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Rousseau, Jean Jacques

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Definition: Rousseau, Jean Jacques from

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

, Jean Jacques 1712–1778.


Swiss philosopher and writer who held that the individual is essentially good but usually corrupted by society. His written works include The Social Contract and Émile (both 1762).


Jean Jacques Rousseau 1843 portrait by Édouard Lacretelle (1817–1900) Corbis CC Photo: The Picture Desk Limited

Summary Article: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES from The Essentials of Philosophy and Ethics
The essential Rousseau Born in Geneva, Rousseau was educated at home by his father, Isaac, a watchmaker, and his aunt, after the untimely death of his mother following his birth. Unfortunately, he soon lost his father too, after the latter unwisely challenged a gentleman to a duel, and was expelled from the city as a result. Jean-Jacques went into the care of his uncle, to become an apprentice engraver. But Rousseau considered this to be a demeaning trade and, using a tactic his city had demonstrated some years before to gain its independence, changed his religion to became the ward of some benevolent Catholic aristocrats, the de Warens of Savoy. It was in their library of the great political philosophers that he imbibed the ideas of HOBBES, MACHIAVELLI and LOCKE that would later inspire h...    Continue Reading
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