Review on Rousseau

The Philosophers' Magazine , Issue 14, Spring 2001, p. 60

The Philosophers' Review In brief


Rousseau, Timothy O'Hagan

(Routledge), £55.00

by Shlomit C. Schuster

Rousseau is no biography, but it contains a good introduction on

Rousseau's life and work. Though Rousseau wrote a fair number of au-

tobiographical texts, O'Hagan seems suspicious of this autobiographic

nerve, and mainly relies on the great biographers of the philosopher, such

as Cranston and Guehenno, and on the Chronologie of Gagnebin and Raymond.

O'Hagan focuses on what he coins as the axis of formation in Rousseau's

thought. There are three axes: the formation of the human race, the indi-

vidual, and that of the citizen, rendered by Rousseau in The Second Discourse,

Emile, and The Social Contract respectively.

O'Hagan also points at a dichotomy in Rousseau's moral cognition, provid-

ing for a morality of senses and a morality of duties. These two moralities

are caused by rationalist and romantic thought tendencies in Rousseau.

O'Hagan considers the tension caused by this duality as fruitful, and

he does not try to reconcile these tendencies, as Rousseau himself might

have done. O'Hagan maintains the theory of unresolved tension between Rousseau's

two visions till the very last page of the book, where he presents a third

possibility, a vision that would lead Rousseau beyond the stress of sense

versus duty morality, to an inner world of harmony and solitude. The dynam-

ics between Rousseau's rationalism, romanticism and natural mysticism,

may reveal the philosopher as a New Age hero in his right mind.