Rare Philosophy of Science Book, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse at the Academy of Dijon

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Rousseau, Jean Jacques; The Discourse Which Carried the Praemium at the Academy of Dijon in MDCCL. On this Question, Proposed by the said Academy, whether the Re-establishment of Arts and Sciences has Contributed to the Refining of Manners. By a Citizen of Geneva. Translated from the French Original. London, printed for W. Owen, 1751. Octavo, pp. xii, 59.

The work is complete and in a contemporary paneled calf with tooling and last name of author stamped on spine. Toning to contents with tear along gutter of one page repaired with clear archival tape with no lose to text. Over all in very good condition. A very rare work.


 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was born in Geneva and is one of the most influential thinkers during the Enlightenment in eighteenth century Europe. His first major philosophical work was A Discourse on the Sciences and Arts. He was a major philosopher, writer, and composer of the Enlightenment, whose political philosophy influenced the French Revolution and the development of liberal, conservative, and socialist theory. He also made important contributions to music as a theorist and a composer and in order to present the Académie des Sciences with a new system of numbered musical notation, he moved to Paris in 1742.
While in Paris, he became friends with the French philosopher and scientist Diderot and beginning with some articles on music in 1749, he contributed several articles to Diderot's monumental work Encyclopedie, ou Dictionaire Raisonne des Sciences (1751-1780).
In 1749, as Rousseau was walking to visit Diderot in a Vincennes prison, he read of an essay competition sponsored by the Académie de Dijon. The question to be answered was whether the development of the arts and sciences had been morally beneficial. Rousseau said this question caused him to immediately perceive the principle of the natural goodness of humanity on which all his later philosophical works were to be based. He answered the competition question in the negative, in his 1750 "Discours Academie de Dijon", which won him first prize and gained him significant fame. The work remains one of his most famous and was immediately translated to the 1751 English edition.
In "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences" Rousseau argued that the arts and sciences had not been beneficial to humankind because they were not human needs, but rather a result of pride and vanity. Moreover, the opportunities they created for idleness and luxury contributed to the corruption of man. He proposed that the progress of knowledge had made governments more powerful and had crushed individual liberty. He concluded that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of true friendship by replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion.
Rousseau was also one of the first modern writers to seriously attack the institution of private property, and therefore is considered a forebear of modern socialism. He also questioned the assumption that the will of the majority is always correct. He argued that the goal of government should be to secure freedom, equality, and justice for all within the state, regardless of the will of the majority.
One of the primary principles of Rousseau's political philosophy is that politics and morality should not be separated. When a government fails to act in a moral fashion, it ceases to function in the proper manner and ceases to exert genuine authority over the individual. The second important principle is freedom, which government is created to preserve.
Sixteen years after his death, Rousseau was reburied alongside other French national heroes in the Panthéon in Paris.