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As a brilliant, undisciplined, and unconventional thinker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau spent most of his life being driven by controversy back and forth between Paris and his native Geneva. Rousseau first attracted wide-spread attention with his prize-winning essay Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts (Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts) (1750), in which he decried the harmful effects of modern civilization. Pursuit of the arts and sciences, Rousseau argued, merely promotes idleness, and the resulting political inequality encourages alienation. He continued to explore these themes throughout his career, proposing in Émile, ou l'education (1762) a method of education that would minimize the damage by noticing, encouraging, and following the natural proclivities of the student instead of striving to eliminate them.

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As a brilliant, undisciplined, and unconventional thinker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau spent most of his life being driven by controversy back and forth between Paris and his native Geneva. Rousseau first attracted wide-spread attention with his prize-winning essay Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts (Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts) (1750), in which he decried the harmful effects of modern civilization. Pursuit of the arts and sciences, Rousseau argued, merely promotes idleness, and the resulting political inequality encourages alienation. He continued to explore these themes throughout his career, proposing in Émile, ou l'education (1762) a method of education that would minimize the damage by noticing, encouraging, and following the natural proclivities of the student instead of striving to eliminate them. More...

 
    Livy, Roman Historian
  Livy, Roman Historian
Titus Livius or Livy, was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditio...
 
    Plutarch, Roman Historian
  Plutarch, Roman Historian
Plutarch is the most famous biographer of the ancient world and the author of a famous collection now known as Plutarch's Lives. Plutarch's original title was Parallel Lives of Famous Greeks and Romans, and that describes his unique approach: the bio...
 
    John Calvin, Theologian
  John Calvin, Theologian
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he sudden...
 
    Thomas Hobbes, Philosopher
  Thomas Hobbes, Philosopher
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory....
 
    John Locke, Father of Classical Liberalism
  John Locke, Father of Classical Liberalism
John Locke was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and known as the "Father of Classical Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition o...
 
    Jean-Philippe Rameau, French composer
  Jean-Philippe Rameau, French composer
Jean-Philippe Rameau, French composer and theorist. For much of the reign of Louis XV (1715–1774), Rameau dominated the French musical scene: several of his contributions to the Opéra were the most successful of the time and continued to be performed...
 
    Montesquieu, Political Thinker
  Montesquieu, Political Thinker
Montesquieu, was a French lawyer, man of letters, and political philosopher who lived during the Age of Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout t...
 
    Voltaire, Author and Philosopher
  Voltaire, Author and Philosopher
François-Marie Arouet, better known by the pen name Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade. Voltaire was a prolific writer...
 
    Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
  Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopedic author. His works influenced the next two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Georges Cuvier. Buffon published th...
 
    David Hume, Scottish Philosopher
  David Hume, Scottish Philosopher
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known especially for his philosophical empiricism and scepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the Scottish Enlightenment, and in the history of Western philosop...
 
    Frederick II of Prussia, The Great
  Frederick II of Prussia, The Great
Frederick the Great was the Hohenzollern King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786 and is regarded as one of the "enlightened despots" of 18th century Europe. He was highly educated and built his government as a model of efficiency, creating the first modern...
 
    Denis Diderot, Co-founder of the Encyclopédie
  Denis Diderot, Co-founder of the Encyclopédie
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic and writer. He was a prominent figure during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder, chief editor and contributor to the Encyclopédie along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert. Did...
 
    Claude Adrien Helvétius, Philosopher
  Claude Adrien Helvétius, Philosopher
Claude Adrien Helvétius was a French philosopher and littérateur. In 1758, Helvétius published his philosophical magnum opus, a work called De l'esprit (On Mind). Its atheistic, utilitarian and egalitarian doctrines raised a public outcry and Helvéti...
 
    Jean François de Saint-Lambert, Poet
  Jean François de Saint-Lambert, Poet
Jean François de Saint-Lambert was a French poet and military officer, but he is most remembered for his involvement in two love affairs. Over the winter of 1747-48, Voltaire and his entourage took up residence in Lunéville. Saint-Lambert soon be...
 
    Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, Mathematician
  Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, Mathematician
Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert was a French mathematician, mechanician, physicist, philosopher, and music theorist. Until 1759 he was also co-editor with Denis Diderot of the Encyclopédie. D'Alembert's formula for obtaining solutions to the wave eq...
 
    Madame de Pompadour, Mistress of Louis XV
  Madame de Pompadour, Mistress of Louis XV
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson marchioness de Pompadour was the mistress of Louis XV. Educated in art and literature, she married Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Étoiles in 1741 and became admired by Parisian society and by the king, who installed her at V...
 
    Baron d'Holbach, Philosopher
  Baron d'Holbach, Philosopher
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach was a French-German author, philosopher, encyclopedist and a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment. He was born Paul Heinrich Dietrich in Edesheim, near Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate, but lived and worked m...
 
    Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher
  Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who is widely considered to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that fundamental concepts structure human experience, and that reason is the source of morality. His thought continues to have a ma...
 
    Edmund Burke, Modern Conservatism
  Edmund Burke, Modern Conservatism
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party. He is mainly remembered for his sup...
 
    Bougainville, French Admiral & Explorer
  Bougainville, French Admiral & Explorer
Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville was a French admiral and explorer. A contemporary of James Cook, he took part in the French and Indian War and the unsuccessful French attempt to defend Canada from Britain. He later gained fame for his expedition...
 
    Thomas Paine, Founding Father USA
  Thomas Paine, Founding Father USA
Thomas Paine, intellectual, scholar, revolutionary, and idealist, is widely recognized as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A radical pamphleteer, Paine anticipated and helped foment the American Revolution through his powerful writin...
 
    Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President, 1801-1809
  Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President, 1801-1809
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States 1801-1809, and founder of the University of Virginia, voiced the aspirations of a new America as no ot...
 
    Robespierre, Leader French Revolution
  Robespierre, Leader French Revolution
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, known to his contemporaries also as "the Incorruptible", is one of the best known of the leaders of the French Revolution. He earned the nickname of "the Incorruptible" through his selfless devotion t...
 
    Mary Wollstonecraft, Feminist
  Mary Wollstonecraft, Feminist
Wollstonecraft's lasting place in the history of philosophy rests upon A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). In this classical feminist text, she appealed to egalitarian social philosophy as the basis for the creation and preservation of equal...
 
    Malthus, Principle of Population
  Malthus, Principle of Population
The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus was a British scholar, influential in political economy and demography. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent. Malthus has become widely known for his theories about population and its increase or decrease...
 
    William Wordsworth, Poet
  William Wordsworth, Poet
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798). Wordsworth's magnum opus is generally considered t...
 
    Emerson, Founder Transcendentalism
  Emerson, Founder Transcendentalism
Philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was founder of transcendentalism, Emerson believed in the power of intuition over scientific reason and in the strength of nature and the human spirit. In one of his best-known essays, "Self Reliance," Emerson...
 
    Karl Popper, Philosophy of Science
  Karl Popper, Philosophy of Science
The most important philosopher of science since Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Sir Karl Popper finally solved the puzzle of scientific method, which in practice had never seemed to conform to the principles or logic described by Bacon -- see The Great De...
 
       
 
         
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