Rousseau, Jean Jacques (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Jean Jacques Rousseau achieved prominence as a philosopher and political theorist in eighteenth-century France. A talented musical composer and botanist, Rousseau's ideas on the nature of society made him an influential figure in Western thought. His belief that civilization had corrupted humankind was a central part of his philosophy. His work elevated the importance of the individual and personal liberty, providing support for U.S. revolutionary ideology.
Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712, in Geneva, Switzerland. By the age of sixteen, he had left home. In Savoy he met Baronne Louise De Warens, a wealthy woman who took Rousseau into her home and transformed him into a philosopher through a rigorous course of study. Rousseau also studied music during his time with De Warens. In 1742 he moved to Paris, where he became associated with Denis Diderot, a philosopher who was editor of the French Encyclopédie, a monumental work of scholarship about the arts and society. Diderot commissioned Rousseau to write articles about music for the work.
In 1750 Rousseau won a prize for his essay Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts. The essay announced one of Rousseau's life-long tenets: human beings are inherently good but have been corrupted by society and civilization. In 1752 he won fame as a composer for his opera The Village Sage. Despite the accolades, Rousseau...
(The entire section is 806 words.)
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