Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) is widely acknowledged as on of the most important thinkers of the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment. The areas he most influenced were Romanticism, education, and political philosophy. His most important works were:
- A Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (nonfiction, 1750/1): argues that modern developments in arts and science did not improve moral character; developed the concept of the "Noble Savage".
- Of the Social Contract, Principles of Political Right (nonfiction, 1755/61): a treatise which argued that legitimate sovereignty was always with the people and that governments were only legitimatized by the people they ruled.
- Julie, or The New Héloïse (novel, 1761): a romantic novel emphasizing the virtues of nature and the simple rural life.
- Emilius and Sophia: Or, a New System of Education (nonfiction, 1762-1763): argues for individualized instruction based on children's innate abilities and interests and balancing study with physical activity and exploration of nature,
- The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (autobiography, 1783-1790): posthumously published, and unusually frank for the period.
The major works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau were:
- Discourse on the Arts and Sciences
In 1750, he wrote the text as a response to an essay contest at the nearby Academy of Dijon. It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau's first major philosophical work.
- The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men.
In 1753, Rousseau wrote the philosophical work and also entered it in the Academy of Dijon's essay contest. This work was also widely read and considered controversial.
- Julie or the New Heloise
In 1761, he wrote this book of fiction. It was one of the best-selling books of the century. The book featured a love triangle between some of the characters, but also displayed off his philosophical tendencies about humanity and nature.
- The Social Contract
In 1762, he published one out of two of his major philosophical treatises. The treatise is a political philosophical work. He outlines how a government can exist in a way that protects the equality and character of its citizens.
In 1762, he published his second major philosophical treatises. Rousseau focused on his philosophical opinions on education. He stated his belief that an education gave citizens the opportunity to learn how to be good even though they lived in a corrupt society.