Lecture 2.doc

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2 Apr 2012

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Lecture 2: 09/22/10
The Dover translation of Hegel is not the best
Tutorials start next week
Rousseau (1717-1778)
Contradictions/tensions in Rousseau’s text reflect the same of the 18th century
He is the father of romanticism to some and the father of enlightenment to others
In our examination of Rousseau, we will contrast Rousseau the romantic to Rousseau
the enlightenment thinker
We will read his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality is a critique of the
He is the father of modern democracy to some and the father of modern
totalitarianism to others
His Life
His life is very relevant to his writings (his life, in a word, was a mess—many aspects
of his life are reflected in his work)
He was very famous during his time; was the most read after Voltaire; significant as a
great thinker; did not come from a rich/noble background; had no formal education,
however wanted an intellectual career
Rousseau had a patron (female) who paid him to write—he preferred women patrons
At the end of his life he wrote The Confessions, a tell-all memoire which reveals the
unconventionalities of his life; it is apparent that he was not held back by social
At the age of 30, Rousseau decides that he would move to Paris to make his fortune
- A great lover of music (later to be a composer), Rousseau created a new form
of musical notation which he hoped would replace the conventional form
This endeavor proved to be a failure but helped him make his move into intellectual
circles (he was asked to write about music)
He got into a debate about music appreciation – what is the heart of music? Is it a
harmony or a melody?
a) Enlightenment thinkers say harmony (the way in which disparate notes are
logically put together; the mathematical aspect of music) is where the beauty
lay. This is music at the conceptual level: how notes fit together; underscores
the idea of a universe where every fits and is rational: a coherent system.
b) Romantics say that music is nor about the cohesion of notes (the harmony) but
what music looks like holistically; the beauty of music is in the feelings it gives
us: how it grips our hearts
Rousseau argued the romantic side of the debate and this largely shaped the circles
he ran with; they saw that heart, emotion and passion were central for him (these are
not enlightenment ideals)
Rousseau then entered into an essay competition, the question was: have the
advances in the arts and science served to corrupt or purify society?
Rousseau won the competition, arguing that “progress leads to a corruption in
morals”; i.e. luxury has a corrupting effect
The 18th century idea of civility involved manners, politeness, etc. society was
extremely formal
Rousseau argued against this idea of civility, “no, why are we being governed by
these barriers of morals? We will lose our authenticity.
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