Thinking of Nature with Jean-Jacques Rousseau

A thinker of nature, Jean-Jacques Rousseau made it the primary focus of his anthropological, moral and political discourse. The Talking about the origin and foundations of inequality between men (1755) to Reflections of a solitary pedestrian (1776-1778), in theoretical works as in the autobiographical writings of the philosopher born in Geneva on June 28, 1712, the concept of nature is omnipresent.

Of course, Rousseau is not the first philosopher to consider nature an object of study and we can observe, in the history of Western philosophy, two opposing attitudes towards it. The first intends to steal the secrets of nature by all possible means, in the way that the Titan Prometheus stole fire from the gods … flourished from the seventeenth century and It is often summed up by Descartes’ famous, and generally misunderstood, formula, “to make oneself the master of nature and to possess it.” Or the works of Francis Bacon. In Rousseau’s time, we tended to describe nature as the “shop of locks”, and tried to disentangle its mechanisms. This is in particular the project of the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert whose didactic paintings aim to display and reveal natural phenomena in their smallest works.

On the other hand, another philosophical tradition advocates a sympathetic approach to nature, a mode of knowledge that has struck the corner of ecstasy, of meditation, which requires respect for the natural order of things. Rousseau is a symbol of this second position described by the philosopher Pierre Hadot as Orphic, in connection with the Orpheus myth. Every work is author social contract It is already surpassed by a deep empathy and a lively aesthetic sense of nature. Even if Rousseau did not despise subjecting him to forms of experimentation, as evidenced by his botanical investigations and his many herbs.

But above all, Rousseau sought to think of it in all its semantic ambiguity: whether it concerned the physical dimension (nature) or the moral dimension (human nature). His thinking focuses particularly on the expression of the moral development of humanity and the natural qualities of man. By recording his reflection in a genealogical search for morality, Rousseau seeks to identify the source of human vices. For him, man is good by nature, and it is the institutions that regulate life in society that have corrupted him.

On the occasion of the 310th anniversary of his birth, this selection of six programs is proposed to understand the way in which an author confessions Nature believed.

“Nature never deceives us, we always deceive ourselves.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

In the fall of 1765, Rousseau took refuge on the island of Saint-Pierre, in the middle of Lake Bienne, in the Swiss Jura, believing that he was persecuted. But instead of immersing himself in study, he finds peace among the flowers and trees and begins to indulge in daydreams … This nature also inspires him with a desire for inventory “All the plants of the island, not forgetting a single plant.. Passionate about botany, Rousseau would also compose several Herbs. A few years later, he found a second haven in Montmorency with Madame de Ebenai. In his small house, called L’Ermitage and perched on the edge of the woods, the philosopher happily rediscovered rural life. Freed from the burden of his fame and from the conspiratorial atmosphere of the Parisian literary salons, he traveled through nature with his notebook and began the most fruitful years of his work. Rousseau ended his life in Ermenonville, in a nature that was both wild and tamed. He died there in July 1778 and was buried inPoplar Island.

  • How does nature provide a sense of existence?

On his march on the island of Saint-Pierre, Rousseau was lying on his pontoon boat, sitting on the banks of a lake, a beautiful river or a stream, it was already “alone on earthWhen he wrote to him Solitary pedestrian reverence ? In this programme, Jean-François Perrin highlights this ambiguous phrase that conceals a position that allows the philosopher to expand his thinking on human nature. (Paths of Philosophy 59 minutes)

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  • What is the state of nature for Rousseau?

Rousseau is part of a long tradition of thinkers who strive to return to human nature for the best principles that can govern him. His project will consist in stripping man of all that society has accumulated upon humanity, and which has disfigured it. His philosophical method consists in trying to reach an original essence: what was man like before socialization? of analysis Talking about the origin and foundations of inequality between menThis program proposes an understanding of the state of this natural state which Rousseau considers.pure“or”TRUE“. (Paths of Philosophy 51 minutes)

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  • Rousseau and the legend of the “noble savage”

Hospitable, calm, living in harmony with nature: this is how travelers of the time of Rousseau described the inhabitants of the Pacific islands, the inhabitants of the Bahamas or even the tribes of the Amazon. Like his contemporaries, Rousseau was fond of these stories of soldiers, missionaries, or merchants encountering “wild men”. However, the philosopher uses them with caution, saying that these travelers brought back more their prejudices than facts from their explorations. This program analyzes the fantasy of a happy humanity, untainted by the spirit of domination and vanity, that persisted throughout the entire eighteenth century and embodied in the legend of the “noble savage”. (Everyone, 59 minutes)

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  • Rousseau, the voice of nature?

Rousseau claimed that “A man of nature and truthBut how can a philosopher reach a state of nature which, moreover, he asserted was irreparably lost? There is a paradox here. For Rousseau, the error made by his predecessors consists in the projected society, civilization, on nature. During this in The programme, the specialized philosopher of Rousseau Céline Spector shows how, for Rousseau, the state of nature is perhaps nothing more than an ahistorical fantasy, a heuristic process that allows him above all to carry out his philosophical project: to establish a dynasty of morality.Paths of Philosophy 59 minutes)

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  • In the philosophical gardens of Ermenonville, in the footsteps of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

It was in nature both wild and tamed, and precisely in the gardens of Ermenonville that were laid in his honor by the Marquis de Girardin, Rousseau ended his life. He died there in July 1778 and was buried inPoplar Island. Since the French Revolution, the philosopher has begun the subject of a true cult of personality and a pilgrimage to Ermenonville has become a mandatory pass. This documentary presents a radio tour of the Ermenonville estate and traces the history of this emblematic place of the relationship with the nature of an author Solitary pedestrian reverence. ( History Factory, 54 minutes)

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  • What causes the contemplation of nature, from Rousseau to the Romantics?

In 1782 Cheats from solitary pedestrians It lays the foundations of what would become Romanticism which can be defined, at least, as a new view of the world in which subjectivity, feeling, and the pursuit of the absolute prevail over the primacy of reason, symbolizing the Age of Enlightenment. Building on the example of Rousseau spreading his gaze on the edge of the Jura lakes or in the Ermenonville forest, this documentary traces the impact of these new experiences of contemplation of nature on Rousseau’s contemporaries, and after them on the Romantic poets. And the book. (Documentary Series – 54 minutes)

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