Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712July 2, 1778) was a Franco-Swiss philosopher of Enlightenment whose political ideas influenced the French Revolution, the development of socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism.

QuotesEdit

A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
  • All that time is lost which might be better employed.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Quotations in Most Frequent Use: Taken Chiefly from the Latin and French, but comprising many from the Greek, Spanish, and Italian Languages, translated into English (1809) by David Evans Macdonnel
  • L'accent est l'âme du discours.
    • Accent is the soul of language; it gives to it both feeling and truth.
    • English translation as quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 2.
  • An honest man nearly always thinks justly.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 277.
  • A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 301.
  • Days of absence, sad and dreary,
    Clothed in sorrow's dark array,—
    Days of absence, I am weary:
    She I love is far away.
    • Day of Absence, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Chère amie, ne savez-vous pas que la vertu est un état de guerre, et que, pour y vivre, on a toujours quelque combat à rendre contre soi?

Discourse on Inequality (1754)Edit

Also known as Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men and A Dissertation On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind. Translation by G. D. H. Cole online
The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society...
You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
  • Le premier qui, ayant enclos un terrain, s'avisa de dire: Ceci est à moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai fondateur de la société civile. Que de crimes, de guerres, de meurtres, que de misères et d'horreurs n'eût point épargnés au genre humain celui qui, arrachant les pieux ou comblant le fossé, eût crié à ses semblables: Gardez-vous d'écouter cet imposteur; vous êtes perdus, si vous oubliez que les fruits sont à tous, et que la terre n'est à personne.
    • The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
    • Variant translation: The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.
  • Never exceed your rights, and they will soon become unlimited.
  • Money is the seed of money, and the first guinea is sometimes more difficult to acquire than the second million.
  • [D]emandant toujours aux autres ce que nous sommes et n'osant jamais nous interroger là-dessus nous-mêmes...
    • We are reduced to asking others what we are. We never dare to ask ourselves.
  • I know that [civilized men] do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in their chains.... But when I see [barbarous man] sacrifice pleasures, repose, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and despising captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.
  • In reality, the difference is, that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. It is not to my present purpose to insist on the indifference to good and evil which arises from this disposition, in spite of our many fine works on morality, or to show how, everything being reduced to appearances, there is but art and mummery in even honour, friendship, virtue, and often vice itself, of which we at length learn the secret of boasting; to show, in short, how abject we are, and never daring to ask ourselves in the midst of so much philosophy, benevolence, politeness, and of such sublime codes of morality, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness.
    • Second Treatise on Inequality, translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters.


  • I know that [civilized men] do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in their chains.... But when I see [barbarous man] sacrifice pleasures, repose, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and despising captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.
  • In reality, the difference is, that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. It is not to my present purpose to insist on the indifference to good and evil which arises from this disposition, in spite of our many fine works on morality, or to show how, everything being reduced to appearances, there is but art and mummery in even honour, friendship, virtue, and often vice itself, of which we at length learn the secret of boasting; to show, in short, how abject we are, and never daring to ask ourselves in the midst of so much philosophy, benevolence, politeness, and of such sublime codes of morality, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness.
    • Second Treatise on Inequality, translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters.
  • What therefore is precisely the subject of this discourse? It is to point out, in the progress of things, that moment, when, right taking place of violence, nature became subject to law; to display that chain of surprising events, in consequence of which the strong submitted to serve the weak, and the people to purchase imaginary ease, at the expense of real happiness.
  • others have spoken of the natural right of every man to keep what belongs to him, without letting us know what they meant by the word belong.
  • The extreme inequalities in the manner of living of the several classes of mankind, the excess of idleness in some, and of labour in others, the facility of irritating and satisfying our sensuality and our appetites, the too exquisite and out of the way aliments of the rich, which fill them with fiery juices, and bring on indigestions, the unwholesome food of the poor, of which even, bad as it is, they very often fall short, and the want of which tempts them, every opportunity that offers, to eat greedily and overload their stomachs; watchings, excesses of every kind, immoderate transports of all the passions, fatigues, waste of spirits, in a word, the numberless pains and anxieties annexed to every condition, and which the mind of man is constantly a prey to; these are the fatal proofs that most of our ills are of our own making, and that we might have avoided them all by adhering to the simple, uniform and solitary way of life prescribed to us by nature.
  • The horse, the cat, the bull, nay the ass itself, have generally a higher stature, and always a more robust constitution, more vigour, more strength and courage in their forests than in our houses; they lose half these advantages by becoming domestic animals; it looks as if all our attention to treat them kindly, and to feed them well, served only to bastardize them. It is thus with man himself. In proportion as he becomes sociable and a slave to others, he becomes weak, fearful, mean-spirited, and his soft and effeminate way of living at once completes the enervation of his strength and of his courage.
  • some philosophers have even advanced, that there is a greater difference between some men and some others, than between some men and some beasts; it is not therefore so much the understanding that constitutes, among animals, the specifical distinction of man, as his quality of a free agent. Nature speaks to all animals, and beasts obey her voice. Man feels the same impression, but he at the same time perceives that he is free to resist or to acquiesce; and it is in the consciousness of this liberty, that the spirituality of his soul chiefly appears: for natural philosophy explains, in some measure, the mechanism of the senses and the formation of ideas; but in the power of willing, or rather of choosing, and in the consciousness of this power, nothing can be discovered but acts, that are purely spiritual, and cannot be accounted for by the laws of mechanics.
  • the knowledge of death, and of its terrors, is one of the first acquisitions made by man, in consequence of his deviating from the animal state.
  • who does not perceive that everything seems to remove from savage man the temptation and the means of altering his condition? His imagination paints nothing to him; his heart asks nothing from him. His moderate wants are so easily supplied with what he everywhere finds ready to his hand, and he stands at such a distance from the degree of knowledge requisite to covet more, that he can neither have foresight nor curiosity. The spectacle of nature, by growing quite familiar to him, becomes at last equally indifferent. It is constantly the same order, constantly the same revolutions; he has not sense enough to feel surprise at the sight of the greatest wonders.
  • it is impossible to conceive how man, by his own powers alone, without the assistance of communication, and the spur of necessity, could have got over so great an interval. How many ages perhaps revolved, before men beheld any other fire but that of the heavens? How many different accidents must have concurred to make them acquainted with the most common uses of this element? How often have they let it go out, before they knew the art of reproducing it? And how often perhaps has not every one of these secrets perished with the discoverer?
  • let us suppose that, without forge or anvil, the instruments of husbandry had dropped from the heavens into the hands of savages, that these men had got the better of that mortal aversion they all have for constant labour; that they had learned to foretell their wants at so great a distance of time; that they had guessed exactly how they were to break the earth, commit their seed to it, and plant trees; that they had found out the art of grinding their corn, and improving by fermentation the juice of their grapes; all operations which we must allow them to have learned from the gods, since we cannot conceive how they should make such discoveries of themselves; after all these fine presents, what man would be mad enough to cultivate a field, that may be robbed by the first comer, man or beast, who takes a fancy to the produce of it. And would any man consent to spend his day in labour and fatigue, when the rewards of his labour and fatigue became more and more precarious in proportion to his want of them? In a word, how could this situation engage men to cultivate the earth, as long as it was not parcelled out among them, that is, as long as a state of nature subsisted.
  • The first that offers is how languages could become necessary; for as there was no correspondence between men, nor the least necessity for any, there is no conceiving the necessity of this invention, nor the possibility of it, if it was not indispensable.
  • I must further observe that the child having all his wants to explain, and consequently more things to say to his mother, than the mother can have to say to him, it is he that must be at the chief expense of invention, and the language he makes use of must be in a great measure his own work; this makes the number of languages equal to that of the individuals who are to speak them; and this multiplicity of languages is further increased by their roving and vagabond kind of life, which allows no idiom time enough to acquire any consistency; for to say that the mother would have dictated to the child the words he must employ to ask her this thing and that, may well enough explain in what manner languages, already formed, are taught, but it does not show us in what manner they are first formed.
  • A new difficulty this, still more stubborn than the preceding; for if men stood in need of speech to learn to think, they must have stood in still greater need of the art of thinking to invent that of speaking.
  • speech therefore appears to have been exceedingly requisite to establish the use of speech.
  • I earnestly entreat them to consider how much time and knowledge must have been requisite to find out numbers, abstract words, the aorists, and all the other tenses of verbs, the particles, and syntax, the method of connecting propositions and arguments, of forming all the logic of discourse. For my own part, I am so scared at the difficulties that multiply at every step, and so convinced of the almost demonstrated impossibility of languages owing their birth and establishment to means that were merely human, that I must leave to whoever may please to take it up, the task of discussing this difficult problem. "Which was the most necessary, society already formed to invent languages, or languages already invented to form society?"
  • I would fain know what kind of misery can be that of a free being, whose heart enjoys perfect peace, and body perfect health? And which is aptest to become insupportable to those who enjoy it, a civil or a natural life? In civil life we can scarcely meet a single person who does not complain of his existence; many even throw away as much of it as they can, and the united force of divine and human laws can hardly put bounds to this disorder.
  • Nothing, on the contrary, must have been so unhappy as savage man, dazzled by flashes of knowledge, racked by passions, and reasoning on a state different from that in which he saw himself placed. It was in consequence of a very wise Providence, that the faculties, which he potentially enjoyed, were not to develop themselves but in proportion as there offered occasions to exercise them, lest they should be superfluous or troublesome to him when he did not want them, or tardy and useless when he did. He had in his instinct alone everything requisite to live in a state of nature; in his cultivated reason he has barely what is necessary to live in a state of society.
  • In fact, what is generosity, what clemency, what humanity, but pity applied to the weak, to the guilty, or to the human species in general? Even benevolence and friendship, if we judge right, will appear the effects of a constant pity, fixed upon a particular object: for to wish that a person may not suffer, what is it but to wish that he may be happy? Though it were true that commiseration is no more than a sentiment, which puts us in the place of him who suffers, a sentiment obscure but active in the savage, developed but dormant in civilized man, how could this notion affect the truth of what I advance, but to make it more evident.Read more at location 411
  • In fact, commiseration must be so much the more energetic, the more intimately the animal, that beholds any kind of distress, identifies himself with the animal that labours under it.
  • Now it is evident that this identification must have been infinitely more perfect in the state of nature than in the state of reason. It is reason that engenders self-love, and reflection that strengthens it; it is reason that makes man shrink into himself; it is reason that makes him keep aloof from everything that can trouble or afflict him: it is philosophy that destroys his connections with other men.
  • their disputes could seldom be attended with bloodshed, were they never occasioned by a more considerable stake than that of subsistence.
  • If he happened to make any discovery, he could the less communicate it as he did not even know his children. The art perished with the inventor; there was neither education nor improvement; generations succeeded generations to no purpose; and as all constantly set out from the same point, whole centuries rolled on in the rudeness and barbarity of the first age; the species was grown old, while the individual still remained in a state of childhood.
  • Authors are constantly crying out, that the strongest would oppress the weakest; but let them explain what they mean by the word oppression. One man will rule with violence, another will groan under a constant subjection to all his caprices: this is indeed precisely what I observe among us, but I don't see how it can be said of savage men, into whose heads it would be a harder matter to drive even the meaning of the words domination and servitude.
  • how is it possible he should ever exact obedience from him, and what chains of dependence can there be among men who possess nothing?
  • it is impossible for one man to enslave another, without having first reduced him to a condition in which he can not live without the enslaver's assistance; a condition which, as it does not exist in a state of nature, must leave every man his own master, and render the law of the strongest altogether vain and useless.
  • The first man, who, after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, "This is mine," and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. How many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors, would that man have saved the human species, who pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows: Be sure not to listen to this imposter; you are lost, if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody!
  • My pen straightened by the rapidity of time, the abundance of things I have to say, and the almost insensible progress of the first improvements, flies like an arrow over numberless ages, for the slower the succession of events, the quicker I may allow myself to be in relating them.
  • Men soon ceasing to fall asleep under the first tree, or take shelter in the first cavern, lit upon some hard and sharp kinds of stone resembling spades or hatchets, and employed them to dig the ground, cut down trees, and with the branches build huts, which they afterwards bethought themselves of plastering over with clay or dirt. This was the epoch of a first revolution, which produced the establishment and distinction of families, and which introduced a species of property, and along with it perhaps a thousand quarrels and battles.
  • these conveniences having through use lost almost all their aptness to please, and even degenerated into real wants, the privation of them became far more intolerable than the possession of them had been agreeable; to lose them was a misfortune, to possess them no happiness.
  • They now begin to assemble round a great tree: singing and dancing, the genuine offspring of love and leisure, become the amusement or rather the occupation of the men and women, free from care, thus gathered together. Every one begins to survey the rest, and wishes to be surveyed himself; and public esteem acquires a value. He who sings or dances best; the handsomest, the strongest, the most dexterous, the most eloquent, comes to be the most respected: this was the first step towards inequality, and at the same time towards vice. From these first preferences there proceeded on one side vanity and contempt, on the other envy and shame; and the fermentation raised by these new leavens at length produced combinations fatal to happiness and innocence.
  • It was thus that every man, punishing the contempt expressed for him by others in proportion to the value he set upon himself, the effects of revenge became terrible, and men learned to be sanguinary and cruel. Such precisely was the degree attained by most of the savage nations with whom we are acquainted. And it is for want of sufficiently distinguishing ideas, and observing at how great a distance these people were from the first state of nature, that so many authors have hastily concluded that man is naturally cruel, and requires a regular system of police to be reclaimed; whereas nothing can be more gentle than he in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes, and the pernicious good sense of civilized man.
  • this period of the development of the human faculties, holding a just mean between the indolence of the primitive state, and the petulant activity of self-love, must have been the happiest and most durable epoch. The more we reflect on this state, the more convinced we shall be, that it was the least subject of any to revolutions, the best for man, and that nothing could have drawn him out of it but some fatal accident, which, for the public good, should never have happened.
  • in a word, as long as they undertook such works only as a single person could finish, and stuck to such arts as did not require the joint endeavours of several hands, they lived free, healthy, honest and happy, as much as their nature would admit, and continued to enjoy with each other all the pleasures of an independent intercourse; but from the moment one man began to stand in need of another's assistance; from the moment it appeared an advantage for one man to possess the quantity of provisions requisite for two, all equality vanished; property started up; labour became necessary; and boundless forests became smiling fields, which it was found necessary to water with human sweat, and in which slavery and misery were soon seen to sprout out and grow with the fruits of the earth.
  • it is iron and corn, which have civilized men, and ruined mankind.
  • It is a very difficult matter to tell how men came to know anything of iron, and the art of employing it: for we are not to suppose that they should of themselves think of digging it out of the mines, and preparing it for fusion, before they knew what could be the result of such a process. On the other hand, there is the less reason to attribute this discovery to any accidental fire, as mines are formed nowhere but in dry and barren places, and such as are bare of trees and plants, so that it looks as if nature had taken pains to keep from us so mischievous a secret.
  • we must suppose them endued with an extraordinary stock of courage and foresight to undertake so painful a work, and have, at so great a distance, an eye to the advantages they might derive from it.
  • as men began to extend their views to futurity, and all found themselves in possession of more or less goods capable of being lost, every one in particular had reason to fear, lest reprisals should be made on him for any injury he might do to others.
  • The man that had most strength performed most labour; the most dexterous turned his labour to best account; the most ingenious found out methods of lessening his labour; the husbandman required more iron, or the smith more corn, and while both worked equally, one earned a great deal by his labour, while the other could scarce live by his. It is thus that natural inequality insensibly unfolds itself.
  • Behold all our natural qualities put in motion; the rank and condition of every man established, not only as to the quantum of property and the power of serving or hurting others, but likewise as to genius, beauty, strength or address, merit or talents; and as these were the only qualities which could command respect, it was found necessary to have or at least to affect them. It was requisite for men to be thought what they really were not. To be and to appear became two very different things, and from this distinction sprang pomp and knavery, and all the vices which form their train.
  • In a word, sometimes nothing was to be seen but a contention of endeavours on the one hand, and an opposition of interests on the other, while a secret desire of thriving at the expense of others constantly prevailed. Such were the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of infant inequality.
  • when estates increased so much in number and in extent as to take in whole countries and touch each other, it became impossible for one man to aggrandise himself but at the expense of some other; and the supernumerary inhabitants, who were too weak or too indolent to make such acquisitions in their turn, impoverished without losing anything, because while everything about them changed they alone remained the same, were obliged to receive or force their subsistence from the hands of the rich.
  • And hence began to flow, according to the different characters of each, domination and slavery, or violence and rapine. The rich on their side scarce began to taste the pleasure of commanding, when they preferred it to every other; and making use of their old slaves to acquire new ones, they no longer thought of anything but subduing and enslaving their neighbours;Read more at location 733
  • the equality once broken was followed by the most shocking disorders.
  • There arose between the title of the strongest, and that of the first occupier a perpetual conflict, which always ended in battery and bloodshed. Infant society became a scene of the most horrible warfare: Mankind thus debased and harassed, and no longer able to retreat, or renounce the unhappy acquisitions it had made; labouring, in short merely to its confusion by the abuse of those faculties, which in themselves do it so much honour, brought itself to the very brink of ruin and destruction.
  • the rich man, thus pressed by necessity, at last conceived the deepest project that ever entered the human mind: this was to employ in his favour the very forces that attacked him, to make allies of his enemies, to inspire them with other maxims, and make them adopt other institutions as favourable to his pretensions.
  • With this view, after laying before his neighbours all the horrors of a situation, which armed them all one against another, which rendered their possessions as burdensome as their wants were intolerable, and in which no one could expect any safety either in poverty or riches, he easily invented specious arguments to bring them over to his purpose. "Let us unite," said he.
  • at length men began to butcher each other by thousands without knowing for what; and more murders were committed in a single action, and more horrible disorders at the taking of a single town, than had been committed in the state of nature during ages together upon the whole face of the earth.
  • the citizens of a free state suffer themselves to be oppressed merely in proportion as, hurried on by a blind ambition, and looking rather below than above them, they come to love authority more than independence.
  • the most refined policy would find it impossible to subdue those men, who only desire to be independent; but inequality easily gains ground among base and ambitious souls, ever ready to run the risks of fortune, and almost indifferent whether they command or obey, as she proves either favourable or adverse to them.
  • Were this a proper place to enter into details, I could easily explain in what manner inequalities in point of credit and authority become unavoidable among private persons the moment that, united into one body, they are obliged to compare themselves one with another, and to note the differences which they find in the continual use every man must make of his neighbour.
  • I could show how much this universal desire of reputation, of honours, of preference, with which we are all devoured, exercises and compares our talents and our forces: how much it excites and multiplies our passions; and, by creating an universal competition, rivalship, or rather enmity among men, how many disappointments, successes, and catastrophes of every kind it daily causes among the innumerable pretenders whom it engages in the same career. I could show that it is to this itch of being spoken of, to this fury of distinguishing ourselves which seldom or never gives us a moment's respite, that we owe both the best and the worst things among us, our virtues and our vices, our sciences and our errors, our conquerors and our philosophers; that is to say, a great many bad things to a very few good ones.
  • Savage man and civilised man differ so much at bottom in point of inclinations and passions, that what constitutes the supreme happiness of the one would reduce the other to despair. The first sighs for nothing but repose and liberty; he desires only to live, and to be exempt from labour; nay, the ataraxy of the most confirmed Stoic falls short of his consummate indifference for every other object. On the contrary, the citizen always in motion, is perpetually sweating and toiling, and racking his brains to find out occupations still more laborious.
  • What a spectacle must the painful and envied labours of an European minister of state form in the eyes of a Caribbean! How many cruel deaths would not this indolent savage prefer to such a horrid life, which very often is not even sweetened by the pleasure of doing good?
  • the savage lives within himself, whereas the citizen, constantly beside himself, knows only how to live in the opinion of others; insomuch that it is, if I may say so, merely from their judgment that he derives the consciousness of his own existence.
  • ever inquiring of others what we are, and never daring to question ourselves on so delicate a point, in the midst of so much philosophy, humanity, and politeness, and so many sublime maxims, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a deceitful and frivolous exterior, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness. It is sufficient that I have proved that this is not the original condition of man, and that it is merely the spirit of society, and the inequality which society engenders, that thus change and transform all our natural inclinations.

The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762)Edit

Du Contrat Social as translated by G. D. H. Cole (1913)
Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in?
From whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive.
  • L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.
    • Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.
    • Variant translations: Man is born free, and everywhere he is in shackles.
      Man was born free, but is everywhere in bondage.
    • I, Ch. 1.
  • The strongest is never strong enough always to be master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
    • Variant translations: The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
      The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms his strength into right, and obedience into duty.
    • I, Ch. 3.
  • Tranquility is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? To say that a man gives himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and madness creates no right. Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. Before they come to years of judgment, the father can, in their name, lay down conditions for their preservation and well-being, but he cannot give them irrevocably and without conditions: such a gift is contrary to the ends of nature, and exceeds the rights of paternity. It would therefore be necessary, in order to legitimize an arbitrary government, that in every generation the people should be in a position to accept or reject it; but, were this so, the government would be no longer arbitrary. To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience.
    • I, Ch. 4.
  • The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. If war does not give the conqueror the right to massacre the conquered peoples, the right to enslave them cannot be based upon a right which does not exist. No one has a right to kill an enemy except when he cannot make him a slave, and the right to enslave him cannot therefore be derived from the right to kill him. It is accordingly an unfair exchange to make him buy at the price of his liberty his life, over which the victor holds no right. Is it not clear that there is a vicious circle in founding the right of life and death on the right of slavery, and the right of slavery on the right of life and death?
  • From whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.”
    • I, Ch. 4.
  • The mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to the law we prescribe to ourselves is liberty.
    • I, Ch. 8.
  • We may add that frequent punishments are always a sign of weakness or remissness on the part of the government.
    In a well-governed state, there are few punishments, not because there are many pardons, but because criminals are rare; it is when a state is in decay that the multitudes of crimes is a guarantee of impunity.
    • II, Ch. 5
  • In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed.
    • III, Ch. 4.
As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State "What does it matter to me?" the State may be given up for lost.
  • The very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affair, however little influence my voice may have in them.
  • The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction.
    • Variant: The body politic, as well as the human body, begins to die as soon as it is born, and carries itself the causes of its destruction.
    • III, Ch. 11.
  • Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse.
    • III, Ch. 15
  • The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing. In the brief moment of its freedom, the English people makes such a use of that freedom that it deserves to lose it.
    • III, Ch. 15.
  • As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State "What does it matter to me?" the State may be given up for lost.
    • III, Ch. 15.
  • At Genoa, the word Liberty may be read over the front of the prisons and on the chains of the galley-slaves. This application of the device is good and just. It is indeed only malefactors of all estates who prevent the citizen from being free. In the country in which all such men were in the galleys, the most perfect liberty would be enjoyed.
    • IV, Ch. 2.
  • If there is in this world a well-attested account, it is that of vampires. Nothing is lacking: official reports, affidavits of well-known people, of surgeons, of priests, of magistrates; the judicial proof is most complete. And with all that, who is there who believes in vampires?
    • Appended letter to the Archbishop of Paris [1]
  • Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.
    • M. Cranston, trans., p. 49.


  • The family then may be called the first model of political societies: the ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children; and all, being born free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage. The whole difference is that, in the family, the love of the father for his children repays him for the care he takes of them, while, in the State, the pleasure of commanding takes the place of the love which the chief cannot have for the peoples under him.
  • Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them: they love their servitude, as the comrades of Ulysses loved their brutish condition.2 If then there are slaves by nature, it is because there have been slaves against nature. Force made the first slaves, and their cowardice perpetuated the condition.
  • Now, a man who becomes the slave of another does not give himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence: but for what does a people sell itself? A king is so far from furnishing his subjects with their subsistence that he gets his own only from them; and, according to Rabelais, kings do not live on nothing. Do subjects then give their persons on condition that the king takes their goods also? I fail to see what they have left to preserve.
  • What do they gain, if the very tranquillity they enjoy is one of their miseries? Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? The Greeks imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops lived there very tranquilly, while they were awaiting their turn to be devoured.
  • Grotius and the rest find in war another origin for the so-called right of slavery. The victor having, as they hold, the right of killing the vanquished, the latter can buy back his life at the price of his liberty; and this convention is the more legitimate because it is to the advantage of both parties. But it is clear that this supposed right to kill the conquered is by no means deducible from the state of war.
  • War then is a relation, not between man and man, but between State and State, and individuals are enemies only accidentally, not as men, nor even as citizens, but as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders.
  • The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. If war does not give the conqueror the right to massacre the conquered peoples, the right to enslave them cannot be based upon a right which does not exist. No one has a right to kill an enemy except when he cannot make him a slave, and the right to enslave him cannot therefore be derived from the right to kill him.
  • By taking an equivalent for his life, the victor has not done him a favour; instead of killing him without profit, he has killed him usefully.
  • "The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before." This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution.
  • each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.
  • the Sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither has nor can have any interest contrary to theirs; and consequently the sovereign power need give no guarantee to its subjects, because it is impossible for the body to wish to hurt all its members.
  • In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimises civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses.
  • What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses.
  • The right of the first occupier, though more real than the right of the strongest, becomes a real right only when the right of property has already been established. Every man has naturally a right to everything he needs; but the positive act which makes him proprietor of one thing excludes him from everything else. Having his share, he ought to keep to it, and can have no further right against the community. This is why the right of the first occupier, which in the state of nature is so weak, claims the respect of every man in civil society. In this right we are respecting not so much what belongs to another as what does not belong to ourselves.
  • How can a man or a people seize an immense territory and keep it from the rest of the world except by a punishable usurpation, since all others are being robbed, by such an act, of the place of habitation and the means of subsistence which nature gave them in common?
  • Under bad governments, this equality is only apparent and illusory: it serves only to-keep the pauper in his poverty and the rich man in the position he has usurped. In fact, laws are always of use to those who possess and harmful to those who have nothing: from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all have something and none too much.
  • It is solely on the basis of this common interest that every society should be governed.
  • Every one can see, in Chapters III and IV of the First Book of Grotius, how the learned man and his translator, Barbeyrac, entangle and tie themselves up in their own sophistries, for fear of saying too little or too much of what they think, and so offending the interests they have to conciliate. Grotius, a refugee in France, ill-content with his own country, and desirous of paying his court to Louis XIII, to whom his book is dedicated, spares no pains to rob the peoples of all their rights and invest kings with them by every conceivable artifice.
  • If these two writers had adopted the true principles, all difficulties would have been removed, and they would have been always consistent; but it would have been a sad truth for them to tell, and would have paid court for them to no one save the people. Moreover, truth is no road to fortune, and the people dispenses neither ambassadorships, nor professorships, nor pensions.
  • It is therefore essential, if the general will is to be able to express itself, that there should be no partial society within the State, and that each citizen should think only his own thoughts:Read more at location 393
  • But if there are partial societies, it is best to have as many as possible and to prevent them from being unequal.
  • These precautions are the only ones that can guarantee that the general will shall be always enlightened, and that the people shall in no way deceive itself.
  • The death-penalty inflicted upon criminals may be looked on in much the same light: it is in order that we may not fall victims to an assassin that we consent to die if we ourselves turn assassins. In this treaty, so far from disposing of our own lives, we think only of securing them, and it is not to be assumed that any of the parties then expects to get hanged.
  • In a well-governed State, there are few punishments, not because there are many pardons, but because criminals are rare; it is when a State is in decay that the multitude of crimes is a guarantee of impunity.
  • The legislator occupies in every respect an extraordinary position in the State. If he should do so by reason of his genius, he does so no less by reason of his office, which is neither magistracy, nor Sovereignty. This office, which sets up the Republic, nowhere enters into its constitution; it is an individual and superior function, which has nothing in common with human empire; for if he who holds command over men ought not to have command over the laws, he who has command over the laws ought not any more to have it over men; or else his laws would be the ministers of his passions and would often merely serve to perpetuate his injustices: his private aims would inevitably mar the sanctity of his work.
  • Thus in the task of legislation we find together two things which appear to be incompatible: an enterprise too difficult for human powers, and, for its execution, an authority that is no authority. There is a further difficulty that deserves attention. Wise men, if they try to speak their language to the common herd instead of its own, cannot possibly make themselves understood. There are a thousand kinds of ideas which it is impossible to translate into popular language.
  • The great soul of the legislator is the only miracle that can prove his mission.
  • all peoples have a kind of centrifugal force that makes them continually act one against another, and tend to aggrandise themselves at their neighbours' expense.
  • Every people, to which its situation gives no choice save that between commerce and war, is weak in itself: it depends on its neighbours, and on circumstances; its existence can never be more than short and uncertain.
  • It is precisely because the force of circumstances tends continually to destroy equality that the force of legislation should always tend to its maintenance.
  • "In truth," says Machiavelli, "there has never been, in any country, an extraordinary legislator who has not had recourse to God; for otherwise his laws would not have been accepted: there are, in fact, many useful truths of which a wise man may have knowledge without their having in themselves such clear reasons for their being so as to be able to convince others".
  • If there were two neighbouring peoples, one of which could not do without the other, it would be very hard on the former, and very dangerous for the latter. Every wise nation, in such a case, would make haste to free the other from dependence.
  • If the object is to give the State consistency, bring the two extremes as near to each other as possible; allow neither rich men nor beggars. These two estates, which are naturally inseparable, are equally fatal to the common good; from the one come the friends of tyranny, and from the other tyrants. It is always between them that public liberty is put up to auction; the one buys, and the other sells.
  • The public force therefore needs an agent of its own to bind it together and set it to work under the direction of the general will, to serve as a means of communication between the State and the Sovereign, and to do for the collective person more or less what the union of soul and body does for man.
  • Furthermore, none of these three terms can be altered without the equality being instantly destroyed. If the Sovereign desires to govern, or the magistrate to give laws, or if the subjects refuse to obey, disorder takes the place of regularity, force and will no longer act together, and the State is dissolved and falls into despotism or anarchy.
  • In the person of the magistrate we can distinguish three essentially different wills: first, the private will of the individual, tending only to his personal advantage; secondly, the common will of the magistrates, which is relative solely to the advantage of the prince, and may be called corporate will, being general in relation to the government, and particular in relation to the State, of which the government forms part; and, in the third place, the will of the people or the sovereign will, which is general both in relation to the State regarded as the whole, and to the government regarded as a part of the whole.
  • In a perfect act of legislation, the individual or particular will should be at zero; the corporate will belonging to the government should occupy a very subordinate position; and, consequently, the general or sovereign will should always predominate and should be the sole guide of all the rest. According to the natural order, on the other hand, these different wills become more active in proportion as they are concentrated. Thus, the general will is always the weakest, the corporate will second, and the individual will strongest of all: so that, in the government, each member is first of all himself, then a magistrate, and then a citizen — in an order exactly the reverse of what the social system requires.
  • If, in the different States, the number of supreme magistrates should be in inverse ratio to the number of citizens, it follows that, generally, democratic government suits small States, aristocratic government those of middle size, and monarchy great ones.
  • It is not good for him who makes the laws to execute them, or for the body of the people to turn its attention away from a general standpoint and devote it to particular objects. Nothing is more dangerous than the influence of private interests in public affairs, and the abuse of the laws by the government is a less evil than the corruption of the legislator.
  • for luxury either comes of riches or makes them necessary; it corrupts at once rich and poor, the rich by possession and the poor by covetousness; it sells the country to softness and vanity, and takes away from the State all its citizens, to make them slaves one to another, and one and all to public opinion.
  • The first societies governed themselves aristocratically. The heads of families took counsel together on public affairs. The young bowed without question to the authority of experience. Hence such names as priests, elders, senate, and gerontes. The savages of North America govern themselves in this way even now, and their government is admirable.
  • But, in proportion as artificial inequality produced by institutions became predominant over natural inequality, riches or power were put before age, and aristocracy became elective.
  • In a word, it is the best and most natural arrangement that the wisest should govern the many, when it is assured that they will govern for its profit, and not for their own.
  • The best kings desire to be in a position to be wicked, if they please, without forfeiting their mastery: political sermonisers may tell them to their hearts' content that, the people's strength being their own, their first interest is that the people should be prosperous, numerous and formidable; they are well aware that this is untrue. Their first personal interest is that the people should be weak, wretched, and unable to resist them.
  • When one king dies, another is needed; elections leave dangerous intervals and are full of storms; and unless the citizens are disinterested and upright to a degree which very seldom goes with this kind of government, intrigue and corruption abound. He to whom the State has sold itself can hardly help selling it in his turn and repaying himself, at the expense of the weak, the money the powerful have wrung from him. Under such an administration, venality sooner or later spreads through every part, and peace so enjoyed under a king is worse than the disorders of an interregnum. What has been done to prevent these evils? Crowns have been made hereditary in certain families, and an order of succession has been set up, to prevent disputes from arising on the death of kings. That is to say, the disadvantages of regency have been put in place of those of election, apparent tranquillity has been preferred to wise administration, and men have chosen rather to risk having children, monstrosities, or imbeciles as rulers to having disputes over the choice of good kings.
  • These difficulties have not escaped our writers, who, all the same, are not troubled by them. The remedy, they say, is to obey without a murmur: God sends bad kings in His wrath, and they must be borne as the scourges of Heaven. Such talk is doubtless edifying; but it would be more in place in a pulpit than in a political book. What are we to think of a doctor who promises miracles, and whose whole art is to exhort the sufferer to patience? We know for ourselves that we must put up with a bad government when it is there; the question is how to find a good one.
  • the further from their source the public contributions are removed, the more burdensome they become. The charge should be measured not by the amount of the impositions, but by the path they have to travel in order to get back to those from whom they came. When the circulation is prompt and well-established, it does not matter whether much or little is paid; the people is always rich and, financially speaking, all is well. On the contrary, however little the people gives, if that little does not return to it, it is soon exhausted by giving continually: the State is then never rich, and the people is always a people of beggars.
  • The advantage of tyrannical government therefore lies in acting at great distances. With the help of the rallying-points it establishes, its strength, like that of the lever,26 grows with distance. The strength of the people, on the other hand, acts only when concentrated: when spread abroad, it evaporates and is lost, like powder scattered on the ground, which catches fire only grain by grain. The least populous countries are thus the fittest for tyranny: fierce animals reign only in deserts.
  • The bounds of possibility, in moral matters, are less narrow than we imagine: it is our weaknesses, our vices and our prejudices that confine them. Base souls have no belief in great men; vile slaves smile in mockery at the name of liberty.
  • Everything that is not in the course of nature has its disadvantages, civil society most of all. There are some unhappy circumstances in which we can only keep our liberty at others' expense, and where the citizen can be perfectly free only when the slave is most a slave. Such was the case with Sparta. As for you, modern peoples, you have no slaves, but you are slaves yourselves; you pay for their liberty with your own. It is in vain that you boast of this preference; I find in it more cowardice than humanity.
  • Peace, unity and equality are the enemies of political subtleties. Men who are upright and simple are difficult to deceive because of their simplicity; lures and ingenious pretexts fail to impose upon them, and they are not even subtle enough to be dupes. When, among the happiest people in the world, bands of peasants are seen regulating affairs of State under an oak, and always acting wisely, can we help scorning the ingenious methods of other nations, which make themselves illustrious and wretched with so much art and mystery?
  • But when the social bond begins to be relaxed and the State to grow weak, when particular interests begin to make themselves felt and the smaller societies to exercise an influence over the larger, the common interest changes and finds opponents: opinion is no longer unanimous; the general will ceases to be the will of all; contradictory views and debates arise; and the best advice is not taken without question.
  • The more concert reigns in the assemblies, that is, the nearer opinion approaches unanimity, the greater is the dominance of the general will. On the other hand, long debates, dissensions and tumult proclaim the ascendancy of particular interests and the decline of the State.Read more at location 2016
  • At the other extremity of the circle, unanimity recurs; this is the case when the citizens, having fallen into servitude, have lost both liberty and will.
  • All that destroys social unity is worthless; all institutions that set man in contradiction to himself are worthless.
  • Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence. Its spirit is so favourable to tyranny that it always profits by such a régime. True Christians are made to be slaves, and they know it and do not much mind: this short life counts for too little in their eyes.
  • The dogmas of civil religion ought to be few, simple, and exactly worded, without explanation or commentary. The existence of a mighty, intelligent and beneficent Divinity, possessed of foresight and providence, the life to come, the happiness of the just, the punishment of the wicked, the sanctity of the social contract and the laws: these are its positive dogmas.
  • tolerance should be given to all religions that tolerate others, so long as their dogmas contain nothing contrary to the duties of citizenship.

Emile: Or, On Education (1762)Edit

Émile ou De l'éducation (full text online)
The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
  • Tout est bien sortant des mains de l'Auteur des choses, tout dégénère entre les mains de l'homme.
    • Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man.'
    • Variant translations: Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the Creator; everything degenerates in the hands of man.
      God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.
    • Book I
  • I shall always maintain that whoso says in his heart, "There is no God," while takes the name of God upon his lips, is either a liar or a madman.
    • Book I
  • Les villes sont le gouffre de l'espèce humaine.
    • Cities are the abyss of the human species.
    • Book I; gouffre is sometimes translated as "sink" instead of "abyss".
  • Men, be kind to your fellow-men; this is your first duty, kind to every age and station, kind to all that is not foreign to humanity. What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? Love childhood, indulge its sports, its pleasures, its delightful instincts. Who has not sometimes regretted that age when laughter was ever on the lips, and when the heart was ever at peace? Why rob these innocents of the joys which pass so quickly, of that precious gift which they cannot abuse? Why fill with bitterness the fleeting days of early childhood, days which will no more return for them than for you? Fathers, can you tell when death will call your children to him? Do not lay up sorrow for yourselves by robbing them of the short span which nature has allotted to them. As soon as they are aware of the joy of life, let them rejoice in it, go that whenever God calls them they may not die without having tasted the joy of life.
    • Book II
  • Une des preuves que le goût de la viande n’est pas naturel à l’homme, est l’indifférence que les enfants ont pour ce mets-là, et la préférence qu’ils donnent tous à des nourritures végétales, telles que le laitage, la pâtisserie, les fruits, etc. Il importe surtout de ne pas dénaturer ce goût primitif, et de ne point rendre les enfants carnassiers; si ce n’est pour leur santé, c’est pour leur caractère; car, de quelque manière qu’on explique l’expérience, il est certain que les grands mangeurs de viande sont en général cruels et féroces plus que les autres hommes; cette observation est de tous les lieux et de tous les temps.
    • The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character; for how can one explain away the fact that great meat-eaters are usually fiercer and more cruel than other men; this has been recognised at all times and in all places.
    • Book II
  • La gourmandise est le vice des cœurs qui n’ont point d’étoffe. L’âme d’un gourmand est toute dans son palais; il n’est fait que pour manger; dans sa stupide incapacité, il n’est qu’à table à sa place, il ne sait juger que des plats; laissons-lui sans regret cet emploi; mieux lui vaut celui-là qu’un autre, autant pour nous que pour lui.
    • Gluttony is the vice of feeble minds. The gourmand has his brains in his palate, he can do nothing but eat; he is so stupid and incapable that the table is the only place for him, and dishes are the only things he knows anything about. Let us leave him to this business without regret; it is better for him and for us.
    • Book II
  • Le plus heureux est celui qui souffre le moins de peines; le plus misérable est celui qui sent le moins de plaisir.
    • The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
    • Book II
  • I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.
    • Book III
  • Jamais la nature ne nous trompe; c’est toujours nous qui nous trompons.
    • Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.
    • Book III, More extensive translation: In the sensation the judgment is purely passive; it affirms that I feel what I feel. In the percept or idea the judgment is active; it connects, compares, it discriminates between relations not perceived by the senses. That is the whole difference; but it is a great difference. Nature never deceives us; we deceive ourselves.
  • Puisqu’il nous faut absolument des livres, il en existe un qui fournit, à mon gré, le plus heureux traité d’éducation naturelle. Ce livre sera le premier que lira mon Émile; seul il composera durant longtemps toute sa bibliothèque, et il y tiendra toujours une place distinguée. Il sera le texte auquel tous nos entretiens sur les sciences naturelles ne serviront que de commentaire. Il servira d’épreuve durant nos progrès à l’état de notre jugement; et, tant que notre goût ne sera pas gâté, sa lecture nous plaira toujours. Quel est donc ce merveilleux livre ? Est-ce Aristote ? est-ce Pline ? est-ce Buffon ? Non; c’est Robinson Crusoé.
    • There is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No — it is Robinson Crusoe.
    • Book III
  • Conscience is the voice of the soul; the passions are the voice of the body.
    • Book III, in The Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar
    • Variant translation: Conscience is the voice of the soul; the passions of the body.
  • Our passions are the chief means of self-preservation; to try to destroy them is therefore as absurd as it is useless; this would be to overcome nature, to reshape God's handiwork. If God bade man annihilate the passions he has given him, God would bid him be and not be; He would contradict himself. He has never given such a foolish commandment, there is nothing like it written on the heart of man, and what God will have a man do, He does not leave to the words of another man. He speaks Himself; His words are written in the secret heart.
    • Book IV
  • I consider those who would prevent the birth of the passions almost as foolish as those who would destroy them, and those who think this has been my object hitherto are greatly mistaken.
    But should we reason rightly, if from the fact that passions are natural to man, we inferred that all the passions we feel in ourselves and behold in others are natural? Their source, indeed, is natural; but they have been swollen by a thousand other streams; they are a great river which is constantly growing, one in which we can scarcely find a single drop of the original stream. Our natural passions are few in number; they are the means to freedom, they tend to self-preservation. All those which enslave and destroy us have another source; nature does not bestow them on us; we seize on them in her despite.
    • Book IV
  • The origin of our passions, the root and spring of all the rest, the only one which is born with man, which never leaves him as long as he lives, is self-love; this passion is primitive, instinctive, it precedes all the rest, which are in a sense only modifications of it. In this sense, if you like, they are all natural.
    • Book IV
  • Il n’y a point de folie dont on ne puisse guérir un homme qui n’est pas fou, hors la vanité.
    • Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly but vanity; there is no cure for this but experience, if indeed there is any cure for it at all; when it first appears we can at least prevent its further growth. But do not on this account waste your breath on empty arguments to prove to the youth that he is like other men and subject to the same weaknesses. Make him feel it or he will never know it.
    • Book IV
  • We cannot teach children the danger of telling lies to men without realising, on the man's part, the danger of telling lies to children. A single untruth on the part of the master will destroy the results of his education.
    • Book IV
  • Let us give him everything. Let us lavish charms and merit on him. Let him be handsome, very clever, and lovable. He will be sought out by women. But in seeking him out before he loves them, they will unhinge him rather than make a lover out of him. He will have successes, but he will have neither transports nor passion for enjoying them. Since his desires, always provided for in advance, never have time to be born, he feels in the bosom of pleasures only the boredom of constraint.
    • Book IV
  • Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil... Blushes are the sign of guilt; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
    • Book IV
  • 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.
    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.
    • Book IV
  • 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 vain enough to want to determine the nature of that whole and our own relations with regard to it.
    • Book IV
  • Leonidas died for his country before Socrates declared that patriotism was a virtue; Sparta was sober before Socrates extolled sobriety; there were plenty of virtuous men in Greece before he defined virtue. But among the men of his own time where did Jesus find that pure and lofty morality of which he is both the teacher and pattern? The voice of loftiest wisdom arose among the fiercest fanaticism, the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the most degraded of nations.
    • Book IV
Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined...
  • La mort de Socrate, philosophant tranquillement avec ses amis, est la plus douce qu’on puisse désirer; celle de Jésus expirant dans les tourments, injurié, raillé, maudit de tout un peuple, est la plus horrible qu’on puisse craindre. […] Jésus, au milieu d’un supplice affreux, prie pour ses bourreaux acharnés. Oui, si la vie et la mort de Socrate sont d’un sage, la vie et la mort de Jésus sont d’un Dieu.
    • One could wish no easier death than that of Socrates, calmly discussing philosophy with his friends; one could fear nothing worse than that of Jesus, dying in torment, among the insults, the mockery, the curses of the whole nation. In the midst of these terrible sufferings, Jesus prays for his cruel murderers. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Christ are those of a God.
    • Variant translation: If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a God.
  • Dirons-nous que l’histoire de l’Évangile est inventée à plaisir ? Mon ami, ce n’est pas ainsi qu’on invente; et les faits de Socrate, dont personne ne doute, sont moins attestés que ceux de Jésus-Christ. Au fond c’est reculer la difficulté sans la détruire; il serait plus inconcevable que plusieurs hommes d’accord eussent fabriqué ce livre, qu’il ne l’est qu’un seul en ait fourni le sujet. Jamais les auteurs juifs n’eussent trouvé ni ce ton ni cette morale; et l’Évangile a des caractères de vérité si grands, si frappants, si parfaitement inimitables, que l’inventeur en serait plus étonnant que le héros. Avec tout cela, ce même Évangile est plein de choses incroyables, de choses qui répugnent à la raison, et qu’il est impossible à tout homme sensé de concevoir ni d’admettre. Que faire au milieu de toutes ces contradictions ? Etre toujours modeste et circonspect, mon enfant; respecter en silence ce qu’on ne saurait ni rejeter, ni comprendre, et s’humilier devant le grand Etre qui seul sait la vérité.
    • Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined; and the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ. At best, you only put the difficulty from you; it would be still more incredible that several persons should have agreed together to invent such a book, than that there was one man who supplied its subject matter. The tone and morality of this story are not those of any Jewish authors, and the gospel indeed contains characters so great, so striking, so entirely inimitable, that their invention would be more astonishing than their hero. With all this the same gospel is full of incredible things, things repugnant to reason, things which no natural man can understand or accept. What can you do among so many contradictions? You can be modest and wary, my child; respect in silence what you can neither reject nor understand, and humble yourself in the sight of the Divine Being who alone knows the truth.
  • A young man when he enters society must be preserved from vanity rather than from sensibility; he succumbs rather to the tastes of others than to his own, and self-love is responsible for more libertines than love. Self-love makes more libertines than love.
    • Book IV, Original French of the last line: L’amour-propre fait plus de libertins que l’amour.
  • He who knows enough of things to value them at their true worth never says too much; for he can also judge of the attention bestowed on him and the interest aroused by what he says. People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little. It is plain that an ignorant person thinks everything he does know important, and he tells it to everybody. But a well-educated man is not so ready to display his learning; he would have too much to say, and he sees that there is much more to be said, so he holds his peace.
    • Book IV
  • Habit accustoms us to everything. What we see too much, we no longer imagine; and it is only imagination which makes us feel the ills of others. It is thus by dint of seeing death and suffering that priests and doctors become pitiless.
    • Book IV
  • Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man's object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth.
    • Book V; Variant translation: A man speaks of what he knows, a woman of what pleases her: the one requires knowledge, the other taste.
  • Où est l’homme de bien qui ne doit rien à son pays ? Quel qu’il soit, il lui doit ce qu’il y a de plus précieux pour l’homme, la mortalité de ses actions et l’amour de la vertu.
    • Where is the man who owes nothing to the land in which he lives? Whatever that land may be, he owes to it the most precious thing possessed by man, the morality of his actions and the love of virtue.
    • Book V
  • So long as chastity is preserved, it is respected; it is despised only after having been lost.
    • Book V
  • So, decide to raise them [women] like men. The men will gladly consent to it! The more women want to resemble them, the less women will govern them, and then men will truly be the masters.
    • Book V
  • Sophie is not beautiful, but in her company men forget beautiful women, and beautiful women are dissatisfied with themselves.
    • Book V
  • One must choose between making a man or a citizen, for one cannot make both at the same time.
    • Allan Bloom, trans. (New York: 1979), p. 39.
  • The abuse of books kills science. Believing that we know what we have read, we believe that we can dispense with learning it.
    • A. Bloom, trans. (1979), p. 184.

A Lasting Peace Through the Federation of Europe (1756)Edit

  • What good would it be to possess the whole universe if one were its only survivor?

Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1765–1770; published 1782)Edit

Les Confessions (full text online)

Book IEdit

  • I have entered on an enterprise which is without precedent, and will have no imitator. I propose to show my fellows a man as nature made him, and this man shall be myself.
    • I
  • I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.
    • Variant translations: I may not be better than other people, but at least I am different.
      If I am not better, at least I am different.
Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I.
  • Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.
    • Variant translation: Let the trumpet of the day of judgment sound when it will, I shall appear with this book in my hand before the Sovereign Judge, and cry with a loud voice, This is my work, there were my thoughts, and thus was I. I have freely told both the good and the bad, have hid nothing wicked, added nothing good.
  • J'adore la liberté; j'abhorre la gêne, la peine, l'assujettissement. Tant que dure l'argent que j'ai dans ma bourse, il assure mon indépendance; il me dispense de m'intriguer pour en trouver d'autre, nécessité que j'eus toujours en horreur; mais de peur de le voir finir, je le choie. L'argent qu'on possède est l'instrument de la liberté; celui qu'on pourchasse est celui de la servitude.
    • I love liberty, and I loathe constraint, dependence, and all their kindred annoyances. As long as my purse contains money it secures my independence, and exempts me from the trouble of seeking other money, a trouble of which I have always had a perfect horror; and the dread of seeing the end of my independence, makes me proportionately unwilling to part with my money. The money that we possess is the instrument of liberty, that which we lack and strive to obtain is the instrument of slavery.

Books II-VIEdit

  • Le remords s'endort durant un destin prospère et s'aigrit dans l'adversité.
    • Remorse sleeps during a prosperous period but wakes up in adversity.
    • Variant translations: Remorse sleeps during prosperity but awakes bitter consciousness during adversity.
      Remorse goes to sleep during a prosperous period and wakes up in adversity.
    • II
  • It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living.
    • Variant translation: It is too difficult to think nobly when one only thinks to get a living.
    • II
  • Hatred, as well as love, renders its votaries credulous.
    • V
  • I remembered the way out suggested by a great princess when told that the peasants had no bread: "Well, let them eat cake".
    • Variant: At length I recollected the thoughtless saying of a great princess, who, on being informed that the country people had no bread, replied, "Then let them eat cake!"
    • This passage contains a statement Qu'ils mangent de la brioche that has usually come to be attributed to Marie Antoinette; this was written in 1766, when Marie Antoinette was 10 and still 4 years away from her marriage to Louis XVI of France, and is an account of events of 1740, before she was born. It also implies the phrase had been long known before that time.
    • VI

On the musicians of the Ospedale della Pieta (book VII)Edit

An account of a visit to the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice.
  • A kind of music far superior, in my opinion, to that of operas, and which in all Italy has not its equal, nor perhaps in the whole world, is that of the 'scuole'. The 'scuole' are houses of charity, established for the education of young girls without fortune, to whom the republic afterwards gives a portion either in marriage or for the cloister. Amongst talents cultivated in these young girls, music is in the first rank. Every Sunday at the church of each of the four 'scuole', during vespers, motettos or anthems with full choruses, accompanied by a great orchestra, and composed and directed by the best masters in Italy, are sung in the galleries by girls only; not one of whom is more than twenty years of age. I have not an idea of anything so voluptuous and affecting as this music; the richness of the art, the exquisite taste of the vocal part, the excellence of the voices, the justness of the execution, everything in these delightful concerts concurs to produce an impression which certainly is not the mode, but from which I am of opinion no heart is secure. Carrio and I never failed being present at these vespers of the 'Mendicanti', and we were not alone. The church was always full of the lovers of the art, and even the actors of the opera came there to form their tastes after these excellent models. What vexed me was the iron grate, which suffered nothing to escape but sounds, and concealed from me the angels of which they were worthy. I talked of nothing else. One day I spoke of it at Le Blond's; "If you are so desirous," said he, "to see those little girls, it will be an easy matter to satisfy your wishes. I am one of the administrators of the house, I will give you a collation [light meal] with them." I did not let him rest until he had fulfilled his promise. In entering the saloon, which contained these beauties I so much sighed to see, I felt a trembling of love which I had never before experienced. M. le Blond presented to me one after the other, these celebrated female singers, of whom the names and voices were all with which I was acquainted. Come, Sophia, — she was horrid. Come, Cattina, — she had but one eye. Come, Bettina, — the small-pox had entirely disfigured her. Scarcely one of them was without some striking defect.
    Le Blond laughed at my surprise; however, two or three of them appeared tolerable; these never sung but in the choruses; I was almost in despair. During the collation we endeavored to excite them, and they soon became enlivened; ugliness does not exclude the graces, and I found they possessed them. I said to myself, they cannot sing in this manner without intelligence and sensibility, they must have both; in fine, my manner of seeing them changed to such a degree that I left the house almost in love with each of these ugly faces. I had scarcely courage enough to return to vespers. But after having seen the girls, the danger was lessened. I still found their singing delightful; and their voices so much embellished their persons that, in spite of my eyes, I obstinately continued to think them beautiful.

Books VIII-XIIEdit

  • The thirst after happiness is never extinguished in the heart of man.
    • IX

Quotes about RousseauEdit

  • ...whatever his ambiguities of his legacy in respect of totalitarianism, there is no doubt that Rousseau is the key figure in the development of democratic thought...it was Rousseau who developed the concept of sovereignty of the people, and he was the first to insist upon the fitness and right of the ordinary people to participate in the political system as full citizens.
    • Ian Adams and R. W. Dyson, Fifty Major Political Thinkers, Routledge, 2003.
  • Binary distinctions are not necessarily motivated by a desire to dominate. David Spurr (1993: 103) discusses the ways in which Rousseau, in the Essay on the Origin of Languages, attempts to validate the ‘life and warmth’ of Oriental languages such as Arabic and Persian. But in employing the ‘logic and precision’ of Western writing to do so, Rousseau effectively negates these languages because they become characterized by a primitive lack of rational order and culture. Although setting out to applaud such languages, he succeeds in confirming the binary between European science, understanding, industry and writing on the one hand, and Oriental primitivism and irrationality on the other.
    • Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin (2000). Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts, second edition, London: Routledge, p. 20, citing Spurr’s The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing and Imperial Administration, Durham and London: Duke University Press.
  • The best-known expression of the idea of the ‘noble savage’ is in Rousseau’s A Discourse on Inequality (1755). The concept arises in the eighteenth century as a European nostalgia for a simple, pure, idyllic state of the natural, posed against rising industrialism and the notion of overcomplications and sophistications of European urban society. This nostalgia creates an image of other cultures as part of Rousseau’s criticism of the failure, as he perceived it, of modern European societies to preserve and maintain the natural innocence, freedom and equality of man in a ‘natural’ state. It creates images of the savage that serve primarily to re-define the European. The crucial fact about the construction is that it produces an ostensibly positive oversimplification of the ‘savage’ figure, rendering it in this particular form as an idealized rather than a debased stereotype.
    • Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin (2000). Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts, second edition, London: Routledge, p. 193
  • The average age at which a man marries is thirty years; the average age at which his passions, his most violent desires for genesial delight are developed, is twenty years.  Now during the ten fairest years of his life, during the green season in which his beauty, his youth and his wit make him more dangerous to husbands than at any other epoch of his life, his finds himself without any means of satisfying legitimately that irresistible craving for love which burns in his whole nature.  During this time, representing the sixth part of human life, we are obliged to admit that the sixth part or less of our total male population and the sixth part which is the most vigorous is placed in a position which is perpetually exhausting for them, and dangerous for society.
    “Why don’t they get married?” cries a religious woman.
    
But what father of good sense would wish his son to be married at twenty years of age?
    
Is not the danger of these precocious unions apparent at all?  It would seem as if marriage was a state very much at variance with natural habitude, seeing that it requires a special ripeness of judgment in those who conform to it.  All the world knows what Rousseau said:  “There must always be a period of libertinage in life either in one state or another.  It is an evil leaven which sooner or later ferments.”
    
Now what mother of a family is there who would expose her daughter to the risk of this fermentation when it has not yet taken place?
    • Honore de Balzac (1829) The Physiology of Marriage; or, the Musings of an Eclectic Philosopher on the Happiness and Unhappiness of Married Life “Meditation IV: On the Virtuous Woman”
  • Rousseau’s unforgivable crime was his rejection of the graces and luxuries of civilized existence. Voltaire had sung “The superfluous, that most necessary thing." For the high bourgeois standard of living Rousseau would substitute the middling peasant’s. It was the country versus the city – an exasperating idea for them, as was the amazing fact that every new work of Rousseau’s was a huge success, whether the subject was politics, theater, education, religion, or a novel about love.
  • ...As with any truly great writer, it is foolish to judge Rousseau by the instances where people tried to follow his advice literally, still less by the harmful things done in his name (by which standard Jesus Christ does not exactly come off unblemished.) Rousseau’s influence on modern culture has been far too vast and multifaceted to squeeze into reductive categories of “positive” and “negative” and even his most misguided prescriptions often came accompanied by profound and poetic insights.
    • David A. Bell, "Happy Birthday to Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Why the World’s First Celebrity Intellectual Still Matters",New Republic, June 22nd, 2012.
  • For Rousseau, man’s nature is essentially good, but he was corrupted by various “advances” in human civilization (especially the institution of private property). Although man’s natural “innocence” has been lost, Rousseau thought that it could be replaced by a new form of moral goodness through the establishment of new political institutions. When we compare this to St. Augustine, we can see what a departure this is from the mainstream of Pauline Christianity. Augustine held that man is inescapably sinful and concludes that, as such, the City of God cannot be achieved on earth. Rousseau’s major contribution to the foundation of socialist thought is in his rejection of human sinfulness and his commitment to human improvement through institutional change. With this foundational belief, he set the stage for perfectionist political doctrines that moved focus from “the next world” of Christianity by arguing that this world can be transformed into “heaven on earth.”
    • Nicholas Buccola, “‘The Tyranny of the Least and the Dumbest’: Nietzsche’s Critique of Socialism,” Quarterly Journal of Ideology, Volume 31, 2009, 3 &4, italics as in original
  • Rousseau, though holding views diametrically opposed to Luther's as to the character of man, finally strengthened his hand by his estimate of man's mind. Luther believed in the utter moral wretchedness of man, but Rousseau believed not only in man's goodness on the plane of character but he also was convinced (like Luther) that man is by nature intelligent. The "democrats" of the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries deducted from Luther's and Rousseau's joint declaration that man is intelligent (either by nature or by an inner light) the further conclusion that the sum total of all minds must be perfection itself.
    • Francis Stuart Campbell, pen name of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1943), Menace of the Herd, or, Procrustes at Large, Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 41
  • National Socialism is the fulfillment of Continental "liberalism" which stems largely from Rousseau […] The continental Liberals never were liberals in the English sense [i.e., never were classical liberals ]; their "liberalism" was nothing else but the struggle against the existing order and the old tradition. Foolishly enough the English Liberals supported their continental "coreligionists," never being fully aware of the abyss which actually divided them.
    • Francis Stuart Campbell, pen name of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1943), Menace of the Herd, or, Procrustes at Large, Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 213
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau's many false starts as medical student, clockmaker, theologian, painter, servant, musician, and botanist are noted, as well as his curious letter addressed to God Almighty which he placed under the altar of Notre Dame. Rousseau's expressed repugnance toward the normal sex act is also noted.
  • The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction.
    • Michael Crichton, “Environmentalism as Religion” (lecture given 15 September 2003 at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA
  • Now, you needn't have studied marketing to know that there are two groups of people who can always be convinced to consume more than they need to: addicts and children. School has done a pretty good job of turning our children into addicts, but a spectacular job of turning our children into children. Again, this is no accident. Theorists from Plato to Rousseau to our own Dr. [Alexander] Inglis knew that if children could be cloistered with other children, stripped of responsibility and independence, encouraged to develop only the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy, and fear, they would grow older but never truly grow up.
    • John Taylor Gatto (2009), Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, p. xxi
  • [W]hat truly makes the French Revolution the first fascist revolution was its effort to turn politics into a religion. (In this the revolutionaries were inspired by Rousseau, whose concept of the general will divinized the people while rendering the person an afterthought.)
    • Jonah Goldberg (2007). Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. NY: Doubleday, ISBN 9780385511841, p. 13
  • Robespierre’s ideas were derived from his close study of Rousseau, whose theory of the general will formed the intellectual basis for all modern totalitarianisms. According to Rousseau, individuals who live in accordance with the general will are “free” and “virtuous” while those who defy it are criminals, fools or heretics. Those enemies of the common good must be forced to bend to the general will. He described this state-sanctioned coercion in Orwellian terms as the act of “forcing men to be free.” It was Rousseau who originally sanctified the sovereign will of the masses while dismissing the mechanisms of democracy as corrupting and profane. Such mechanics -- voting in elections, representative bodies, and so forth -- are “hardly ever necessary where the government is well-intentioned,” wrote Rousseau in a revealing turn of phrase.
    • Jonah Goldberg (2007). Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. NY: Doubleday, ISBN 9780385511841, p. 39
  • Marx, like Rousseau before him, believed that men are good and made bad only by bad social systems. Unlike Rousseau, he believed that these systems arise from historical necessity. It occurred neither to Marx nor to Rousseau-as it did to Madison-that bad men corrupt good systems just as often as vice versa.
    • Ernest Van Den Haag, “Marxism as Pseudo-Science,” Reason Papers No. 12 (Spring 1987) pp. 26-32.
  • The first great frontal assault on the Enlightenment was launched by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Rousseau has a well-deserved reputation as the bad boy of eighteenth century French philosophy. In the context of Enlightenment intellectual culture, Rousseau’s was a major dissenting voice. He was an admirer of all things Spartan—the Sparta of militaristic and feudal communalism—and a despiser of all things Athenian—the classical Athens of commerce, cosmopolitanism, and the high arts. Civilization is thoroughly corrupting, Rousseau argued -- not only the oppressive feudal system of eighteenth-century France with its decadent and parasitical aristocracy, but also its Enlightenment alternative with its exaltation of reason, property, the arts and sciences. Name a dominant feature of the Enlightenment, and Rousseau was against it.
    • Philosopher Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (2004), Tempe, AZ: Scholargy Press, p. 92.
  • Thus you see, [Rousseau] is a Composition of Whim, Affectation, Wickedness, Vanity, and Inquietude, with a very small, if any Ingredient of Madness. ... The ruling Qualities abovementioned, together with Ingratitude, Ferocity, and Lying, I need not mention, Eloquence and Invention, form the whole of the Composition.
  • In the famous fragment on the origin of inequality, Rousseau seems to believe that private property was simply invented by a madman; yet we do not know how this diabolical contrivance, opposed as it was to innate human drives, was taken up by other people and spread all over the human societies.
  • A utopian vision, once it is translated into political idiom, becomes mendacious or self-contradictory; it provides new names for old injustice or hides the contradictions under ad hoc invented labels. This is especially true of revolutionary utopias, whether elaborated in the actual revolutionary process or simply applied in its course. The Orwellian language had been known, though not codified, long before modern totalitarian despotism. Rousseau’s famous slogan, “One has to compel people to freedom,” is a good example.
  • In truth,Rousseau was a genius whose real influence cannot be traced with precision because it pervaded all the thought that followed him...Men will always be sharply divided about Rousseau: for he released imagination as well as sentimentalism; he increased men’s desire for justice as well as confusing their minds, and he gave the poor hope even though the rich could make use of his arguments.
  • In one direction at least Rousseau’s influence was a steady one: he discredited force as a basis for the State, convinced men that authority was legitimate only when founded in rational consent and that no arguments from passing expediency could justify a government in disregarding individual freedom or in failing to promote social equality.
  • It is not enough to say that Jean-Jacques is close to us; he is one of us. His contemporaries and the generation that followed his have retained his redundancy and his eloquence.
  • [M]y position has nothing in common with a Rousseauistic optimism about human "nature.” […] Rousseau's pedagogy is profoundly manipulative. This does not always seem to be recognized by educators, but it has been convincingly demonstrated and documented.
  • Alice Miller (1972) on Rousseau's educational philosophy as an exemplar of “poisonous pedagogy”, in For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence
  • The disciples of Jean Jacques Rousseau who raved about nature and the blissful condition of man in the state of nature did not take notice

of the fact that the means of subsistence are scarce and that the natural state of man is extreme poverty and insecurity.

    • Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Revolution (1957), p. 173
  • But Rousseau — to what did he really want to return? Rousseau, this first modern man, idealist and rabble in one person — one who needed moral "dignity" to be able to stand his own sight, sick with unbridled vanity and unbridled self-contempt. This miscarriage, couched on the threshold of modern times, also wanted a "return to nature"; to ask this once more, to what did Rousseau want to return? I still hate Rousseau in the French Revolution: it is the world-historical expression of this duality of idealist and rabble. The bloody farce which became an aspect of the Revolution, its "immorality," is of little concern to me: what I hate is its Rousseauan morality — the so-called "truths" of the Revolution through which it still works and attracts everything shallow and mediocre. The doctrine of equality! There is no more poisonous poison anywhere: for it seems to be preached by justice itself, whereas it really is the termination of justice. "Equal to the equal, unequal to the unequal" — that would be the true slogan of justice; and also its corollary: "Never make equal what is unequal." That this doctrine of equality was surrounded by such gruesome and bloody events, that has given this "modern idea" par excellence a kind of glory and fiery aura so that the Revolution as a spectacle has seduced even the noblest spirits.
    • Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (1889), translator Walter Kauffman
  • I remember once lately discussing with a friend the instance of some one we knew who had become bored with existence and had taken his own way out of it. I said I could not object to suicide on the ethical or religious grounds ordinarily alleged, and I saw nothing but uncommonly far-fetched absurdity in Rousseau's plea that suicide is a robbery committed against society.
    • Albert Jay Nock (1943), Memoirs of a Superflous Man, NY: Harper and Brothers, p. 326
  • Sexuality and eroticism are the intricate intersection of nature and culture. Feminists grossly oversimplify the problem of sex when they reduce it a matter of social convention: readjust society, eliminate sexual inequality, purify sex roles, and happiness and harmony will reign. Here feminism, like all liberal movements of the past two hundred years, is heir to Rousseau.
  • We remain in the Romantic cycle initiated by Rousseau: liberal idealism canceled by violence, barbarism, disillusionment and cynicism.
  • [F]ascism owed something to the Enlightenment idea that society need not be determined by tradition, but could be organized according to a blueprint derived from universal principles. The Enlightenment thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s notion that society should be governed by one such universal ideal, the ‘general will’, is especially relevant, since it was taken up by the most revolutionary of the French Revolutionaries, the Jacobins. The Jacobins justified violence as a means to construct a new order and weed out those who opposed the general will (or the nation). They were ready to force people to be free.
    • Kevin Passamore, Fascism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0–19–280155–4, p. 34
  • If we prefer to trace a lineage [of facscist ideology] within the [political] Left, drawing on the Enlightenment's own perception that individual liberty can undermine community, some as gone back as far as Rousseau.
    • Robert O. Paxton, "Five Stages of Fascism." The Journal of Modern History, Vol 70 no. 1 (March, 1998).

that of Locke.

    • Mathematician/philosopher Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945, p. 685.

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Last modified on 17 April 2014, at 10:33