, The Discourse on the
Origins and Foundations of Inequality, Rousseau went on to sketch what it would
have been like at the beginning of history, an idyllic period that he
called “the state of nature.” A long time ago when men and women lived in forests and had never entered a shop or read a newspa per the philosopher pictured people more
easily understanding their own minds and so being drawn toward
essential features of a satisfied life, a love of a family, respect for nature, an awe at the beauty of
the universe, curiosity about others and a taste for music and simple
entertainments. The “state of nature” was moral and guided by spontaneous pity,
empathy for others and their suffering. So what was it about civilization that
Rousseau thought had corrupted people and led to moral degeneracy. Rousseau
claimed that the march toward civilization had awakened in people and
unhealthy form of self-love, amour-propre, he called it, something that was
artificial and centered around pride, jealousy, and vanity. Rousseau argued that
this destructive form of self love had emerged as people had moved into cities
and there had begun to compare themselves to others and created their
identities solely by reference to their neighbors. Civilized people had stopped
thinking about what they wanted and they felt and merely imitated other people,
entering into ruinous competitions for status and money and losing sight of
their own sensations. Rousseau is forever associated with a term “noble savage” because it was his work
that describe the innocence and morality of our ancestors and contrasted it with
modern decadence. At the time Rousseau was writing, European Society was fascinated
by the plight the native North American tribes. Reports of Indian society drawn
up in the 16th century had once described the Indians as materially
simple but psychologically very rich and interesting. Communities with small,
close-knit, egalitariam, religious, playful, and martial.
However within a few decades of the arrival of the Europeans the status
system of Indian society have been revolutionized through contact with a
technology and luxury of European industry. Indians now longed for guns
alcohol, beads, and mirrors Rates of suicide and alcoholism had risen, communities were fracturing, and factions were squabbling. The modern world had
ruined the lives of people who’d once lived happily in the “state of nature.” Rousseau’s
interest in natural goodness made him very interested in the idea, though not
quite the reality, of children. In 1762 he wrote Émile, or On Education, perhaps the
most successful book ever written about how to raise children. Rousseau suggested that
children were born naturally good and that the key to raising them was therefore always to prevent their corruption by society. This idea was widely influential.
Parents who had before this time seen their children as wicked or at best as
blank slates now viewed them as founts of wisdom and tried to give them a
childhood full of play and visits to forests and lakes. Rousseau became the
inventor of child-centered education. He was also a great proponent of
breastfeeding, declaring “Let mothers deign to nurse their children, morals will reform themselves, nature’s sentiments will be awakened in every heart and the state will be repeopled.” It was, he knew, a bit of hyperbole but its spurred a
wave of breastfeeding even among the wealthy who had long disdained the practice.
Artists rushed to paint and honor the new vogue for breastfeeding. Because Rousseau so
closely valued human beings in their original state, it followed that in the
novels he wrote, Rousseau also constantly celebrated intense feelings rather than
great deeds or social events. In his novel, Julie, written in 1761, Roussseau depicted
the excitement and anguish of an upper-class women caught in a love
triangle between her sensitive tutor and her boring but socially sanctioned
aristocratic match. Rousseau’s contemporaries might have seen Julie as
unwise and her feelings as a passing fancy, but Rousseau painted her love in a higher light. He urged us to see its grandeur, depth and honor. In his writings about
his own life, Rousseau was similarly romantic or, what one
might unkindly call, self-absorbed. In his famous Confessions, one of the first ever
autobiographies, Rousseau spend pages exploring his inner life: How frustrating
he found shopping, the surprising feeling of tenderness for his ex’s new partner, or
the joys of gardening.To him, these weren’t trivial or self-absorbed
topics, they were part of an important task: to show is like on the inside. “I have
conceived of a new genre of service to render to man,” he boasted, “to offer them
the faithful image of one amongst them in order for them to learn to know
themselves. Rousseau died in 1778 age 66. His reputation has continued to grow. He was
from beyond the grave one of the heroes of the French
Fevolution and he became an icon to a great many artists and writers of the
19th century. Rousseau can be considered as one of the founding figures of what we
now know as the Romantic Movement, an ideology responsible for valuing the
primitive over the civilized, the child over the adult

100 Replies to “POLITICAL THEORY – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  1. So the original hippy in a sense, oh yea can any one explain to me the beef with him and Voltaire, didn't seem like Voltaire was to fond of this primitive philosophy.

  2. Rousseau does not take into account the competition and struggle in nature. Most obviously and undeniably, primitive human lifespan is short and early humans lived with great pain due to disease and lack of good medical knowledge and technology. And are little children really born "good"? Infant babies have less empathy than adults, and don't forget that genes that are responsible for our temperance and inclination to violence is hereditary. Of course Rousseau would not have known these as he is born before we had such discoveries and insights.

  3. The myth of the noble savage .The native Americans were more warning then the westren .That invaded their lands whether or not we could even claim that they were more contrect in their more primitive living conditions sayeps nothing to capse….
    4 years ago

  4. The primitive state sounds similar to the state of nature. People who say those states are innocent and preferable to society have clearly never seen how animals interact in nature.

  5. All children are evil as a proof they speak in diabolic tongues until they are converted by the good nature of adults !
    So this noble savage thinks he can get away with being a lover to some other mans wife but he recommends breast feeding in order to create a knit family …that's creepy indeed!
    Why is there no mention of The Social Contract,is that to controversial of a subject to be mentioned in the 21 century?
    Who are those figures at the 6:57, i only recognize Emerson and i now feel the need to study the rest of them!
    I very much thank you for your kind reply, dear sir…

  6. Wow, just gloss over the founder of Socialism who inspired the French Revolution and its subsequent Reign of Terror…

    Kinda missed the part about Rousseau’s conviction that a man’s “liberty” was completely circumscribed by the nerds of the State and that one was only “free” to speak… until the State DECIDED what was “best” for the people… then – to speak against the State – was to be suppressed… to the pain of DEATH! Doctor guillotine may have invented the machine but Rousseau created the Socialist Secularist RATIONALE for using it to purge society of people who are not of any use to the State.

  7. Vasco Da Gama was an asshole, should have left India alone. Materially simple and psychologically rich. 😀

  8. The political science students of today are lucky to have such videos. If I had these in my time I would have fooking got A grades without having to spend hours reading thick books that written in such a way that is hard to understand today.

  9. The state of Nature= High infant mortality, life expectancy of 35 years, zero care for mentally and physically disabled…sounds like paradise

  10. What I agree with Rousseau on: Mothers should be allowed to breast feed their infants
    What I disagree with Rousseau on: Everything else he had to say

  11. Ahh yes, let's just leave out The Social Contract, his most important work where he imagines an ideal society that is build on complete obedience. To "ensure freedom", everyone is supposed to give up their freedom to form a collectivist, totalitarian state, lead by the Grand Legistlateur that has the duty to destroy dissidents. The Jacobins and their rule of terror was hugely influenced by Rousseau. But all of that would not fit your narrative, would it?

  12. Rousseau was not intelligent at all. His entire premise that uncivilized people (tribal peoples that had no written language, education, historical knowledge etc,) were peaceful and intelligent is incredibly false and all written accounts of tribal ethnic groups are proof of this. Look at what Julius Ceaser wrote of tribal Celtic people or Tribal Germanic people especially. They were Barbarians in the truest sense of the word. Primitive, ignorant, and incredibly violent and war-like.

  13. The concept of the "Noble Savage" is cute, but devoid of reality.  Rousseau got away with thinking this way because he never understood what was really going on in the Americas before the white man showed up.

  14. I'd heard the Rousseau is the genesis of all the worst ideas being put forth in the modern world, this video convinced me..

  15. Oh, what's so great about progress? It's a violent, penetrative act that scars whatever it reforms. What you call progress, I call the rape of the natural law.

  16. That breastfeeding bit was interesting. I didn't realise that Rousseau had promoted it. It's always best to breastfeed, whenever possible. …Makes you wonder how he managed to be such an awful parent himself.

  17. Great on the discourses, not much is said about them, but how do you expect to teach people about Rousseau without talking about the Social Contract?

  18. Rousseau is like your aunt who talks about how safe, happy, and morally upright America was in the 1950’s, ignoring all of the issues of the time.

  19. Youtube: "This video may be inappropriate for some users."

    I guess the AI filters don't much care for political philosophy?

  20. If Rousseau's "Confessions" (AD 1782) is one of the first autobiographies, then what is Augustine's "Confessions" (AD 400).

  21. All Rousseau had to do was travel to one of the thousands of pre-technology Stone Age cultures that existed in his own time to realize his idealized notions about the 'noble savage' were crap, assuming he survived the experience without being eaten.

  22. This is probably the worst video ever on Rousseau. The narrator mentioned everything about Rousseau but his most important and enduring idea: Social Contract. Either the narrator made a mistake in not mentioning it or did it deliberately for reasons I can't think of at the moment. And I do believe that this channel is definitely trying to put a spin of its own on various philosophers which they may arguably have the right to do so but is quite disingenuous and misleading.

  23. I blame Rouseau now. For all the screwed up idealistic ideologies that exist today. Especially in education. He was an anarchist in disguise. He promotes anarchy, selfishness and lack of responsibility. he seduced too many with his ideas.

  24. I had no idea that in the 18th century, the aristocracy and maybe the middle class were so distanced from "warmth" in their lifestyle (I had no idea that it was common for rich moms not to breastfeed their babies)! His ideas were great, because it is true that technology and urban life can distract people from the simple beauty of life.

  25. I stand corrected, but didn't this 'great man', who professed a love of nature and family a hypocrite? I have read that he dumped his illegitimate children at the doorstep at government orphanages , which were a guaranteed death sentence at the time. ref. Paul Johnson ~ The Intellectuals.

  26. Had a pop quiz on this guy today. I went into the bathroom and watched this video. Took the quiz and got an A-. Would've gotten an A if you discussed the social contract 😛

  27. Yet another Troglodite! Humans are social animals. Our very survival depends upon membership, and interaction within our contemporary culture, and society! All this "Back to Nature" stuff is nonsense, unless it restricts itself to things like Yoga, diet, and jogging! His "State of Nature" is utter fantasy.

  28. rousseau was constantly was with women he never married, his 5 kids were born out of wedlock. all 5 kids died in orphanages cuz he abandoned all his kids. his name is used by govt cuz he was evil. his ideologies are convoluted n here to reengineer society. reading ppl like rousseau has brought art the moral demise of western countries. he was a reprobate in his time and even by current studs he should be denigrated .

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