Jean-Jacques Rousseau has been referred to as the father of the romanticism movement due to his philosophical writings challenging the status quo at the time. To help set the cultural scene surrounding him, he lived in Paris just prior to the French Revolution where turmoil was in the atmosphere. During this time in France’s history monarchs reigned, the Catholic Church was the leading religion, and those who were considered commoners were viewed as less than human. I believe Rousseau’s environment led him to ponder and write about assumptions regarding human nature, the government’s role in relation to humans, types of will people have, and educational methods. His works had some comparative and contrasting features with another enlightenment thinker, Thomas Hobbes, providing a different perspective.
Rousseau had clear ideas on human nature that led into an assumption on his part, but let us put into context his opinion on humans. Human nature to him was best when it was unspoiled by external forces because of his belief that human beings are inherently good. He asserted that a person not tainted by society, but rather ruled by their own emotions, would end up being unselfish, a concept he termed the noble savage. By allowing freedom of personal growth to occur, a person’s ultimate desire would be to live peacefully amongst each other (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014).
Rousseau’s vision however, assumed that people would not have, nor entertain, evil thoughts of one another. Therefore, it allowed a lot of unbridled freedom with the hopeful notion that people, when given the opportunity, would make virtuous choices for the betterment of society (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014). As history has taught u...
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...eas, Hobbes’ beliefs were more pessimistic but may have been a bit more realistic. The views of both these men reminded me of Paul’s dilemma as he struggled with knowing what he believed he ought to do, but instead would do the opposite (Romans 7, NKJV).
I enjoyed studying Rousseau as I found myself curiously drawn to his concepts because they seemed to resemble how our world was originally meant to be before the Fall. God was intended to be our only King of whom we answered to, but He also did not want automatons therefore, explaining the role of our wills. Rousseau may not have been formally educated, but his works are still very relevant for scholars today. The Bible advises this, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NKJV).
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