Rousseau was both a central figure of the European Enlightenment and its most formidable critic. In this compact, thought-provoking study of his works across a range of disciplines, Robert Wokler shows how his thinking and writing were all inspired by an ideal of humanity's self-realization in a condition of unfettered freedom. No other work on Rousseau provides such a readable introduction to his life and work.
The human sciences—including psychology, anthropology, and social theory—are widely held to have been born during the eighteenth century. This first full-length, English-language study of the Enlightenment sciences of humans explores the sources, context, and effects of this major intellectual development. The book argues that the most fundamental inspiration for the Enlightenment was the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Natural philosophers from Copernicus to Newton had created a magisterial science of nature based on the realization that the physical world operated (...) according to orderly, discoverable laws. Eighteenth-century thinkers sought to cap this achievement with a science of _human_ nature. Belief in the existence of laws governing human will and emotion; social change; and politics, economics, and medicine suffused the writings of such disparate figures as Hume, Kant, and Adam Smith and formed the basis of the new sciences. A work of remarkable cross-disciplinary scholarship, this volume illuminates the origins of the human sciences and offers a new view of the Enlightenment that highlights the period's subtle social theory, awareness of ambiguity, and sympathy for historical and cultural difference. (shrink)
have tried to sketch certain aspects of Rousseau's revolutionary significance on several occasions before, and I do not here mean to pursue that subject further. My aim, rather, will be to consider the political dimension of liberty, as he conceived it, in the light of a particular debate which to my mind has formed the most important contribution to the study of Rousseau's political thought in the twentieth century, around a theme which had received perhaps insufficient, and certainly less problematic, (...) attention before. This debate has to do with the place of natural law in his philosophy, and with the extent to which, in his idea of the foundations of the state, he upheld or rejected principles of jurisprudence espoused by earlier thinkers. I will consider such principles in three rather different forms, which I here term superior, anterior and generative natural law, and in my final and longest section I will comment on Rousseau's idea of representation in the light of arguments drawn from a number of jurisprudential thinkers before him. In the course of my discussion, moreover, I mean to offer a new interpretation of his assessment of one figure in particular -- that is, Pufendorf -- whom I believe Rousseau came to confront in his writings as much as, if not more than, any other political thinker. (shrink)
Contextualist interpretations of political thought need to be imaginatively constructed no less than the philosophically abstract readings they are often designed to supplant. Examples of recent scholarship on Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, in particular, illustrate problems in establishing contextual meaning with precision. Manuscripts often embrace their authors' notions in an unrefined state, in their gestation and the immediacy of their first formulations. The study of manuscripts sometimes invites a free association of ideas across what, in a post-Enlightenment world, may be (...) perceived as circumscribed disciplinary boundaries. (shrink)
This collection of essays is addressed to the legacy of Enlightenment thought, with respect to eighteenth-century notions of human nature, human rights, representative democracy or the nation-state, and with regard to the barbarism, including the Holocaust, allegedly unleashed by eighteenth-century ideals of civilization. Each author offers an interpretation of modern or postmodern philosophy against the background of a so-called Enlightenment Project, envisaged as the conceptual ghost that haunts modernity.