Rousseau et la materialite de l'existence /

Saved in:
Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Gladstone, Clovis, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (262 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
URL for this record:
Hidden Bibliographic Details
Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Robert Morrissey Committee members: Paul Cheney; Larry Norman.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:This dissertation examines Rousseau's complex relationship with the unpredictable nature of existence, both in his autobiographical and theoretical works. Like many of his contemporaries, he believed that human development was strongly -- though not strictly -- determined by one's interactions with the outer world, and as such, was deeply concerned with the consequences that this understanding of evolution had on free will. To what extent is any individual the product of his or her own decisions? How much control does one possess over the direction of one's existence? The complexity of the question lies in the fact that Rousseau sees contact with the outside world both as a necessity for the development of the individual and as a threat to self-determination. This is what leads him to devise a solution that leverages humankind's materiality -- our receptiveness to outer experience -- to create an environment that is the result of our own choosing: this in turn guarantees that any subsequent influence that this environment might have on us will not be alienating as it is the product of our own choices. It is this 'morale sensitive' that makes it possible for Rousseau to reconcile his drive for uniqueness and freedom within the confines of his materialism. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in his Confessions, where he paints a picture of his own evolution (Chapter 1) that explains his continuous attempts to establish a balance between the alienating influence of the outside world and his will to remain the sole master of his destiny (Chapter 2). Viewed in this perspective, his political philosophy should be understood as an application of his 'morale sensitive' to society as a whole (Chapter 3). Such works as the Social Contract or the Considerations on the government of Poland aim to create a symbiotic relationship between the social and cultural identity of the community and the laws that govern it. But while establishing an outer stability in order to protect and guarantee one's individual autonomy was always the main goal of his writings, Rousseau always believed in the dynamic nature of mankind, if only because humans are temporal beings (Chapter 4). Julie's evolution in La Nouvelle Heloise is a demonstration of the danger of living in a state of perpetual happiness and fulfillment: not having anything left to desire, she no longer feels alive, she no longer feels human. And as Emile et Sophie shows, Rousseau thinks accepting and coping with the unpredictability of events should be a learning experience, one that frees man from the yoke of the outside world. But such instability also leaves Rousseau yearning for something beyond, a belief in a God that does not suffer from the temporal nature of all things human. Rousseau does not see this solution as one that is applicable in the material world, but as one that gives hope and comfort for those who have suffered at the hands of fortune.
If anything, Rousseau's defense of religion only serves to show his pragmatism in his approach to the unstable nature of man. Though he reluctantly recognizes the consequences of the materiality of existence, he nevertheless uses his materialist understanding of human evolution as the key ingredient in attaining freedom and happiness. As such, he is very much a 'philosophe' of the Enlightenment, though one who forged a philosophical path of his own, combining elements shared by many of his contemporaries, most notably his materialism, and elements of tradition, most visible in his respect for established institutions. The result is a philosophy that transcends time as it speaks to the very core of humanity, embodied in the conflicting desire of fulfillment and continuous discovery.