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Rousseau's Dog

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3.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  256 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
David Edmonds and John Eidinow, the team that gave us Wittgenstein's Poker and Bobby Fischer Goes to War, offer us another moving portrait of deep thinkers in the real world. Rousseau's Dog pits Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-76) against Franco-Swiss philosopher and political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78). In the hands of the Edmonds and Eidinow, these tw ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 644)
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Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
The dog's tail..

The second dog(no,not Sultan..) of Rousseau,the dog that always barked and led to the tarnishing of many prominent names. This is the story of that dog. Well.. The problem with this dog was that it was undomesticated. It barked at anyone and everyone.
But it's not this dog that caused the problems that are discussed in this book,the problems which covered decades and multiple renowned personalities. It might have been a minor cause,not the whole dog but may be it's tail..
It seem
...more
Barney
Dec 04, 2008 Barney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: most anyone
I don't want to give any of the pleasures of this book away but it is a PERFECT example of Twain's dictum that people NEVER change. It's the enlightenment and the players are Hume and Rousseau but what a disaster. Not much enlightenment here. Just a great example of "smart" people behaving just like the rest of us - or, in Rousseau's case, far worse. This Edmond's fellow is on to something and WITTGENSTEIN'S POKER just got jumped to near the front of the queue. You would NOT want to read two bo ...more
Rosary
I think I learned more about Rousseau's and Hume's philosophies from this book than from anything else I had read about them--including some of their own works. Edmonds and Eidinow manage to take philosophy and work it into an intriguing story of two very opposite personalities.

This was a fun read, if a bit dense; however, it was certainly less dense than the work of either Rousseau and Hume. It has also made me want to read the works of both men and inspired me to want to read Boswell's Life o
...more
Igor Faynshteyn
I first started reading this book several years ago and I quit it after about 50 pages. I attributed it to the fact that I wasn't familiar with the time period, I was reading it mostly late at night and I didn't care for the topic. I restarted it again recently, after reading about the Enlightenment period and immersing myself a little in David Hume's philosophy. But my impression of it now is even worse.

The main reason I got the book was because I had already read Wittgenstein's Poker by the sa
...more
Pterodactyl
Jan 29, 2010 Pterodactyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I've learned of philosophy was removed from history, so I never realized before picking up this book that David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were contemporaries, let alone that they had a very public feud. The book wasn't what I expected... okay, to be honest, I expected an episode of the odd couple in which one of the protagonists denies causality. But what I received instead was a well written, painstakingly researched history with a solid thesis. The authors occasionally step aside fro ...more
Sabrina
This book was interesting, and fairly engaging considering that it is an academic book. However, I didn't love it. Perhaps I expected more of a fight than actually took place, but I just didn't ever get excited about the content. I also felt the authors through in unnecessary big words that did little in terms of clarity and felt more like showing off. I did, on the other hand, enjoy the way they brought everything together to show how the two philosophers' work affected and were affected by the ...more
Loret Steinberg
Incredibly well-researched (making one of the author's points -- because people wrote so extensively during Rousseau's and Hume's era, this entire account could be pieced together with detail and insight), this is a loopy, fascinating and sometimes aggravating recreation of an era when philosophy was important enough that people would be scandalized or angry and be moved to pound on doors or write diatribes to friends and colleagues. Strange people, strange times from our perspective. The book i ...more
D
Feb 11, 2010 D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me begin by saying that I like the authors and how they approach their subjects. Previously I'd read their book about the 1972 World Chess Championship game between Spasky and Bobby Fischer. John Edinow is the other author who isn't mentioned in the title of the above edition.

Now they turn their attention to an unlikely friendship between David Hume and Rousseau, two Philosophical stars in the Age of Enlightenment. In 1766 Jean Jacques Rousseau has to flee Europe where he's made himself ene
...more
Joyce
Aug 18, 2009 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rousseau's Dogthe is a compelling read and Edmonds & Eidenow present a good argument for the well-chosen title of this book. Although it may seem comical the title is crucial to the authors' thesis for the basis of the "war" between Enlightenment 'philosophes' David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Scotsman Hume, dry, reserved, unattached and cosmopolitan was the antithesis of the Swiss Rousseau, emotional, natural, sensitive and a celebrity both adored and despised.

Prior to meeting, the
...more
Timothy Desrosiers
It should be stated that this is not a philosophical text; Rousseau's Dog is almost completely historical in content and only mildly grazes upon some of the central tenets in both thinker's works. But this fact shouldn't take away from the philosophical import involved in such a historical investigation; in my opinion, it is an example of exemplary research. Edmonds and Eidinow reveal how the quarrels (sometimes obnoxious quarrels at that) between Hume and Rousseau powerfully influenced many of ...more
Matt
What works the first time might not be so great the second.

Wittgenstein's Poker dealt very seriously with philosophical themes, and did a fair job of presenting the primary arguments proffered by both Wittgenstein and Popper. In spite of that, it was highly readable, and I found it downright entertaining.

I picked up Rousseau's Dog expecting the same. Just as with Poker, I knew a fair bit about both of the main characters -- Rousseau and Hume -- before picking up the book. In fact, I was actuall
...more
Socraticgadfly
First, this isn't a "philosophy" book per se.

Edmonds and Eidenow don't make that claim, any blurbs aside. But, they do presume at least an encylopedia of philosophy or Wikipedia page knowledge of the main philosophical ideas of Rousseau and Hume. For people complaining they didn't learn anything new about the philosophy of either one, that's not the thrust of this book.

That said, what does this book have?

Above all, insights into a very human David Hume, exemplified above all by his overreaction
...more
Ron
May 08, 2009 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A study of the dust up between two of Europe's brightest thinkers in the 1760s, David Hume and JJ Rousseau. Its a terrfic example of historical research, with emphasis on the actual correspondence not only between the two, but amongst the men and women of letters of the time. The heavy reliance on quotation from these various letters has the effect of painting a vivid picture the era. The story of the fight itself is mostly unremarkable - Hume found himself working to secure a safe haven in Engl ...more
Kim
May 05, 2010 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I finished this book yesterday. It wasn't quite what I expected. Then again, I'm not exactly a philosophy major. I remember reading works from both Hume and Rousseau in college for some political philosophy class or another. I feel like I need to do a reread since I can't quite remember what they were about. This book only delves briefly into what each author/philosopher was about. It focuses more on Rousseau's flight from Switzerland and then France to England and Hume's assistance in that r ...more
Christopher Horton
Rousseau's Dog is a fascinating look into how the lives of two of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment Period intersected, if only briefly, and the aftershocks of that time. It starts off a bit slow, with a seeming bias towards Hume, but the effect is intentional; it makes Hume's later actions in regards to Rousseau a bit more shocking and out of character for the man. It also took a while for the book to make obvious what the title refers to, but once it does, it ties everything t ...more
Nadine
Oct 25, 2010 Nadine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was very funny to read the history of a silly quarrel between Rousseau and Hume. These were great philosophers, but this is a reminder that they are just as human as the rest of us. I thought they tended to focus more on Rousseau, but after all, his name is in the title of the book. I agree with the authors that Rousseau was missing a few marbles, but I suppose he was correct in believing Hume was a "false friend". However, they both blew the situation out of proportion. I think there was a g ...more
Adelle
Jun 27, 2009 Adelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why, I learned that Hume and Rousseau were contemporaries, that the two actually met and traveled across the channel together.

The book did help me to see a little of the personalities of the two men.

Also, for some reason, I had always imagined Hume, the Scotsman, to be thin; I learned he was far from it.

Also, it really brought home to me how easily miscommunication is. Here are two very intelligent men...who interpret the situation totally differently...and go from swearing eternal friendship
...more
Jim
Oct 18, 2008 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If this book throws a lot of light into a small corner of intellectual history, it serves well to reveal the very human side of those we now think of as very great. Hume and Rousseau croos paths, become vehement friends, fall out just as vehemently, and are subject to the shocks of life much as any of their readers today are, their greatness arising from just trying to bring their ideas before the public in between the problems of ordinary existence. The contention between the two is the center ...more
Liz
The book has a fragmented style. Transitions are jerky, and the feeling of reading a linear historical account was substituted by the impression of attending a series of undergraduate lectures.

The philosophical perspectives of Hume and Rousseau are barely explored. Here are two seminal thinkers who had great impact on the future of social philosophy, political science, epistemology, metaphysics, psychology, and ethics...

It is charming, though to be able to visual Rousseau in his Armenian robes
...more
Chris
Jul 14, 2008 Chris is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is basically a biography of two well-known philosophers but is well written and not stuffy (ironically, I've read Hume and Rousseau in college and they were often harder to follow....) it's also kind of like "Philosophy: The True Hollywood Story" in that it points out the dirty little secrets of these 'great' men (great thinkers, maybe not so great as humans sometimes....)

Then again, I'm having major trouble reading more than a few pages or a chapter on the bus. more of a not-on-the-bus boo
...more
Kevin Donohue
interesting sense of the period. Two brilliant minds can still be very human.
Cynical
This book started off great--Rousseau was in trouble, Hume was a man-about-town, and then Hume helped Rousseau escape to England.

That was the exciting part. The whole relationship between the two lasted four months, and the recriminations apparently lasted much longer. That's how the book reads, too. The action lasts for a little while, and the fallout takes about two-thirds of the book.

Interesting, but not the page-turner it started out as.
Lucas
Jul 27, 2008 Lucas added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History & Philosophy Buffs
This book shows the drama that followed the Enlightenment philosopher J.J. Rousseau after he went public with his writings. Book burnings and mobs are part of the reality for this 18th century radical. The book includes a significant history on David Hume, an English philospher of the time. Hume offered asylum to Rousseau at one time, but what seemed like could be a positive relationship turns to a vicious war of words by two great minds of the time.
H Wesselius
Not nearly as good as Wittgenstein's Poker. Although they write well, the long narrative of note exchanging reduced the two philosophers to the level of middle school girls. The introduction and conclusion are far better than the middle, probably because you are not subjected to long excerpts of Hume and Rousseau's notes. Some might enjoy the look to the more human side of the two philosophers but the narrative became tedious.
Bethj
Jan 12, 2015 Bethj rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gave up on the thing unfortunately, but I did get through almost a two thirds of it. I would put it down and it would just sit there and mock me because I didn't want to continue it though I thought I should. But it was a plodding read, the story was good, but the way it was presented wasn't. I wanted to like it, it was definitely well researched, but no go.
Bleak Mouse
Oct 05, 2008 Bleak Mouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should have thought that Hume and Rousseau would have gotten on like cats and dogs, and Rousseau had a dog (as we now know if we've forgotten "The Confessions.") Hugely entertaining, a portrait (or many portraits) of the pre-Revolutionary (French, that is) Enlightenment, and too much fun for mere philosophy majors. Oh. I was right.
Mike
Oct 12, 2010 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not philosophy. Not exactly history. Certainly not history of ideas in an detailed way. More like....biography meets 200 year-old journalism.

I liked it mostly because it showed (a) how damn nutty these philosophers were, and (b) how petty they were, and (c) how they ain't no different than the rest of us apes.
Todd Sorensen
Not really "finished" but I've read as much as I'm probably going to. More info about random Enlightenment figures than I have time/energy for.
Tom
Sep 23, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like philosophy and enlightenment era
Great writing and well researched, much like "Wittgenstein's Poker," sketches the biography of two great philosophical minds and the events leading up to their encounter and subsequent falling out.

I would read another book from these two in a hot minute.
Jim
Aug 21, 2007 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in intellectual history and the lives of famous dead guys
This is a delightfully off-beat book about the clash between two great titans of the 18th century: David Hume and Jean Jacques Rousseau. You do not have to be well read in the work of either of these philosophers to enjoy the book.
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