Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau

1712 – 1778 CE

Motherless from almost birth, abandoned by his father, poor in health and income; Rousseau wandered on his own for 12 years challenging the status quo and rejected by society as a dangerous rebel or insane criminal. Stoned by neighbors when he went for walks, harassed by police, and expelled from countries; he went on to become “the finest thinker of his time,” a main source for Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, a cause of the French Aid for the American Revolution, and a seminal influence on Tolstoy, Wordsworth, Thoreau, Byron, Shelly, Keats, Schopenhauer, Kant, Goethe, and Marx. He transformed education, inspired the French Revolution and the Romantic Movement, wrote political and social books that became cornerstones of modern thought.

Eras

Unlisted Sources

Confessions

Émile​

Émile, 1762

On the Origin of Inequality

Social Contract

Quotes by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (34 quotes)

“Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces.”

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

Themes: Civilization

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“frequent punishments are a sign of weakness or slackness in the government. There is no man so bad that he cannot be made good for something.”

Chapters: 74. The Great Executioner

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“I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.”

Chapters: 48. Unlearning

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“I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.”

Chapters: 78. Water

Themes: Paradox

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“In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and no one has too much.”

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

Themes: Law and Order

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“It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living.”

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

Themes: Livelihood

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“let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people's thoughts.”

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Reason

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“People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.”

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust

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“To be sane in a world of madman is in itself madness.”

Chapters: 41. Distilled Life

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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“What wisdom can you find greater than kindness.”

Chapters: 63. Easy as Hard

Themes: Kindness

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“To reign by opinion, begin by trampling it under your feet.”

from Émile, 1762

Themes: Opinion

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“I had always been amused at Montaign's false ingenuousness, and at his pretense of confessing his faults while taking good care only to admit to likeable ones”

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“Man is born free, yet everywhere is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.”

from Social Contract

Themes: Slavery

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“Man was a 'noble savage' when in the state of nature, before the creation of civilization. He has been corrupted by the social interdependence of society.”

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“You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!”

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“I have never thought, for my part, that man's freedom consists in his being able to do whatever he wills, but that he should not, by any human power, be forced to do what is against his will. ”
Themes: Moral Freedom

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“He among us who best knows how to bear the good and evil fortunes of this life is, in my opinion, the best educated.”

from Émile​

Themes: Education

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“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone cried out and been believed saying, 'Do not listen to this imposter.'”

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“Every family became a little society, the more united because liberty and reciprocal attachment were the only bonds of its union... The habit of living together soon gave rise to the finest feelings known to humanity: conjugal love and paternal affection.”

from On the Origin of Inequality

Themes: Family

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“Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts which produced this great revolution... it was iron and corn which first civilized men and ruined humanity.”

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“Machiavelli was a proper man and a good citizen; but, being attached to the court of the Medici, he could not help veiling his love of liberty in the midst of his country's oppression... this profound political thinker has so far been studied only by superficial or corrupt readers.”

from Social Contract

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“The contradiction between the teaching of The Prince and that of the Discourses on Livy and the History of Florence shows that this profound political thinker has so far been studied only by superficial or corrupt readers. The Court of Rome sternly prohibited his book. I can well believe it; for it is that Court it most clearly portrays.”

from Social Contract

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“The first person who enclosed a piece of land said, 'This is mine' and convinced foolish others to believe him became the founder of civil society
creating the beginnings of crime, war, myriad horror and misfortunes.”

Themes: Government Crime

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“I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.”

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“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.”

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“I am not made like any of those I have seen. I venture to believe that I am not made like any of those who are in existence. If I am not better, at least I am different.”

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“Why should we build our happiness on the opinions of others, when we can find it in our own hearts?”

Themes: Happiness

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“Those that are most slow in making a promise are the most faithful in the performance of it.”

Themes: Perseverance

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“Patience is bitter but its fruits are sweet.”

Themes: Patience

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“The flaws that make social institutions necessary are the same as make the abuse of them unavoidable. The progress of inequality began with laws and property rights, developed sovereignty and domination which led to the conversion of legitimate into arbitrary power. The conditions of rich and poor, powerful and weak were established and later the institution of master and slave—a sure sign that this sequence has gone too far and either revolution or radical, internal change imminent.”

from On the Origin of Inequality

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“Oh you, who have never heard the voice of heaven, who think man destined only to live this little life and die in peace; you who reign in populous cities with your fatal acquisitions, your restless spirits, your corrupt hearts and endless desires... retire to the woods, renounce civilizations advances and vices from which always arise more real calamities than even apparent advantages.”

from On the Origin of Inequality

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“Come out of your infancy, my friend; awake!”

Themes: Inspiration

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“Since no man has a natural authority over his fellow, and force creates no right, we must conclude that conventions form the basis of all legitimate authority among men.”

from Confessions

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“The greater part of our ills are of our own making... Man, in the state of nature, can have no need of remedies, and still less of physicians”

from On the Origin of Inequality

Themes: Medicine

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Quotes about Jean-Jacques Rousseau (15 quotes)

“With what a salutary shock did the paradoxes of Rousseau explode like bombshells in the midst of those lost in admiration of what is called civilization, of the marvels of modern science. Dislocating the compact mass of one-sided opinion, and forcing its elements to recombine in a better form and with additional ingredients. Rousseau's doctrine has floated down the stream of opinion... the superior worth of simplicity, the enervating and demoralizing effect of the trammels and hypocrisies of artificial society... ideas which have never been entirely absent from cultivated minds since Rousseau wrote; and they will in time produce their due effect”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE
from On Liberty (1859)​

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“Rousseau, not unnaturally, had come to suffer from the persecution mania which ultimately drove him insane... But in the end his delusions won the day and he fled. His last years were spent in Paris in great poverty, and when he died suicide was suspected.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

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“He is like a man who was stripped not only of his clothes, but of his skin, and turned out in this situation to combat with the rude and boisterous elements.

David Hume 1711 – 1776 CE
"One of the most important philosophers"

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“Another and earlier form of this reversion to barbarism in the West was Rousseau's gospel of the 'return to nature' and the exaltation of 'the noble savage'... The fundamental gospel of archaism was condensed into a sentence, the opening of Rousseau's Social Contract: 'Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.' Rousseau's most famous disciple was Robespierre, principal author of the french 'Reign of Terror.' ... This idealizing of the primitive pagan 'Nordic' race cannot entirely disclaim responsibility for the Nazi terror”

Arnold Toynbee 1889 – 1975 CE
from A Study of History

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“Rousseau, this first modern man, idealist and rabble in one person — one who needed moral 'dignity' to be able to stand his own sight, sick with unbridled vanity and unbridled self-contempt. This miscarriage, couched on the threshold of modern times, also wanted a 'return to nature'—to what did he really want to return?... what I hate is the Rousseauan morality — the so-called 'truths' of the Revolution through which it still works and attracts everything shallow and mediocre.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE via Walter Kauffman​​
from Twilight of the Idols

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“a man born poor, losing his mother at birth and soon deserted by his father, afflicted with a painful and humiliating disease, repudiated by society and civilization... driven from place to place as a dangerous rebel, suspected of crime and insanity—how did it come about that this man, after his death, triumphed over Voltaire, revived religion, transformed education, inspired the Romantic movement and the French Revolution... had more effect upon posterity than any other writer or thinker of that 18th century?... after his voice was stilled, all Europe listened to him.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Rousseau and Revolution

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“Sexuality and eroticism are the intricate intersection of nature and culture. Feminists grossly oversimplify the problem of sex when they reduce it a matter of social convention: readjust society, eliminate sexual inequality, purify sex roles, and happiness and harmony will reign. Here feminism, like all liberal movements of the past two hundred years, is heir to Rousseau.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic

Themes: Sex Culture

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“Profound reader of the human heart and undoubtedly the greatest moralist of modern times; Rousseau drew his wisdom not from books, but from life, and intended his philosophy not for the professorial elite, but for humanity. Foster-child of nature and enemy of all prejudice, he could moralize without tediousness, because he hit with the truth and stirred the heart.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE
from On the Basis of Morality, 1840

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“Hitler is an outcome of Rousseau; Roosevelt and Churchill, that of Locke... Liberty is the nominal goal of Rousseau's thought, but in fact it is equality that he values, and he seeks to secure even at the expense of liberty.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

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“no one has ever employed so much intellect to persuade men to be beasts. In reading your work one is seized with a desire to walk on 4 paws. However, as it is more than 60 years since I lost that habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it...”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

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“Some, like Tolstoy, found this in the outlook of simple people, unspoiled by civilization; like Rousseau, he wished to believe that the moral universe of peasants was not unlike that of children, not distorted by the conventions and institution of civilization, which sprang from human vices”

Isaiah Berlin 1909 – 1997 CE
"the world's greatest talker"
from The Proper Study of Mankind

Themes: Civilization

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“Rousseau, that subtle Diogenes.”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE
from Lectures on Ethics

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“If admitting faults is a proper claim to respect, Rousseau should be among the most respected of modern men. It is perhaps appropriate that the prototype of modern ‘true’ confessions was written by a madman.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination, 1992

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“...As with any truly great writer, it is foolish to judge Rousseau by the instances where people tried to follow his advice literally, still less by the harmful things done in his name (by which standard Jesus Christ does not exactly come off unblemished). Rousseau’s influence on modern culture has been far too vast and multifaceted to squeeze into reductive categories of 'positive' and 'negative' and even his most misguided prescriptions often came accompanied by profound and poetic insights.”

David Avrom Bell 1961 CE –
American French history historian
from Happy Birthday to Jean-Jacques Rousseau (2012)

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“Rousseau, another outcast spirit, with his sentimental attack on formal morals and his sentimental idealization of nature and freedom, stands out as the master novelist of his time and country... [his] intellectual influence was on the whole demoralizing [and he] did much to popularize a sentimental and declamatory method of dealing with social and political problems.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

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