First Impressions of Rousseau

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous ...

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous edition of Rousseau’s works, after an original by Angelique Briceau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First Impressions of Rousseau: what do you find difficult, challenging, or intriguing? How far away (philosophically) are we from Kant and Mendelssohn?

Unlike Burlamaqui who lays out his arguments by focusing on the building blocks of societies (the concept of right), Rousseau’s essay deals with much broader concepts and themes. He analyzes history and tries to get to the heart of the problem, i.e. the origin and the foundations of inequality among men. Because he does not build his argument using definitions like Burlamaqui, his essay occasionally appears to be much more complex and convoluted. In particular, the essay requires the reader to either know the history of societies that he is referring to or take his interpretations of the history at face value. On the other hand, Rousseau’s style of avoiding particular details and instead dealing with sweeping themes makes his essay much more approachable than Burlamaqui’s essay.

Williams, David. The Enlightenment. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 1999. Print.

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