Five quotes on political philosophy: Rousseau

This is one of five remarkable quotes on political philosophy by professor Steven B. Smith, from Yale. This one is on Jean- Jaques Rousseau.

On Rousseau

Only by turning away from the noise and business of society can one return to what precedes society, to the feeling of existence, to the feeling of or sweetness of mere existence, to the sentiment of existence, the le sentiment de soi, as Rousseau calls it, the sentiment of the self. There is a kind of union that he celebrates with nature that puts the solitary, the solitary walker either above humanity or below it. That type of man foreshadowed by Rousseau, the solitary is no longer a philosopher in any sense that we would understand. It might be better understood as an artist or a visionary. He can claim a privileged place in society because such a person regards him or herself as the conscience of that society. His claim to privilege is based on a heightened moral sensitivity rather than his wisdom or his rationality, and it is this kind of radical individualism, the radical detachment of the solitary from the interests of society that is perhaps Rousseau’s deepest and most enduring legacy for us today.

Publicerad tisdag, maj 25th, 2010 i etik, filosofi, politik.

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