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While we ought not excuse later perpetrators--Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, etc.--much of the bloody mass-murderous history of modernity is attributable to two Frenchman. While the Anglosphere was saved from the Age of Reason by skeptics like David Hume, the Continent when charging down the (literal) dead end blazed by Descartes. And while the Protestant North always understood that Man is Fallen, most of the rest of Europe fell prey to the Utopian delusions of Rousseau. So there's plenty of reason to resist a book like this, it promises the late life insights of a man out walking, which is at least tempting.

Unfortunately, on the very first of his ten jaunts we realize there's little to like about this man. He whinges:
So here I am, all alone on this earth, with no brother, neighbour, or friend, and no company but my own. The most sociable and loving of human beings has by common consent been banished by the rest of society. In the refinement of their hatred they have continued to seek the cruellest forms of torture for my sensitive soul, and they have brutally severed all the ties which bound me to them. I would have loved my fellow men in spite of themselves. Only by ceasing to be men have they succeeded in losing my affection for them. So now they are strangers, persons unknown who mean nothing to me since that is what they wanted. But what about me, cut off from them and from everything else, what am I? This is what remains for me to find out now.
Nevermind the repulsiveness of his ideas, "It's not me, it's them."

Nor do his justifications(?) for his notorious personal behavior wear any better:
I can understand the reproach of having put my children in the Foundlings’ Home should easily have degenerated, with a little embellishment, into that of being an unnatural father and a child-hater. Nevertheless there is no doubt that in doing so I was influenced most of all by the fear that any other course of action would almost inevitably bring upon them a fate a thousand times worse. Had I been less concerned with what would happen to them, since I was not in a position to bring them up myself, I should have been obliged by my circumstances to leave their education to their mother, who would have spoiled them, and the her family, who would have made monsters of them. [...]I knew that the least dangerous form of education they could have was the Foundlings’ Home, so I put them there. I should do the same again with even fewer misgivings if the choice were still before me, and I am sure that no father is more affectionate than I would have been towards them once habit had had time to reinforce my natural inclination.
"Fewer misgivings"? What a cretin.

But the last word here, for the social theorist who had the greatest influence on the losing side in the Long War, is unintentionally hilarious:
The conclusion I can draw from all these reflections is that I have never really been suited to civil society, where there is nothing but irritation, obligation, and duty, and that my independent nature always made me incapable of the constraints required of anyone who wants to live with men. As long as I act freely, I am good and I do nothing but good; but as soon as I feel the yoke of necessity or men, I become rebellious, or rather, stubborn, and then I am incapable of doing good.

Sounds like the ideal avatar to build your society around, huh? There was one too many walkers on these strolls.


Grade: (F)


See also:

Jean Jacques Rousseau (2 books reviewed)
Jean Jacques Rousseau Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Jean Jacques Rousseau
    -Jean-Jacques Rousseau | Philosopher (Lucid Cafe)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Reveries of the Solitary Walker
    -ETEXT: The Reveries of the Solitary Walker (an anonymous translation to English, published in 1796) (Project Gutenberg)
    -ENTRY: The Reveries of a Solitary Walker work by Rousseau (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -BOOK SITE: The Life of Wisdom in Rousseau's "Reveries of the Solitary Walker" by Thomas Pangle (Cornell University Press)
    -ETEXT: THE SOCIAL CONTRACT OR PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL RIGHT by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1762) Translated by G. D. H. Cole
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE: The Social Contract (Spark Notes)
    -EXCERPTS: from The Social Contract (Modern History Sourcebook)
    -CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Social Contract
-ESSAY: Rambling Reflections On Summers in Switzerland and Sheffield: In the footsteps of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Philipp Moritz — from the peace of Lake Biel to the rugged Peaks — Seán Williams considers the connection between walking and writing. (Sean Williams, December 11, 2018, Public Domain Review)
    -ESSAY: The Little-Mentioned Ignoble Savage (Roslyn Ross, 1st August 2022, Quadrant)
    -ESSAY: Three General Wills in Rousseau (Jason S. Canon, 6/06/22, Review of Politics)
    -ESSAY: Reading Rousseau: The Social Contract, Part I (Paul Krause, December 15, 2023, Minerva Wisdom)
    -ESSAY: Rousseau explained: What his philosophy means for us today: Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss Enlightenment philosopher who praised a simple life and inspired the worst of the French Revolution. (Scotty Hendricks, 7/26/22, Big Think)
   -ESSAY: Rousseau's "Social Contract": A Critical Response (Bobby Taylor, Liberty Haven)
    -ESSAY : The Only Honest Man: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, impresario of modernity. (Alan Jacobs, Books and Culture)
    -ESSAY: Rousseau explained: What his philosophy means for us: The philosopher who praised a simple life and inspired the worst of the French Revolution. (SCOTTY HENDRICKS, 18 February, 2021, Big Think: Rightly Understood)
    -PODCAST: a conversation with Thomas Pangle about his recent book, The Life of Wisdom in Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker (The Political Theory Review)
    -PODCAST: Rousseau, Reveries of the Solitary Walker (Ellie Anderson and David Peña-Guzmán, Overthink Podcast)
    -ESSAY: An Exploration into the Reveries of Rousseau (Samira Ahansaz, Mahdi Afkhaminia, Mustafa Ahansaz, International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature)
    -ESSAY: Reverie and the Return to Nature: Rousseau's Experience of Convergence (Joseph H. Lane, Jr., Summer 2006, The Review of Politics)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: What Rousseau Knew about Solitude (Gavin McCrea April 27, 2020, Paris Review)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (David Bahr, Forbes)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (Doug Walker, College of Charleston)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (Culturium)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (Hermitary)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (Victor Gourevitch, The Review of Politics)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (PD Smith, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (Millard Stahle, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Reveries (Seán Williams, Public Domain Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of John C. O’Neal, ed., The Nature of Rousseau’s “Rêveries”: Physical, Human, Aesthetic. Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (Charly Coleman, H-France Review)
    -REVIEW: of John C. O’Neal, ed. The Nature of Rousseau’s “Rêveries”: Physical, Human, Aesthetic (Catriona Seth, Eighteenth Century Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Heinrich Meier, On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life: Reflections on Rousseau's Rêveries, Robert Berman (tr.) Ryan Patrick Hanley, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)
    -ESSAY: Did the Enlightenment fail?: The Enlightenment was born out of the bloody conflicts of the 17th and 18th centuries and dedicated to tolerance and moderation. The violence of the French Revolution appeared to mark its failure. (Angus Brown, 4/16/24, Englesberg Ideas)
    -REVIEW: of Review: Waller Newell’s “Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger” (Paul Krause, Merion West)
    -REVIEW: of Tyranny and Revolution: Rousseau to Heidegger (John Boersma, Voegelin View)

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