Rousseau, self-love, and an increasingly connected world

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most influential thinkers of the eighteenth century French enlightenment period. Born in Geneva in 1712, Rousseau made important contributions to philosophy,
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most influential thinkers of the eighteenth century French enlightenment period. Born in Geneva in 1712, Rousseau made important contributions to philosophy, literature, and even music. The work that initially made him famous is the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, his submission to an essay contest put forth by the Academy of Dijon in 1750. Rousseau’s answer to their prompt “Has the restoration of the sciences and arts tended to purify morals?” won the prize, although his answer was somewhat surprising given the ideals one generally associates with enlightenment. He claimed that advances in the sciences and arts come at the expense of virtue. The argument proceeds on a number of levels, but one of Rousseau’s most striking claims was that societies that value scientific and artistic progress come to praise talent instead of genuine moral goodness. He wrote, “One no longer asks if a man is upright, but rather if he is talented; nor of a book if. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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