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, then, was premised on the supposition that knowledge of the sciences, the arts, and the crafts was compatible with, and indeed led to, virtue and happiness, and that such knowledge ought to be disseminated as widely as possible to 'the men with whom we live'.The assumption that education would enable future generations to become more virtuous and happier entailed a further assumption about the possibility of human progress and perfectibility -- an assumption that Kramnick calls 'a leitmotiv of the Enlightenment' (Kramnick 1995: xiii).
, edited by Martin Fitzpatrick, et al (Routledge, 2004), pp.596-609) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is a key figure in the problematisation of any single view of the Enlightenment.
He is sometimes seen as a central player in the Enlightenment and sometimes as an anti-Enlightenment figure who paved the way for Romanticism.
(Rousseau 1751a: 6) While there are paradoxes and ambiguities in this passage, Rousseau can nonetheless be read as implying that his critique of the arts and sciences is actually a critique of the effects of Enlightenment under absolutist political systems such as the in France.
The arts and sciences 'throttle' human beings' inborn 'sentiment of original freedom' and make civilization under monarchical government a form of slavery.
Descartes' most important contribution was that he 'dared ...
to teach good minds how to shake of the yoke of scholasticism, public opinion, and authority' (in Kramnick 1995: 11).
Instead, I will begin by sketching out the defining assumptions of the on the supposition that the massive project undertaken by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) can be taken to epitomise the French Enlightenment.
I will then focus on Rousseau's 'First Discourse' -- the (published in January 1751) -- and on his polemical contributions to the critical controversy that the First Discourse provoked in the following three years.
Rousseau scholars have been strangely reluctant to consider his relationship to the Enlightenment (Hulliung 1994: 2), and some of the most influential twentieth century formulations of the Enlightenment clearly had difficulty with Rousseau.
Isaiah Berlin's anthology (Gay 19) homogenises the philosophes as a single, admittedly quarrelsome, family and represents their 'persecution' of Rousseau as simply an extreme family quarrel; as a consequence, Gay fails to register the radical challenge that Rousseau's writings posed for the French Enlightenment (Gay 1967: 4-7).