By George Wigmore, on 5 March 2012
Of the many images we have of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the one that continues to define him is as the revolutionary author of The Social Contract, whose political philosophy played a critical role in the French Revolution.
Rousseau was far more than just a renegade philosopher, but his treatises on society and education frequently eclipse his significant contributions to literature, music theory and composition. It is this holistic view of Rousseau that UCL aims to highlight and celebrate on the 300th anniversary of his birth.
With this in mind, I popped down to the UCL Art Museum to hear Dr Avi Lifschitz, Lecturer in European History at UCL, give a talk on the Images of Rousseau, and the contrasting perspectives, and representations, we have of him today.
Born in Geneva in 1712, Rousseau was pretty different from other philosophers at the time. Taught at home by his father, he was a voracious reader, devouring all the books in his local library and often reading throughout the night with his father.
Religion also featured prominently in the young Rousseau’s life. Moving frequently around France and Switzerland as a young man, he continued to entertain thoughts of a clerical career, with his religion a strong theme in many of his most famous works.