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The Philosophes.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Anthony Cantor

The Philosophes: Rousseau J. J. Rousseau (1712-1778) Emile (1762) The Social Contract (1762) -Rousseau wrote the Social Contract & put forth ideas about the nature of human civilization & his conclusions helped define the period of the revolution as well as broke control of world of reason & rationalism, driven by feeling & sentiment (Romantic movement) of all statesmen, none had the influence of Rousseau; -Voltaire offered v. little that was concrete (didn’t offer alternative, only pointed out what was wrong) he wasn’t really a deep thinker, lacked mature philosophy that would seriously challenge ancien regime (he failed to realize that most people who weren’t as gifted as him needed structure) -Montesquieu influenced the enlightened elite, not really a prophet of the future; he was a great lord, thought like a traditional aristocrat (Spirit.. was too conservative), world was of a cold rationalism seen from above, he wanted to return to a society he believed had existed before (he didn’t want to reconstruct a whole new society w/ new principles) rationalist conservatives don’t usually have huge followings (people don’t fight for “moderation”/ ”rationalism”), ex. Montesquieu was too rational & elitist for a revolution -the influence of these people were great on the established classes; natural audience were the literate, well-off, leisured bourgeoisie, but they wanted a diff. kind of change than those below them -Rousseau was v. dramatic revolutionary, the Social Contract became bible/manual of the revolution ”man is born free but is everywhere in chains”: workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains -his character tended to reflect his ideas: man cut off from society, his values, principles & practices (criticized these from without while living within)suffered from many psychological disorders, helped him see society as corrupt in every way & looked for one in which he can become happy -born 1712 in Geneva (of John Calvin), tightly-knit community, attempted to turn state into vehicle for heavenly Jerusalem (it was Calvin’s attempt to build a perfect society by conforming to absolute rules of God)Rousseau believed you could create ideal world provided you would do what was necessary -saw the world as one of continuous challenge, inherited chip on his shoulder from his father, Isaac, who read the classics: Rousseau was exposed to a world of ideas -his personality indicated he had a disconnect w/ his emotional life: had series of older mistresses who paid for his way in life, but he had 5 children & gave them all up for adoption (strange idea of society) emotional cripple: incapable of accepting help/friendship/love & turned on his friends b/c he was paranoid that they were helping him for their own purposes (incapable of personal commitment) explains why he was willing to destroy society b/c he had not connection to it -when Isaac decided to fight a duel in Geneva (illegally), he had to get out of town quickly, so he apprenticed Rousseau to an engraver, but he ran away, wandered south of Duchy of Savoy & allowed himself to be picked up by an aristocratic widow, who would pick up Protestants to convert them to Catholicism & Rousseau lived w/ her for many years as a lover, but she decided he needed an appropriate career, so she apprenticed him to a musical copyist, but he didn’t practice this & became a successful composer of operas & a music critic in Paris -Rousseau then decided he’d continue his professional, personal & psychological development 1748: Academy of Dijon had a national essay competition in response to the question about whether recent advances in science & art had corrupted/purified the morals of France Rousseau thought about competition, & saw the answer w/ incredible clarity (was on his way to visit Diderot at the time, who convinced him idea was brilliant that he had to enter: he won) Rousseau then realized the world could be changed, Enlightenment: words can change the world; can be the engine of change (he concluded that art & science had corrupted mankind b/c they destroyed our natural selves; mankind in a state of nature was content & perfect; society was instrument for mankind’s corruption & enslavement) -Diderot was in prison at the time, he said Rousseau’s ideas were incredibleRousseau realized he had a power, insight & an idea, he became popular of the salon & was invited to take part in such discussions a woman he met there was Madame Depine~, converted him back to Calvinism, put him in one of her estates & he was happy: he hated social gatherings (ex. salons), uncomfortable in any environment where he had to dress up, never really had any manners, but ladies were good to him After 1756: Depine realized he was happy & let him stay there for a few years, while he wrote 3 most influential books, including Social Contract -Emile is a weird novel that brought violent reaction; was revolutionary b/c it’s a study of childhood; closer we are to natural instincts, the less corrupted by society we are, the happier & freer we will be (said goal of education should be to encourage the natural instincts of children; if anything should help in development in child should be knowledge & nature)earlier educators took opposite view, that society had to restrict these instincts moral sense rather than facts (child character was called Emile) R: only book everyone should know was Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (natural history was more important that human history: every child must be taught a manual trade & must always practice tha
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