Jean Rousseau

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In existographies, Jean Rousseau (243-177 BE) (1712-1778 ACM) (IQ:180|#153) (ID:2.73|66) (Cattell 1000:43) (RGM:118|1,350+) (PR:57|65AE / philosopher:9) (Murray 4000:18|WP / 6|WL) (Gottlieb 1000:19) Becker 139:10|16L) (Choueiri 115:90) (Stokes 100:42) (Listal 100:25) (EPD:M9D) (CR:49) (LH:10) (TL:61), aka aka "Jean-Jacques" (Sade, 1783), was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and social theorist; noted for []

Overview

Creeds

The following is a listing of Rousseau's creed table showing his beliefs or disbeliefs, ordered via the date when the creed solidified in print, letter, or verbal statement:

Type Date Description
God At age 16 (1728) opportunistically converted to Catholicism; then became Protestant again, adhering to the Calvinism model of John Calvin in his later years; later rejected the atheism of his friends (e.g. Diderot and Holbach).[1]
Theta-ism Presented a sort of romantic emotional "deism" in his publications, which was condemned in public.[2]
Afterlife 1756 Believed in afterlife.[1]
Soul 1756 “No, I have suffered too much in this life, not to expect another. All the subtleties of metaphysics will not make me doubt the immorality of the soul for a moment; I feel it, I believe it, I want it, I hope for it, I shall defend it to my last breath” (Letter to Voltaire).[1]

The 1762 version of Rousseau's creed is found in "Creed of a Savoyard Priest" (Foxley, 1921) section of Emile: On Education, discussed below.

Emile | On Education

In 1762, Rousseau, in his Emile: On Education, recounts his own youth-to-adult education process through the voice of a Savoyard priest, in a section of the book entitled Confession of a Faith of a Savoyard Vicar, aka "Creed of a Savoyard Priest" (Foxley, 1921), a deconversion story with-in-the-book, about a priest who becomes a deist after thinks about the "principles of an atheist" (Eckler, 1889).[3]

Opening

The so-called "Savoyard Creed" (aka Rousseau's creed) opens as follows:[4]

“By birth I was a peasant and poor; to till the ground was my portion; but my parents thought it a finer thing that I should learn to get my living as a priest and they found means to send me to college. I am quite sure that neither my parents nor I had any idea of seeking after what was good, useful, or true; we only sought what was wanted to get me ordained. I learned what was taught me, I said what I was told to say, I promised all that was required, [229] and I became a priest. But I soon discovered that when I promised not to be a man, I had promised more than I could perform.

My child, do not look to me for learned speeches or profound arguments. I am no great philosopher, nor do I desire to be one. I have, however, a certain amount of common-sense and a constant devotion to truth. I have no wish to argue with you nor even to convince you; it is enough for me to show you, in all simplicity of heart, what I really think. Consult your own heart while I speak; that is all I ask. If I am mistaken, I am honestly mistaken, and therefore my error will not be counted to me as a crime; if you, too, are honestly mistaken, there is no great harm done. If I am right, we are both endowed with reason, we have both the same motive for listening to the voice of reason. Why should not you think as I do?

Conscience, they tell us, is the creature of prejudice, but I know from experience that conscience persists in following the order of nature in spite of all the laws of man. In vain is this or that forbidden; remorse makes her voice heard but feebly when what we do is permitted by well-ordered nature, and still more when we are doing her bidding. My good youth, nature has not yet appealed to your senses; may you long remain in this happy state when her voice is the voice of innocence. Remember that to anticipate her teaching is to offend more deeply against her than to resist her teaching; you must first learn to resist, that you may know when to yield without wrong-doing.

From my youth up I had reverenced the married state as the first and most sacred institution of nature. Having renounced the right to marry, I was resolved not to profane the sanctity of marriage; for in spite of my education and reading I had always led a simple and regular life, and my mind had preserved the innocence of its natural instincts; these instincts had not been obscured by worldly wisdom, while my poverty kept me remote from the temptations dictated by the sophistry of vice.

This very resolution proved my ruin. My respect for marriage led to the discovery of my misconduct. The scandal must be expiated; I was arrested, suspended, and dismissed; I was the victim of my scruples rather than of my incontinence, and I had reason to believe, from the reproaches which accompanied my disgrace, that one can often escape punishment by being guilty of a worse fault.

Lack of faith

The following is the loosing his faith section of his deconversion:

“A thoughtful mind soon learns from such experiences. I found my former ideas of justice, honesty, and every duty of man overturned by these painful events, and day by day I was losing my hold on one or another of the opinions I had accepted. What was left was not enough to form a body of ideas which could stand alone, and I felt that the evidence on which my principles rested was being weakened; at last I knew not what to think, and I came to the same conclusion as yourself, but with this difference: My lack of faith was the slow growth of manhood, attained with great difficulty, and all the harder to uproot.

I was in that state of doubt and uncertainty which Descartes considers essential to the search for truth. It is a state which cannot continue, it is disquieting and painful; only vicious tendencies and an idle heart can keep us in that state. My heart was not so corrupt as to delight in it, and there is nothing which so maintains the habit of thinking as being better pleased with oneself than with one’s lot.

I pondered, therefore, on the sad fate of mortals, adrift upon this sea of human opinions, without compass or rudder, and abandoned to their stormy passions with no guide but an inexperienced pilot who does not know whence he comes or whither he is going. I said [230] to myself: ‘I love truth, I seek her, and cannot find her. Show me truth and I will hold her fast; why does she hide her face from the eager heart that would fain worship her?’

Although I have often experienced worse sufferings, I have never led a life so uniformly distressing as this period of unrest and anxiety, when I wandered incessantly from one doubt to another, gaining nothing from my prolonged meditations but uncertainty, darkness, and contradiction with regard to the source of my being and the rule of my duties.

I cannot understand how any one can be a skeptic sincerely and on principle. Either such philosophers do not exist or they are the most miserable of men. Doubt with regard to what we ought to know is a condition too violent for the human mind; it cannot long be endured; in spite of itself the mind decides one way or another, and it prefers to be deceived rather than to believe nothing.

My perplexity was increased by the fact that I had been brought up in a church which decides everything and permits no doubts, so that having rejected one article of faith I was forced to reject the rest; as I could not accept absurd decisions, I was deprived of those which were not absurd. When I was told to believe everything, I could believe nothing, and I knew not where to stop.

Philosophers

The following is where Rousseau speaks about having "consulted the philosophers", which has been conjectured (Blom, 2020) to be code for his 1749 to 1757 time at the Holbach salon:

I consulted the philosophers, I searched their books and examined their various theories; I found them all alike proud, assertive, dogmatic, professing, even in their so-called scepticism, to know everything, proving nothing, scoffing at each other. This last trait, which was common to all of them, struck me as the only point in which they were right. Braggarts in attack, they are weaklings in defence. Weigh their arguments, they are all destructive; count their voices, every one speaks for himself; they are only agreed in arguing with each other. I could find no way out of my uncertainty by listening to them.

I suppose this prodigious diversity of opinion is caused, in the first place, by the weakness of the human intellect; and, in the second, by pride. We have no means of measuring this vast machine, we are unable to calculate its workings; we know neither its guiding principles nor its final purpose; we do not know ourselves, we know neither our nature nor the spirit that moves us; we scarcely know whether man is one or many; we are surrounded by impenetrable mysteries. These mysteries are beyond the region of sense, we think we can penetrate them by the light of reason, but we fall back on our imagination. Through this imagined world each forces a way for himself which he holds to be right; none can tell whether his path will lead him to the goal. Yet we long to know and understand it all. The one thing we do not know is the limit of the knowable. We prefer to trust to chance and to believe what is not true, rather than to own that not one of us can see what really is. A fragment of some vast whole whose bounds are beyond our gaze, a fragment abandoned by its creator to our foolish quarrels, we are [231] vain enough to want to determine the nature of that whole and our own relations with regard to it.”

Selected quotes

The following are selected quotes:

“The generation of living and organized bodies alone baffles all efforts of the human understanding.”
— Jean Rousseau (1762), Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar (pg. 34)
“I tried philosophy. I pondered on the sad fate of mortals, adrift upon the sea of human opinions, without compass or rudder, and abandoned to their stormy passions with no guide but an inexperienced pilot who does not know once he comes or whether he is going.”
— Jean Rousseau (1762), Emile: on Education (character: Savoyard priest) (pg. #)[5]
“The philosophers had nothing to teach me. I found them all alike. Proud, sort of, dogmatic. Braggarts in attack, their weaklings in defense. Weigh their arguments, they are all destructive; count their voices, everyone speaks for himself; they are only agreed in arguing with each other. I could find no way out of my uncertainty by listening to them. They speak of strange ‘systems of force, chance, fate, necessity, atoms, a living world, animated matter, and every variety of materialism.”
— Jean Rousseau (1762), Emile: on Education (character: Savoyard priest) (pgs. 230-31)[5]

The book, owing to this section, was banned in Paris and Geneva and was publicly burned the year of its first publication.[6] Rousseau later stated that Emile was the best and most important of all his writings:

Emile was the best and most important of all my writings.”
— Jean Rousseau (1782), Confessions (pg. 529-30)[7]

This can be compared to Goethe commenting that Elective Affinities, which touches on the same subject matter, was his "best book".

Quotes

Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Rousseau:

“For advocates of vegetarianism like Jean Rousseau and the poet Percy Shelley, meat-eating was immoral, harmful, and therefore unnatural.”
— Alan Levinovitz (2020), Natural (pg. 56)[8]

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Rousseau:

“Now as men cannot create any new forces, but only combine and direct those that exist, they have no other means of self-preservation than to form by aggregation of sum of forces which may overcome the resistance, to put them in action by a single motive power, and make them work in concert.”
— Jean Rousseau (1762), The Social Contract (§5, pg. 13)
“Man is born free, but everywhere in chains.”
— Jean Rousseau (1762), The Social Contract (pg. #)[9]

End matter

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Blom, Philipp. (2010). A Wicked Company: Holbach’s Salon and the Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment (Amz) (pg. 122-23). McClelland, 2011.
  2. Rousseau (§:Religion) – Wikipedia.
  3. Rousseau, Jean. (1762). Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar (translator: Peter Eckler) (principles of an atheist, pg. 5; philosophers, pg. 19; generation, pg. 34). Eckler, 1889.
  4. Rousseau, Jean. (1762). Emile: on Education (translator: Barbara Foxley) (txt) (§:Creed of a Savoyard Priest, pgs. 228-321, philosophers, pgs. 230-31). Dutton.
  5. 5.0 5.1 (a) Rousseau, Jean. (1762). Emile: on Education (translator: Barbara Foxley) (txt) (pgs. 230-31). Dutton.
    (b) Blom, Philipp. (2010). A Wicked Company: Holbach’s Salon and the Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment (Amz) (pg. 122-23). McClelland, 2011.
  6. Emile: On Education – Wikipedia.
  7. Rousseau, Jean. (1782). Confessions (translator: J.M. Cohen) (pgs. 529-30). Penguin, 1953.
  8. Levinovitz, Alan. (2020). Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science (Rousseau, 5+ pgs; pg. 56). Beacon.
  9. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. (1762). The Social Contract: Principles of the Political Right (pg. #). Publisher.

External links

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