Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss-born philosopher, writer, and political theorist whose ideas influenced the Enlightenment in Europe, as well as the French Revolution.

Birth: June 28, 1712, in Geneva, Switzerland. Death: July 2, 1778, in Ermenonville, France.

Known For:

  • His political philosophy, particularly his formulation of social contract theory
  • his novel “Julie, or the New Heloise” which was important to the development of preromanticism and romanticism in fiction.

Important Contributions: Rousseau’s philosophy proposed that people are naturally good but become corrupted by society and civilization;
his work on education, especially in “Emile, or On Education”, emphasized the importance of individual expression and the development of moral character. argues that private property is the source of inequality The Social Contract - outlines the basis for a legitimate political order, volonté générale (“general will”)

Works: “The Social Contract”, “Discourse on Inequality”, “Emile, or On Education”, and “The Reveries of the Solitary Walker”

Other: Samuel Johnson told his biographer James Boswell, “I think him one of the worst of men; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been” referring to Rousseau.148^[Boswell, James (1791). The Life of Samuel Johnson. p. 127.]