Rousseau, Jean-Jacques

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was born of parents of modest means in 1712 in Geneva, a city that he quit as an adolescent but to which he would occasionally return, both physically and spiritually. He led a rather picaresque early life, working variously as a servant, private tutor, music copyist, and ambassador's secretary, eventually making his way to Paris, where he consorted with the philosophes. In 1749, while walking to Vincennes, he had an “illumination” that was to result in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences and subsequent notoriety. A steady stream of writings extended his fame across Europe, although the controversial nature of these writings meant that he was often on the move, a tendency exacerbated by increasing signs of paranoia as he advanced ...

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