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The First and Second Discourses

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  498 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
One of the most respected translations of this key work of 18th-century philosophy, this text includes a brief introduction to the two works as well as abundant notes that range from simple explanations to speculative interpretations.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published October 15th 1969 by Bedford/St. Martin's (first published October 15th 1750)
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Nov 26, 2013 Carlo rated it liked it
This was a peculiar reading. When I read it first, I had a reaction similar to that of Voltaire when Rousseau sent him a manuscript of one of his later books, The Social Contract:

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it."

This was
Nov 11, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing
Rousseau was the shadow of the Enlightenment. During a time in which natural philosophy morphed into physics, Diderot composed his Encyclopedie and Europe reinvented philosophy on the iconoclastic introspection of Descartes, Rousseau was that little fucker in the corner giving the finger to everyone. He thought it was all just some nonsense.

But not in a sinister way. Rousseau simply rejected the assumption that civilization was a boon to humankind. Civilization is a shackling chain to the free m
Jan 17, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
Was Rousseau the first one to blame it on society? Probably not, but I suppose few have expressed their complaints about culture with such eloquence. I once had a teacher who liked to ask his students to "go out on a limb, so I can saw it off." Rousseau needs no encouragement in that direction: his confidence is overweening, and the limb does get a bit thin at points (his anthropology needs a good overhaul, for starters.) But I love his passion -- I wish all political writing were as heartfelt a ...more
Skyler Myers
Oct 24, 2013 Skyler Myers rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Rousseau and of intellectual writing

* Nice compilation of Rousseau's famous discourses


* Brings nothing new to the table

I enjoyed both discourses, agreeing with the second more than the first, but finding the first more entertaining than the second. Rousseau goes off topic quite a bit, but even his off topic rants are interesting.
Bradley Lllllllll
Jul 14, 2015 Bradley Lllllllll rated it liked it
Ridiculous at times, contradictory more than once (this is Rousseau, after all), but Rousseau still had a knack for highlighting and making the reader ruminate on the more pernicious aspects of contemporary society. You'll be reading a given paragraph and Rousseau will make some sweeping statement about human nature (bonus points if it's misogynistic; thankfully, this is a lot less unbearable in that respect than his letter to D'Alembert) that still has at its core a profound observation on how ...more
Eugenia Turculet
Jan 20, 2016 Eugenia Turculet rated it really liked it
At the first sight, The First and Second Discourses contradict each other. However, one must not be fooled by the apparent contradiction. Rousseau is, without doubt, a romantic, and he is a bit pessimistic, as he views the development of the society as detrimental to human felicity in both the first and the second discourse. If you happen to read this book, which is an easy read, please do read the introduction and Rousseau's notes, as they will allow you to grasp concepts and make connections b ...more
I thought this was too tough for me to even comprehend when I first began reading it. Then, it just clicked and I loved it. I even wrote a paper on it (in comparison to Kant's works) and my teacher thought it was a really great paper (the only correction I had to make was to cut up some run-on sentences) and this was for a grad-level class! Yay! However, I did disagree with some of Rousseau's arguments, but I am not going to discuss them in this here review space.
Jan 17, 2012 Christian rated it really liked it
What can I say? I enjoyed reading this.
Riley Haas
Dec 28, 2016 Riley Haas rated it it was ok
"Discourse on the Sciences and Arts: 3/10:
Unless this is a joke (and it might very well be), this is horrible stuff.
The one thing of value I can find in here is 'beware of the dangers of new, misunderstood technologies,' a warning that has been uttered many times, in more convincing ways, by better thinkers.
The rest of this is pure rubbish. It is intellectually dishonest (he regularly misquotes his authorities, or misrepresents facts to back up his argument, which the editor finds interesting
Jean Tessier
Back in high school, I had to read the "Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men", but I had never read the first part of the book we had. Now, in part out of curiosity and in part out of nostalgia, I decided to take a look at it and maybe even re-read the second discourse. I wanted to see what I might have missed the first time around.

Discourse on the Arts and Sciences

Already, Rousseau has idea that man is fundamentally good and that it is civilization that makes him bad. He up
Natacha Pavlov
OH.MON.DIEU; I couldn’t wait to get through this one! For all the hoopla I didn't expect to be this disappointed, so I narrowed it down to a few things:

**He praises nature and the ‘primitive man’ (French: l’homme sauvage), as if they themselves are devoid of property and self-consciousness (the latter of which in itself can be construed as very insulting, but likely quite reflective of the times).

**He seems to be favorable to the Bible and even says the spiritual texts are the only ones he nev
Jul 14, 2016 Emi rated it really liked it
"We are deceived by the appearance of rightness."

~ from On the Art of Poetry, by Horace

In this discourse, as a devil's advocate maybe, Rousseau goes against the popular current of his time to play the part of a conscience warning against the progress in arts and sciences as new luxury that corrupts morality, promotes inauthenticity, and disguise our state of slavery by creating new forms of dependence. A large portion is spent on analyzing the civilized, prideful, and affable man who possesses "
May 04, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing
Rousseau's trenchant criticism of the Enlightenment and all the advances in the arts and sciences of XVIIIth century western culture is a perfect example of Enlightenment reasoning. These two discourses are answers to essay competitions run by the Academy of Dijon; the first essay won the prize and launched Rousseau on a writing career.
Rousseau says that the wonderful things we get with modernism actually enslave us because we desire them so much. For Rousseau, man was content at an earlier poi
Vrenda Pr
Jun 12, 2016 Vrenda Pr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Principal énfasis en los principios a priori de la razón según Rousseau; amor de sí mismo y piedad, como principios casi irreconocibles de la pasión originaria. Aquí me detengo y me dispongo a profundizar sobre la estrecha lectura que se permite hacer sobre el amor-de-sí-mismo de aquel hombre originario que lucha contra el orden civil. Algo que me costó un poco, éste plano metafísico que plantea, frente al plano material y aquel que despertó mis anhelos revolucionarios.
Y acá aclaro que éstos "a
CJ Bowen
Jan 27, 2010 CJ Bowen rated it it was ok
"Integrity is even dearer to good men than erudition to the scholarly." 34

"The needs of the body are the foundations of society, those of the mind make it pleasant." 36

"Peoples, know once and for all that nature wanted to keep you from being harmed by knowledge just as a mother wrests a dangerous weapon from her child's hands; that all the secrets she hides from you are so many evils from which she protects you, and that the difficulty you find in educating yourselves is not the least of her ben
Aug 08, 2013 Zack rated it really liked it
While Rousseau didn't have the benefit of advances in the understanding of human history in centuries subsequent to his work, his uncompromisingly critical overview of human civilization contains an exceptional amount of insight into humanity. Although he doesn't quite delve into overt cynicism, he lambasts the entire intellectual basis of the Enlightenment, as well as all of the existing power structures he witnessed in his time. The influence of his text can be seen in the language of the Decl ...more
Jacob Stubbs
Jan 19, 2015 Jacob Stubbs rated it really liked it
Shelves: political-theory
Rousseau shows the lack of morality and genuine artistic expression (a problem of a flat "eros") that modernity brings about in the "First Discourse." In the "Second Discourse", Rousseau provides a history of the world, showing that man was happy in nature until property and self-consciousness was imbued in man. In the "Second Discourse", Rousseau creates a precedent for Marx, showing that history (man's misery) will continue to occur until "everything is reduced to nothing" and property is abso ...more
Jordi Polo Carres
Jun 17, 2016 Jordi Polo Carres rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Al principio era muy esceptico de sus argumentos, especialmente el primer discurso no convencio en absoluto.
Pero en el segundo discurso se pone mucho mas interesante y aunque creo que sus argumentos son muy debiles (simplemente se imagina como seria la vida de la humanidad en la naturaleza pero no tiene pruebas por ejemplo) son argumentos interesantes que me hicieron pensar.
Por ejemplo, a mas sofisticacion, mas artificiales somos, y mas infelices por no poder mostrarnos a los demas tal y como so
Jessica Petree
Jul 15, 2011 Jessica Petree rated it it was ok
**Date finished reading is an approximation. Rousseau was rather entertaining, if only because it was difficult to tease out what he was saying, but I am not a huge fan of him. He tends to get on my nerves sometimes. Nevertheless, I need to read more of his books. They were important influences on many other authors. It was fascinating to me to see what he really said, versus what I'd always been told he said. The idea of the "noble savage" is largely false - his savages were not noble.
Gabriele Valenza
Ho letto questo libro quando avevo 19 anni, mi ha aperto la mente.
Lindsey Doolan
Mar 17, 2011 Lindsey Doolan rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Rousseau arguing that science and technology have corrupted man (1st Discourse), and presenting a natural history of mankind (2nd Discourse). Fun to read, but goofy. My favorite part is at the beginning of the Second Discourse, where he remarks that we should first "discard the facts." Love it. A pre-modern post-modern.
Important thinker; the Romantics and Mark Twain would later build on him.
Jan 16, 2013 Rachel added it
Shelves: school
Yes, very radical. Mostly because he doesn't define any of his terms. He will make a blatantly paradoxical statement, know it is blatantly paradoxical and not care. In his Second Discourse, he is a little more clear in that he establishes the parameters of his discourse.
Feb 09, 2010 Olivia rated it it was ok
"Now it is easy to see that the moral aspect of love is a factitious sentiment; born of social practice, end extolled with much skill and care by women in order to establish their rule and to make dominant the sex that should obey."

Oh no he di'int!
Cristina Plaza
Mar 11, 2012 Cristina Plaza rated it really liked it
Incredibly potent and relavent for the time he wrote in and our times now. This book helps "enlightens" (ha) Westerners now since so much of our philosophy is based upon men like Rousseau. A must read to understand where our country is going and where it has come from.
Lynn Stine
I was reading this for a Coursera course that I dropped out of. It is too dry for this time of my life! I will never finish this!
Apr 23, 2015 Naushika rated it it was amazing
Very nice and thought-provocative book. Especially for non-philosophers this is a comprehendable text while it still reveals interesting facts for those more specialised in the field of philosophy.
Jan 30, 2010 Joeboe2001 rated it it was amazing
One of the best.

Rousseau's essay against the establishment was argued so perfectly that the establishment he was arguing against was forced to award him the gold medal.
Dorian Neerdael
Jul 30, 2011 Dorian Neerdael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rousseau montre que l'homme, naturellement bon, est perverti une fois qu'il est mis en société. L'Etat qui est, à présent, inévitable se doit donc de garantir des libertés à chacun.
Vais Rur asadir
Vais Rur asadir rated it it was amazing
May 22, 2013
Michael Lloyd-Billington
Michael Lloyd-Billington rated it really liked it
Sep 03, 2014
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains an important figure in the history of philosophy, both because of his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and because of his influence on later thinkers. Rousseau's own view of philosophy and philosophers was firmly negative, seeing philosophers as the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as pl ...more
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