Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(Oxford World's Classics)

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Born on June 28, 1712, in Geneva, the French philosopher, novelist and essayist Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most prominent and definitive minds of the Enlightenment. Self-taught, Rousseau dabbled in many fields, keeping journals of his interests in science, mathematics, music, astronomy, botany, music, literature, and philosophy. He achieved sudden success and subsequent fame with his "A Discourse on the Arts and Sciences", a work that cemented his pivotal place in the history of The Enlightenment and philosophy as a whole. "The Reveries of the Solitary Walker" is an unfinished work, one of the last composed in Rousseau's lifetime. The book is composed of ten chapters, called "walks." Walks eight and nine were never revised, and the tenth walk is incomplete. Regardless, this work, like others written near the end of his life, is greatly autobiographical, consisting of descriptions of walks he took around Paris, as well as further comment on arguments he previously made, concerning education and political philosophy, among other subjects.

About Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Jean Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss philosopher and political theorist who lived much of his life in France. Many reference books describe him as French, but he generally added "Citizen of Geneva" whenever he signed his name. He presented his theory of education in Emile (1762), a novel, the first book to link the educational process to a scientific understanding of children; Rousseau is thus regarded as the precursor, if not the founder, of child psychology. "The greatest good is not authority, but liberty," he wrote, and in The Social Contract (1762) Rousseau moved from a study of the individual to an analysis of the relationship of the individual to the state: "The art of politics consists of making each citizen extremely dependent upon the polis in order to free him from dependence upon other citizens." This doctrine of sovereignty, the absolute supremacy of the state over its members, has led many to accuse Rousseau of opening the doors to despotism, collectivism, and totalitarianism. Others say that this is the opposite of Rousseau's intent, that the surrender of rights is only apparent, and that in the end individuals retain the rights that they appear to have given up. In effect, these Rousseau supporters say, the social contract is designed to secure or to restore to individuals in the state of civilization the equivalent of the rights they enjoyed in the state of nature. Rousseau was a passionate man who lived in passionate times, and he still stirs passion in those who write about him today.
Published November 22, 1979 by Penguin. 162 pages
Genres: Law & Philosophy, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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The Guardian

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When Rousseau died in July 1778, the unfinished manuscript of Reveries was discovered along with the 27 playing cards on which Rousseau had jotted down his thoughts while walking.

Jul 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Reveries of the Solitary Walk...

Cars are virtually absent, and the landscape is just as Rousseau described it in the “Reveries.” His room in the former monastery — the island’s main building, which is now a hotel — still contains what my guide Barbara Wernli says is the original furniture.

Jun 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Reveries of the Solitary Walk...

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