By Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Author), J. M. Cohen (Translator, Introduction)
Widely regarded as the first modern autobiography, The Confessions is an astonishing work of acute psychological insight. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) argued passionately against the inequality he believed to be intrinsic to civilized society. In his Confessions he relives the first fifty-three years of his radical life with vivid immediacy - from his earliest years, where we can see the source of his belief in the innocence of childhood, through the development of his philosophical and political ideas, his struggle against the French authorities and exile from France following the publication of Emile. Depicting a life of adventure, persecution, paranoia, and brilliant achievement, The Confessionsis a landmark work by one of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment, which was a direct influence upon the work of Proust, Goethe and Tolstoy among others.
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A contemporary of Voltaire, Rousseau was also a French philosopher who, however, spent much of his time in Switzerland where he wrote most of the works which were to inspire the leaders of the French Revolution. He came from a Calvinist background, but converted to Roman Catholicism. He was also interested in literature and music and wrote the article on music for Diderot's Encyclopedie. He also composed musical pieces though without much success. Later in life Rousseau turned back to Protestantism while living in Geneva which was then the major center of Protestant thought. His most important works are Emile, about education, and a treatise on social contract which caused storms politically and brought much opposition against him. In fact, he was exiled and went to England, returning incognito to Paris where he wrote his famous Confessions and where he died.
Again as in the case of Voltaire, the influence of Rousseau was great not only in the philosophical field but also ilJ practical political move- ments especially the French Revolution, and he was also highly admired by a number of the founders of the United States. Likewise, Rousseau's educational ideas wielded much influence and have been discussed by many Muslim educators during the past century.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)