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Reviews Jean-Jacques Rousseau A UBREY ROSENBERG Raymond Trousson. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Bonheur et liberte Collection Phares. Presses universitaires de Nancy 1992. 203 This book from one of the most distinguished authorities on Rousseau is something of a surprise. There is no introduction to indicate its scope or purpose, and nothing to deny the reasonable expectation of a new and penetrating analysis of one of the Western world's most influential and controversial authors. It turns out, however, to be simply a general survey of Rousseau's life and writings. The nearest thing it can be likened to, and for which there is no real equivalent in French publications, is the Twayne series of studies on authors and their works, a series in which, in a prescribed number of pages, one is given the impossible task of presenting and interpreting, for the general reader, the life and thought of a major author. As far as I know, no one before Trousson has set himself this challenge in the field of Rousseau studies. The first question to be asked is whether it was necessary, and the second is whether he has succeeded. It is the inevitable fate of researchers to end up with a partial view of the object of their studies. In the case of Rousseau, this means, for example, that he is portrayed. by different scholars as a totalitarian and a democrat; as an optimist and a pessimist; as a visionary and a pragmatist; as a philosopher and a romantic; as a hypochondriac and an invalid; as a believer and an atheist; as a sincere man and a hypocrite, and so on. The list is bewildering and almost endless. It would not be so bad if these diametrically opposed views of Rousseau were confined to scholarly books and periodicals read, if at all, by specialists with their own prejudices and axes to grind. But these writers are, for the most part, also teachers who impose on those students who come across Rousseau for the first time an interpretation of the philosophe that is often hard for them to eradicate or even modify in subsequent years. This is, of course, a danger in all teaching, but it is particularly hazardous in the case of Rousseau, whose revelations about himself, intended to justify his life and work, seem to have brought him equal amounts of compassion and scorn. In the light of these difficulties, Trousson's book comes as a breath of fresh air. Highlighting the main events of Rousseau's career, summarizing the major and most of the-minor writings, relating the life to the work and vice ve'rsa, Trousson UNIVERSITY OFTORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 3, SPRING 1993 402 AUBREY ROSENBERG provides, for all those beginning their study of Rousseau, a common-sense but by no means superficial treahnent of his subject, in a way that is in keeping with the approach employed in his two-volume biography of Rousseau recently reviewed in this journal. This means that, avoiding the extreme and the excessively judgmental, he seeks as balanced a view as can be supported by the evidence. His method is to hint at the problems but play them down as, for example, in his discussion of┬Ěthe governor's supervision of his student in the Emile: 11 ne s'agit pas d'autoritarisme, dans la mesure au Rousseau ne pretend pas dtkrire les relations reelles entre un precepteur et son eleve: Ie gouverneur est ici l'equivalent du legislateur du Centrat social, l'esprit eclaire qui guide la volante generale pour son bien en l'aidant atrouver la voie de 1a fidelite asoi-meme et du bonheur. (123) Trousson's thesis is that, for Rousseau, man is defined by happiness and liberty, the two indispensable conditions for his self-realization both as an individual and as a citizen. The whole of Rousseau's life and work was designed to demonstrate the truth of this proposition and the ways of achieving it. It is hard to disagree with this summation, but there remains much room for dispute over Rousseau's definitions of liberty, citizen, and the like. Still, Trousson has done an excellent job in providing for the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 401-402
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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