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Biography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau | Swiss philosopher.

(Geneva, Switzerland, 1712 – Ermenonville, France, 1778) Swiss philosopher. Along with Voltaire and Montesquieu, it is located between the great thinkers of the enlightenment in France. However, although he shared with the illustrated the purpose of overcoming the obscurantism of the preceding centuries, the work of Jean-Jacques or Juan Jacobo Rousseau presents points diverging, as its concept of progress, and in general more advanced: its political and social ideas preludiaron the French Revolution, his literary sensibility was anticipated to romanticism, and by the new and fruitful concepts introduced in the field of education the father of modern pedagogy is considered.
Orphaned of mother from an early age, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was raised by his maternal aunt and her father, a modest watchmaker. Without hardly having received education, he worked as an apprentice with a notary and a recorder, who submitted it to such brutal treatment that eventually leave Geneva in 1728.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (portrait of Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1753)
It was then taken under the protection of the Baroness de Warens, who convinced him of it became to Catholicism (his family was Calvinist). As a lover of the Baroness, Jean-Jacques Rousseau settled in this residence in Chambéry and began an intense period of self-taught study.
In 1742 Rousseau put an end to a stage that later recalled as the only happy in his life and left for Paris, where he presented a new musical notation system devised by him, with which I hoped to achieve a fame which, however, took to arrive at the Academy of the sciences. He spent a year (1743-1744) as Secretary of the French Ambassador in Venice, but a confrontation with this determined his return to Paris, where he started a relationship with an uneducated maid, Thérèse Levasseur, who eventually married civilly in 1768 after having had with her five children.
Rousseau befriended by then the enlightened, and was invited to contribute to music articles to the encyclopedia of d'Alembert and Diderot; the latter led him arising in 1750 to the contest organized by the Academy of Dijon, which awarded first prize to his discourse on the arts and Sciences, which marked the beginning of his fame.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (oil of Allan Ramsay, 1766)
In 1754 he again visited Geneva and returned to Protestantism to reacquire their rights as a citizen of Geneva, understanding that it was a pure legislative procedure. Then appeared his discourse on the origin of inequality among men, written also for the contest organized in 1755 by the Academy of Dijon. Rousseau opposed in this work the pictorial conception of progress, considering that men in their natural state are by definition innocent and happy, and that are culture and civilization which impose inequality among them (especially from the establishment of the property) and bring unhappiness.
In 1756 he settled at the residence of her friend Madame d' Épinay in Montmorency, where wrote some of his most important works. Julia or the new Eloisa (1761) is a sentimental novel inspired by his passion - not matched - by the sister-in-law of Madame d' Épinay, which was disputed with the latter.
In the social contract (1762), Rousseau tries to articulate the integration of individuals into the community; demands for freedom of the citizen must be guaranteed via an ideal social contract that stipulates the total surrender of each partner to the community, in such a way that its extreme dependence on the city release that has with respect to other citizens and their particular selfishness. The general will noted the agreement of the various individual wills, so it is expressed rationality which is common, so that dependence becomes in the genuine realization of the freedom of the individual, be rational.

Illustration of Emilio or education (1762)
Finally, Emilio or education (1762) is a pedagogical novel, whose religious party earned him the immediate condemnation by the Parisian authorities and fleeing to Neuchâtel, where arose again conflicts with the local authorities, so that, in 1766, accepted an invitation from David Hume to take refuge in England, while the following year he returned to the continent convinced that Hume was only intended to defame him. Thereafter Rousseau changed residence, constantly harassed by persecution mania that eventually led him back to Paris in 1770, where he passed the last years of his life, that he wrote his autobiographical writings.
The work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Unanimously considered one of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau contributed works to the theorisation of Deism (profession of faith of a Savoyard Vicar), the creation of a new pedagogy (Emilio), critique of absolutism (discourse on the origin and basis of inequality among men, the social contract), the controversy about the meaning of human progress (discourse on the arts and Sciences) the rise of the sentimental novel (Julia or the new Eloisa) and the development of the autobiographical genre (confessions). In addition, Rousseau addressed the major issues of his time and participated actively in all the intellectual debates that fascinated a century.
However, at the time who is a man of ideology (with their budgets based on reason, nature, tolerance and freedom), Rousseau Announces some streams that will be disseminated from the revolution. Thus, on the one hand, the Geneva-based thinker put into circulation certain ideas that questioned the radical optimism of lights: the perfection of the State of nature against the corruption of the society undertook the confidence in the progress of the enlightened; the idealization of the noble savage confronted the of "ignoble Savage" economists who studied media material development of mankind, and the emphasis on feeling and will could undermine the confidence shown in the Empire of reason.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
On the other hand, its political proposals not only chance illusions in the benevolent reformism of the enlightened despots, but offered an alternative mode of organization of society and threw an unequivocal slogan against the absolutism of divine right to defend the principle of national sovereignty and the general will of the community of citizens.
In this way, Rousseau was located at the crossroads of the Enlightenment, feeding at the same time the underground currents that inspired the pre-romanticism and doctrinal sources where the revolution can produce vibrant. Despite wield not too solid arguments, the first important text, discourse on the sciences and arts (1750), is the key to understanding his reluctance against rationalist optimism who believed firmly in the progress of civilization.
Rousseau walked away already in this work of enlightened thought to be attributed little importance to the improvement of science and give greater value to the volitional faculties to reason. Answering the one-sidedness of a vision of progress cinched to the technical and material, to the detriment of the moral and cultural sphere, he denounced the incongruity that was supposed to be called human progress to what was a mere technological development. Although progress in the domain of nature and artistic patrimony had increased, civilization had not done a freer, happier, or more kindly man.
The company to elucidate the effects of social organization on human nature rushed it into the discourse on the origin and basis of inequality among men (1755). If in previous writings had already theorized on the natural goodness of man and the corrupting effect of the society, he now spent to develop the idea of the noble savage. In a primitive State of nature did not exist between human inequalities relevant (only those derived from biology) and men were neither good nor bad, but simply "amoral". A series of external causes pushed the men to gather and provide mutual aid to certain undertakings, and in the course of that Association were born the passions that transformed his spirit.

First edition of the social contract (1762)
This "State of nature" was essentially a theoretical concept, but offered Rousseau the basis for condemning the injustices of the world of his time, warn about entrenched corruption and expose the disorder of civil society. Thus, based on a primitive and idyllic associative Stadium, nucleado around the family and later transferred to the Community (which inspired the solidarity and guided the habit and not law, sharing the fruit of hunting), arrived at the timing of the split: the emergence of agriculture, mining and, therefore, private property and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few.
The process continued with the emergence of the servitude, consistent in that the dispossessed offered her work in Exchange for the protection of the powerful. Abuses led to the mutual distrust and the need to prevent crime, so it was necessary the installation of a Government and the enactment of laws for the protection of private property. If here the outline of this evolution was not new (already had been pointed to by John Locke), originality was to clarify that the process had operated in defense of the property of the rich; Hence the revolutionary character of the hypothesis.
Clear is that Rousseau not advocated the abolition of private property, which was considered a fact irreversible and therefore inherent to the State of society, but pointed towards the improvement of the situation through the improvement of the political organization. As soon as diagnosis of the origin of social injustice and unhappiness of man, the speech has indeed its necessary complement in another of his key works, the social contract (1762), with his proposal of a new society founded on a Covenant on freely accepted by individuals, from which emanates a general desire expressed in law and which reconciles individual freedom with a just social order.
While it is not possible to oppose an illustration of the reason and another sense (because precisely among the most characteristic lights phenomena are the exaltation of nature, the revolution of affection or the triumph of privacy), there is no doubt that the rousseauniano emphasis on the vindication of the sentiment against the pure reason arcadica idealization of nature and inquiry stubborn in the secret stronghold of intimacy are elements which herald the emergence of the new spiritual climate of the pre-romanticism.
In this regard, Rousseau collaborated decisively in the dissemination of an aesthetic sense with the publication of his novel the new Eloisa (1761), although it is not the only writer of sentimental novels nor responsible for tear melodramas that followed (the so-called pleurnicheries). The goodness of the man in an ideal state of nature is the basis of a work intended to inaugurate the modern pedagogy: Emilio or education (1762); Therefore the educational work has to be carried out on the fringes of society and its institutions and is not to impose rules or direct learning, but in promoting the development of spontaneous child inclinations by facilitating contact with nature, which is wise and educational.
On the other hand, their confessions (published posthumously in 1782 and 1789) represent, in a century inclined to autobiography, an outstanding example of personal introspection and extreme display of own privacy, to a degree that would not be until full romanticism. Finally, it is not surprising that death surprised him meditating in the solitude of the gardens to the English of the castle of Ermenonville, where the Marquis de Girardin, had invited while delivered to the illustrated the herborization, pleasure as she left described in the reveries of the solitary Walker, published also posthumously in 1782.
The duality of the figure and work of Rousseau did not go unnoticed to their peers, as evidenced by the words of Goethe: 'Voltaire ends a world, with Rousseau begins another'. A world which, on the one hand, driving to romanticism (due to the advance of the irrationalism, exacerbation of sentimentality, the rise of nationalism and the revaluation of the medieval dark ages) and, secondly, to the revolution.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
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