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PHIL 2027 Philosophy of Rousseau


PHIL 2027 Philosophy of Rousseau Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts ( DSA ), pt. I – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: PHIL 2027 Philosophy of Rousseau

PHIL 2027 Philosophy of Rousseau
  • Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts (DSA),
    pt. I

Account in Confs., Bk 8
  • On reading the Academys question in the Mercure
    de France
  • I beheld another universe and became another
    man (327).
  • when I reached Vincennes where Diderot was in
    prison I was in a state of agitation bordering
    on delirium.
  • All my little passions were stifled by an
    enthusiasm for truth, liberty, and virtuethis
    fermentation worked in my heart for more than
    four years (328).

His own assessment
  • The work, however, though full of strength and
    fervour, is completely lacking in logic and
    order (328-9).
  • Of all those that have proceeded from my pen it
    is the most feebly argued, the most deficient in
    proportion and harmony.
  • But, whatever talents one may have been born
    with, the art of writings is not learned all at
    once (329)

DSA, pt. I
  • Assumptions about pre-modern and non-European
  • Europe in the Middle Ages had relapsed into
    the Barbarism of former ages par. 8
  • A revolution was required to return men to
    common sense 9
  • Where does the revolution come from?
  • What tone does Rousseau adopt toward the source
    of the revolution?
  • See also his comments about Constantinople 20
    and China 21

Ancient vs Modern Mores
  • In the past, we had rustic, natural mores 12
  • Today a vile and deceiving uniformity,
  • inauthenticity, things not what they appear 13
  • Uncertainty in human relations promotes vices
    see list 14
  • Such is the purity our morals have acquired,
    this is how we have become good Men 15.
  • Our souls have become corrupted as our Sciences
    and our Arts have advanced toward perfection
  • Virtue has been seen fleeingas the light of
    the S A rose on our horizon, and the same
    phenomenon has been observed at all times and in
    all places emph. added 16.

What does Rousseau mean by Arts?
  • Rousseau is not referring to painting, sculpture,
    or other fine arts
  • He is referring above all to practical arts
  • Technologies (see next slide)
  • Practices associated with the sciences
  • Art is taken here in the sense of artificial,
    or man-made
  • In Greek, techne (skill, craft the techne of
    the ruler, the physician, the shoemaker, etc.)

Arts in the Encylopédie
  • however extensive my work is, it is much less
    than that of my colleague, M. Diderot. He is the
    author of the longest and most important part of
    this Encyclopedia, the part most desired by the
    public, and I daresay the most difficult to
    execute that is the description of the
    mechanical arts.
  • M. Diderot has based it upon memoranda which have
    been furnished to him by workersor upon the
    crafts which he has gone to the trouble of
    observing, and for whichhe has had models
    constructed (emph. added PD, 134-5).

Practical Arts Viticulture and Weaving
Illustrations of Chemistry and Anatomy
Encyclopedia translation project
  • http//
  • See also Encyclopédie in HKU libraries
    databases (French)

The evidence for moral decline through the S A
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Conquered by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks
  • Ancient Greece
  • ever learned, ever voluptuous, and ever
    enslaveda body which luxury and the Arts had
    enervated 18
  • Socratess account of Athenian decadence 28-30
  • Roman republic (not the Empire!) 31-2
  • Constantinople
  • the pure source from which the Enlightenment in
    which our century glories has come to us 20
  • China in the 18th need to take an ancient
    case 21
  • What is wrong with China? Do you agree with this

What is the counter-example?
  • Sparta (aka Lacedaemon)
  • See Plutarch, Lycurgus

nature wanted to preserve you from science
  • As a mother snatches a dangerous weapon from the
    hand of her child 34.

Diderots view
  • The task of the Encyclopédie is to organise many
    authors and consultants to gather and transmit
    all knowledge worth knowing in order to make
    humanity more virtuous and more happy.
  • Diderot, Definition of an Encyclopedia, in
    University of Chicago Readings in the History of
    Western Civilization, vol. 7, p.71).
  • How does this contrast with Rousseaus view of
    the social and moral effects of the S A?

Who is right?
  • Diderot or Rousseau?