Who Was Jean-Jacques Rousseau?

Have you ever stopped to consider whose works popularized romance novels? Do you know France is called the city of romance? Do you know the personality behind these events? Well, he is no other than Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French philosopher, political thinker and writer. If you like to know more about this great thinker, then read on.

Early Life

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland. He lost his mother Suzanne Bernard few days after he was born. His father Isaac Rousseau was an unsuccessful watchmaker who abandoned him in 1722 (at the age of 10) to avoid imprisonment. As a result, his aunt and uncle raised him.

He became an engraver’s apprentice at the age of 13. Three years later, he ran away to work as a secretary and companion to the rich and charitable Madame Louise de Warens. This woman had an unfathomable influence on Jean-Jacques’ life, education and works. And she later became his lover.

Adult Life

In 1742, Rousseau moved to Paris; he survived as a political secretary, music teacher and music copyist there. A few years later, he won first prize in an essay competition. In 1761, Rousseau published his romantic novel, “Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse” (“Julie, or The New Heloise”) which became one of the best-selling fictional works of the century. The novel led to the development of Romanticism.

He spent his last years out of public glare but never stopped writing. On the July 2, 1778, Rousseau died of hemorrhage.

Philosophical Beliefs

Rousseau’s ideologies include the following:

  • Political philosophy: Rousseau is of the opinion that a state must be legitimate and that it must be guided by the “general will” of its members.
  • Language: He favors language as a better means of communication instead of gestures. This is because unlike gesture, language permits the communication of passions.
  • Education: Rousseau believed that a child could learn what is right or wrong by experiencing the consequences of his or her action instead of being subjected to physical punishment.
  • Religion: He asserted that true followers of Jesus would not make good citizens. He also repudiated the doctrine of original sin.

Contributions

Great achievements of Rousseau include the following:

  • French revolution: Rousseau’s idea of General Will was what Robespierre and Saint-Just leveraged during the Reign of Terror.
  • The American effect: Rousseau wields an enormous influence on the American founder, Thomas Jefferson. The Rousseau’s idea of “general will” was parallel to the US Constitution Framers’ concept of the “general welfare.”
  • Education: His theory of education led to a more permissive and psychologically oriented method of child care.
  • Literature: His novel resulted in the development of romanticism in the 19th

Famous Quotations

  • “Man was born free and everywhere he is in chains.”

Bottom Line

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s legacy lives on either in politics, education, music, philosophy or literature, the man left an indelible mark for us to see.

Photo Credit: Biography