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Jean  Jacques  Rousseau

1712-1778


        Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1712.  His mother died days after his birth and when he was ten, his father left Geneva to avoid being jailed for minor crimes; thus, he was raised by his aunt and uncle.  At the age of thirteen, Rousseau was an apprentice to an engraver.  When he was sixteen, he left Geneva and wandered around Europe, and was the secretary and companion of Madame Louise de Warens, who was a charitable and affluent woman.  Rousseau went to Paris in 1742, and he made a living as a political secretary, music teacher, music copyist and a tutor.  It was at this time that Rousseau befriended Denis Diderot, a famous French philosopher.
        In 1750, Rousseau won an award for his "Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts," and his opera "Le Devin du Village" was first performed in 1752.  He finished his "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Mankind" in 1755, which argued that the arts, sciences and social institutions did not benefit humankind, for the knowledge gained made governments powerful, which demolished individual liberty.  Therefore, Rousseau felt that the natural state was morally superior to the "civilized" state of nature.
        Jean Jacques Rousseau is most famous for "The Social Contract (1762)."  In this book, he stated that human nature is beastly, lacking morals, and that good people are merely a result of society's presence.  People are constantly in competition, and since a person can avoid harm by joining the people who can afflict harm, the person will join that society.  "The Social Contract" states that a government can only be successful when running a society with the consent of the people, therefore representing the general will of the people.
        Jean Jacques Rousseau advocated liberty, individuality, and morality.  His beliefs helped to mold the political systems of some countries such as the United States of America.  Rousseau was a strong believer in democracy.


 

  Literature Written by Rousseau

The Confessions
Discourse on Political Economy
Narcissus
Emile (On Education)


 
Music Composed by Rousseau

Overture from "Le Devin du Village"
Allons Danser: Aria from "Le Devin du Village"
Hymn