Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Image from damon-young.blogspot.com

There have been many, many noteworthy individuals who have appeared at momentous times throughout history to bring forth great wisdom and to stand courageously against the dark forces of tyranny and oppression. With their efforts, they bestowed upon humanity the immeasurable gift of enlightenment.
To these brave, heroic and selfless individuals, we owe a deep debt of gratitude for their unwavering service to the evolution of consciousness and ultimately, to mankind.
Many of these individuals paid the ultimate price by sacrificing their lives in service to others, as they were either persecuted, imprisoned, or outright murdered, for attempting to reveal the truth to the masses.
It is interesting to note that the people who are most often associated with the discoveries that led directly to the advancement of the human race, appeared during a period of time known as the Age of Enlightenment. These were individuals such as Rene Descartes, Sir Isaac Newton, Immanuel Kant, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Galileo, John Locke, and Adam Smith who contributed exponentially to the awakening of consciousness. And more often than not, it was The Vatican that tried vainly to suppress their discoveries and their wisdom.
Through his writings and his philosophy, Jean-Jacques Rousseau fermented and cultivated the French Revolution that allowed the people of France to rid themselves of the decadent monarchies for good. France has remained an independent state to this day and Rosseau must be credited for understanding the vital importance of human liberty and freedom and inspiring others to achieve it.
(By Scott Mowry at miraclesandinspiration.com)
For much, Jean-Jacques Rousseau is in the center of the values essential with our world: ideas of freedom, equality, the French revolution, the broad topics of the literature and the social sciences. Nothing escapes its investigation, the vastness of its work testifies some.
Written in often difficult circumstances, the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau maintain a complex relationship to philosophy the eighteenth century. Like its more famous contemporaries, Rousseau shows an enthusiastic defender of the religious tolerance and freedom of thought. It also attacks the irreligion of the philosophers as to the ideology of progress.
(From memo.fr)

Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1753)
Maurice Quentin de la Tour
From Lehrman American Studies Center at ISI

In his early writing, Rousseau contended that man is essentially good, a "noble savage" when in the "state of nature" (the state of all the other animals, and the condition man was in before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as "articficial" and "corrupt" and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man.
Rousseau's essay, "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences" (1762), argued that the advancement of art and science had not been beneficial to mankind. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful, and crushed individual liberty. He concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of sincere friendship, replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion.
Rousseau was one of the first modern writers to seriously attack the institution of private property, and therefore is considered a forebear of modern socialism and Communism. Rousseau also questioned the assumption that the will of the majority is always correct. He argued that the goal of government should be to secure freedom, equality, and justice for all within the state, regardless of the will of the majority.
One of the primary principles of Rousseau's political philosophy is that politics and morality should not be separated. When a state fails to act in a moral fashion, it ceases to function in the proper manner and ceases to exert genuine authority over the individual. The second important principle is freedom, which the state is created to preserve.
Rousseau's ideas about education have profoundly influenced modern educational theory. He minimizes the importance of book learning, and recommends that a child's emotions should be educated before his reason. He placed a special emphasis on learning by experience.
(Article Copyright 2000 lucidcafe.com and Robin Chew)
Rousseau felt that although children began life without any knowledge, Nature endowed each child with a particular way of thinking and feeling. Nature is like a hidden tutor who prompts the child to develop different capacities at different stages of growth. Rousseau sets out four developmental stages, what a child was capable of acquiring during each one and how. They're reminiscent of Piaget's or Erikson's stages.
Rousseau saw people as driven by primitive urges, fighting being crushed by society. He felt that a successful education permitted the adult to develop independent ideas and morals so as to stand up to society rather than conform to it.
(from bookeywookey.blogspot.com)

Rousseau, Emile, ou de l'éducation
[Emile, or On Education]
Amsterdam, Jean Néaulme, 1762
Image from iisg.nl

The greatest work produced by Rousseau is Emile. This work is more a tract upon education under the guise of a story than it is a novel in the true sense of the word novel. The book describes the ideal education which prepares Emile and Sophie for their eventual marriage. The following represents an outline of the vital educational principles found in Emile:
1. BOOK ONE. This book deals with the infancy of the child. The underlying thesis of all Rousseau's writings stresses the natural goodness of man. It is society that corrupts and makes a man evil. Rousseau states that the tutor can only stand by at this period of the child's development, ensuring that the child does not acquire any bad habits. Rousseau condemned the practice of some mothers who sent their infants to a wet nurse. He believed it was essential for mothers to nurse their own children. This practice is consistent with natural law.
2. BOOK TWO. Rousseau describes the education of the child when the tutor has full responsibility. Some of the major points of this section of the book are:
a. Purpose of Education. The tutor prepares the child for no particular social institution. Rather it is necessary to preserve the child from the baleful influence of society. Education must be child-centered. The tutor permits the child to develop his natural capacities. The aim of education is never social. It is always individualistic.
b. The School. Emile is educated away from city or town. Living in the country close to nature he should develop into the benevolent, good adult intended by nature. This school does not confine the youth to a classroom. No textbooks are utilized. The child learns by using his senses in direct experience.
c. Problem Centered. The tutor could employ no force in his teaching. When the child felt the need to know something, he would be moved to learn. Thus, Emile desired to know reading and writing in order to communicate with Sophie.
d. Character Education. The child learns morality by experiencing the consequences of his actions. Children are morally bad only after learning reprehensible behavior from adults. Punishment is never resorted to by the tutor.
e. Physical Education. Rousseau stresses the importance of physical activities in order to build a strong body. Emile is given opportunity to engage in swimming, running and athletic sports. His diet and living conditions are rigidly controlled. He lives in Spartan simplicity. (Rousseau was impressed and influenced by reading Plutarch's description of the life of the Spartan king, Lycurgus).
3. BOOK THREE. This section describes the intellectual education of Emile. Again, this education is based upon Emile's own nature. When he is ready to learn and is interested in language, geography, history and science, he will possess the inner direction necessary to learn. This learning would grow out of the child's activities. He will learn languages naturally through the normal conversational activity. Geography begins with the immediate surroundings of the youth and extends to the world through Emile's increased interest. The sense experience by which he observes the motion of the sun leads him to knowledge of astronomy. A knowledge of natural science is achieved through his interest in his own garden. Rousseau assumes that Emile's motivation leads to the purposive self-discipline necessary to acquire knowledge. Finally Emile is taught the trade of carpentry in order to prepare him for an occupation in life.
4. BOOK FOUR. This section describes the social education and the religious education of Emile. The education of Sophie is considered and the book concludes with the marriage of Emile and Sophie. The following represents some of the major points:
a. Social Attitudes. Emile is permitted to mingle with people in society at the age of sixteen. He is guided toward the desirable attitudes that lead to self-respect. Emile's earlier education protects him from the corrupting influence of society.
b. Education of Women. Having completed the explanation of Emile's ideal education, Rousseau turns his attention to the education of Sophie. Women are not educated as are men. The natural purpose of a woman is to please a man. She is expected to have and care for children, and to please, advise and console her husband whenever necessary. Her education does not extend beyond this purpose.
(from cals.ncsu.edu)

His Ideas:
- Man is by nature good; society is the cause of corruption and vice.
- In a state of nature, the individual is characterized by healthy self-love; self-love is accompanied by a natural compassion.
- In society, natural self-love becomes corrupted into a venal pride, which seeks only the good opinion of others and, in so doing, causes the individual to lose touch with his or her true nature; the loss of one's true nature ends in a loss of freedom.
- While society corrupts human nature, it also represents the possibility of its perfection in morality.
- Human interaction requires the transformation of natural freedom into moral freedom; this transformation is based on reason and provides the foundation for a theory of political right.
- A just society replaces the individual's natural freedom of will with the general will; such a society is based on a social contract by which each individual alienates all of his or her natural rights to create a new corporate person, the sovereign, the repository of the general will.
- The individual never loses freedom, but rediscovers it in the general will; the general will acts always for the good of society as a whole.
(From hilosophyprofessor.com)
Rousseau saw a fundamental divide between society and human nature. Rousseau contended that man was good by nature, a "noble savage" when in the state of nature (the state of all the "other animals," and the condition humankind was in before the creation of civilization and society), but is corrupted by society. He viewed society as artificial and held that the development of society, especially the growth of social interdependence, has been inimical to the well-being of human beings.
Society's negative influence on otherwise virtuous men centers, in Rousseau's philosophy, on its transformation of amour de soi, a positive self-love, into amour-propre, or pride. Amour de soi represents the instinctive human desire for self-preservation, combined with the human power of reason. In contrast, amour-propre is not natural but artificial and forces man to compare himself to others, thus creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Image from Library of Congress

Perhaps Rousseau's most important work is The Social Contract, which outlines the basis for a legitimate political order. . . Rousseau claimed that the state of nature eventually degenerates into a brutish condition without law or morality, at which point the human race must adopt institutions of law or perish. In the degenerate phase of the state of nature, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men while at the same time becoming increasingly dependent on them. This double pressure threatens both his survival and his freedom. According to Rousseau, by joining together through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free. This is because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are, collectively, the authors of the law. . . . The government is charged with implementing and enforcing the general will and is composed of a smaller group of citizens, known as magistrates. Rousseau was bitterly opposed to the idea that the people should exercise sovereignty via a representative assembly. Rather, they should make the laws directly. It has been argued that this would prevent Rousseau's ideal state being realized in a large society, though in modern times, communication may have advanced to the point where this is no longer the case.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
At the heart of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's political philosophy is his condemnation of inequality. Rousseau detested inequality because he saw it as a result of a misdirection of human development at an early stage, and as the cause of the evils which he saw in society - dependence, pride, vanity, the gap between the rich and poor.
His political thought has been called 'an exercise in indignation', and it is inequality above all which causes him to be indignant. From the outset, Rousseau is concerned to clarify the nature of that inequality which he condemns; most importantly, he makes clear his belief that the inequalities of society are not natural by defining them as 'artificial' inequalities and distinguishing them from the inherent differences between individuals' skills and attributes.
He does not attempt to claim that inequalities are not naturally present between people; what he rejects is the notion that such natural inequalities have any importance when man is living in his natural state: 'inequality is hardly perceived in state of nature, and ... its influence there is almost nil'.
The process through which humanity has reached its unhappy condition is essentially, as described by Rousseau, the transformation of harmless natural inequality 'through the effects of instituted inequality' into the most harmful and corrupting influence on human society.
Rousseau sets out to strip man down to the essentials of his nature; he sees natural man as 'an animal, less strong than some, less agile than others, but taken as a whole the most advantageously organised of all', but set apart from the beasts with whom he shares the earth by two characteristics. First, man is free, in three senses: he possesses free will, and is not subject to instinct as an animal is; he is free from any form of political authority; and he is not subject to the will of any other man.
(from indiapost.com)
In Rousseau’s formulation, all individuals subsumed their personal rights and freedoms into a broader community right that would make decisions based on the general will and for the general good (the idea was flexible enough that it could lead to both representational democracy and state Marxism). This sense of everyone being in the same boat, and everyone having to pull the oar in the same direction, ran counter to a pervasive misinterpretation of Malthus’s ideas — that the strong should overcome the weak in order to perpetuate both their own lives and the future of the species. And the rise of Bonaparte himself, and his eventual invasion of Russia, which begat Tolstoy’s novel, was in part a reaction to the overreactions of the French revolution, which was in turn inspired in part by Rousseau’s ideas about human equality.
(From Art Scatter)
Given the current state of affairs in the world on the economic and social stage,
Rousseau pretty much sums up how we got to where we are. It’s an extremely agonizing observation to make, especially because it is frighteningly true. People today seem to be so distant and oblivious that it’s no wonder shit is so royally fucked. It’s because of this distant attitude that society has taken up is the reason why there is no longer any amount of accountability, and when there is no accountability for the actions of politicians we are left with an oligarchy.
It's sad to see this abhorred development in the consciousness of the people. The more we think about the growing distance between the nation’s leaders, and the constituents of these leaders, the more we start to believe that we are unconditionally powerless against our government.
If the great political theorists of the past, like Rousseau, were able to see the direction society and government has taken they’d have a lot of ass to kick. At the same time, it’s hard to believe a fleeting thought that was written down by some long dead French guy almost 300 years ago holds so undeniably true even today.
(Adapted from State of Affairs: A Thought at theangrywalrus.com)
Rousseau's gift to later generations is extraordinarily rich - and problematic. Émile was the most influential work on education after Plato's Republic, The Confessions were the most important work of autobiography since that of St Augustine (Wokler 1995: 1); The Reveries played a significant role in the development of romantic naturalism; and The Social Contract has provided radicals and revolutionaries with key themes since it was published.
(from infed.org)

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