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Intimacy and Community in 18th Century France:

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1 Intimacy and Community in 18th Century France:
Lisa Gilson French for Reading 6/25/2013 Intimacy and Community in 18th Century France: A Study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

2 17th and 18th c. France: Political Context - Absolutism
French Wars of Expansion & Colonial Conquest Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin, and Colbert Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants

3 17th and 18th c. France: Social and Intellectual Context
French philosophes: criticism of the ancien regime attack on conventional politics, morality, religion in the famous Encyclopedie by Diderot and d’Alembert taste and etiquette of the salons confidence in science, technology, progress

4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Born June 28, 1712 in Geneva runs away to Savoy at the age of 15 : under the tutelage of De Warens in Savoy, converts to Catholicism 1741 – goes to Paris, presents new system of music notation to the Academy of Sciences 1743 – becomes Therese Levasseur’s lover 1745 – collaborates on Encyclopedia 1751 – publishes First Discourse, wins first prize from the Academy of Dijon 1754 – 1755: returns to Geneva, writes Discourse on Inequality, reconverts to Protestantism : returns to Paris, publishes most famous works: Social Contract, Emile. Hume offers him asylum in England : returns to France Dies on July 2, 1778.

5 Interpretations of Rousseau: Hannah Arendt
“The first articulate explorer and to an extent even theorist of intimacy was Jean-Jacques Rousseau… He arrived at his discovery through a rebellion not simply against the oppression of the state but against society's unbearable perversion of the human heart, its intrusion upon an innermost region in man which until then had needed no special protection… The modern individual and his endless conflicts, his inability either to be at home in society or to live outside it altogether, his ever-changing moods and the radical subjectivism of his emotional life, was born in this rebellion of the heart.” -- The Human Condition, p. 39

6 Intimacy or Exhibitionism? Privacy or Conformity to the General Will?
Endorsement of Privacy: “In seclusion, one has other ways of seeing and feeling than in involvement with the world… it is extraordinary. It is only in the world that one learns to speak forcefully. First of all, because one must say everything differently and better than others would, and second, because being obliged at every moment to make assertions one doesn’t believe, to express sentiments one does not feel, one attempts to give what one says a persuasive turn to make up for the lack of inner persuasion” (Julie, Second Introduction). Privacy Made Public?: “I am saying here things about myself which are very odious and of which I have a horror of wishing to excuse myself, but also it is the most secret history of my soul” (Confessions). The End of Privacy?: “The social compact’s clauses, clearly understood, may be reduced to one: that is, the total alienation of each associate with all his rights to the entire community” (Social Contract).

7 Rousseau’s Contradictions Resolved?
Dans son ouvrage, Rousseau expose avec rigeur l’unité de contraires entre la nature et la culture. Celles-ci ne s’opposent pas entre elles de façon statique. Non seulement chacune ne se comprend que par l’autre, mais, de plus, elles se transforment l’une en l’autre pour constituer comme telles une unité de contraires: plus Rousseau souligne la contradiction entre la nature et la culture, plus est nette la perspective d’une “naturalisation” de la culture, qui signifierait la réalisation des deux principes aussi bien à l’échelle sociale qu’à l’échelle individuelle. La société harmonieuse et la personnalité intégrée s’enrichiraient mutuellement:; l’existence sociale des hommes serait la plénitude de leur existence, unirait l’individu avec la nature au lieu de l’en séparer. Rousseau donc nous livre la présentation “dialectique” de l’accomplissement de l’union des contraires.

8 Questions: What is the “dialectical” presentation that Baczko indicates that Rousseau uses? Does Baczko’s interpretation convince? Rousseau notoriously said that he wrote “on diverse subjects, but always with the same maxims and, if you like, the same opinions.” Elsewhere, however, he wrote, “I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.” Of what import is interpreting a single writer as consistent or inconsistent?

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