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General Will

Jean-jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), was born a "Citizen of Geneva," a title he used on many of his important works to suggest the challenge his thought posed to the regimes of his day. He ran away from his native city at sixteen, and led an unsettled life for the next dozen years, teaching himself a variety of subjects. He arrived in Paris in the early 1740s, hoping to make a name for himself as a composer and the inventor of a new system of musical notation. While his musical enterprises mostly failed, he became intimate with the circle of intellectuals who were soon involved in the Encyclopédie. He was commissioned to write the articles on music for the great compendium of enlightenment, but gained international celebrity with the publication of the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (1751), in which he argued that the advancement of the sciences and arts had corrupted morals. He followed up the success of this first work with a series of increasingly provocative works published over the next decade: a well-received opera, Le Devin du Village (1752), a philosophical treatment of the historical development of human nature; the Discourse on Inequality (1755); a best-selling novel, Julie (1761); a pedagogical work, Emile (1762); and his political treatise, the Social Contract (1762). When the Social Contract and Emile were banned and burned both in Paris and his native Geneva, Rousseau fled Paris and lived essentially in exile for the rest of his life. During this time, apart from defenses of his works, he published his Dictionary of Music (1768), the first such lexicon, and wrote several autobiographical works published only posthumously, including the Confessions, usually considered the first modern autobiography, Dialogues, and Reveries of the Solitary Walker.

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