Jean Jacques Rousseau Quotes

1 | 2 | 3

My bad head cannot adjust itself to the way things are.... If I want to depict spring, it has to be in wintertime; if I want to describe a beautiful landscape, I must be enclosed within walls; and I have said a hundred times that if I were put in the Bastille, there I would paint a picture of liberty.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Confessions - Book IV, 1770)

I have begun on a work which is without precedent, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I propose to set before my fellow-mortals a man in all the truth of nature; and this man shall be myself.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Confessions - Book I, 1770)

Days of absence, sad and dreary,
Clothed in sorrow's dark array,
Days of absence, I am weary:
She I love is far away.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

I consider those who would prevent the birth of the passions almost as foolish as those who would destroy them, and those who think this has been my object hitherto are greatly mistaken... Our natural passions are few in number; they are the means to freedom, they tend to self-preservation. All those which enslave and destroy us have another source; nature does not bestow them on us; we seize on them in her despite.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Emile - Book III, 1762)

What happiness would it be for those who live among us, if our external appearance were always a true mirror of our hearts; if decorum were but virtue; if the maxims we professed were the rules of our conduct; and if real philosophy were inseparable from the title of a philosopher! But so many good qualities too seldom go together; virtue rarely appears in so much pomp and state.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (The Social Contract, 1762)

Richness of apparel may proclaim the man of fortune, and elegance the man of taste; but true health and manliness are known by different signs. It is under the homespun of the labourer, and not beneath the gilt and tinsel of the courtier, that we should look for strength and vigour of body.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (The Social Contract, 1762)

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Discourses on Inequality, 1754)

He who knows enough of things to value them at their true worth never says too much; for he can also judge of the attention bestowed on him and the interest aroused by what he says. People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little. It is plain that an ignorant person thinks everything he does know important, and he tells it to everybody. But a well-educated man is not so ready to display his learning; he would have too much to say, and he sees that there is much more to be said, so he holds his peace.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Emile - Book IV, 1762)

In my opinion, idleness is no less the pest of society, than of solitude. Nothing contracts the mind, nothing engenders trifles, tales, backbiting, slander, and falsities, so much as being shut up in a room, opposite each other, and reduced to no other occupation than the necessity of continual chattering. When all are employed, they speak only when they have something to say; but if you are doing nothing, you must absolutely talk incessantly, which of all constraints is the most troublesome and the most dangerous. I dare go even further, and maintain, that to render a circle truly agreeable, every one must be not only doing something, but something which requires a little attention.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Confessions, 1770)

Every animal has ideas, since it has senses; it even combines those ideas in a certain degree; and it is only in degree that man differs, in this respect, from the brute. Some philosophers have even maintained that there is a greater difference between one man and another than between some men and some beasts. It is not, therefore, so much the understanding that constitutes the specific difference between the man and the brute, as the human quality of free agency. Nature lays her commands on every animal, and the brute obeys her voice. Man receives the same impulsion, but at the same time knows himself at liberty to acquiesce or resist.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Discourses on Inequality, 1754)

I now found myself, in the decline of life, a prey to tormenting maladies, and believing myself at the close of my career without having once tasted the sublime pleasures after which my heart panted. Why was it that, with a soul naturally expansive, whose very existence was benevolence, I have never found one single friend with feelings like my own? A prey to the cravings of a heart which have never been satisfied, I perceived myself arrived at the confines of old age, and dying ere I had begun to live. I considered destiny as in my debt for promises which she had never realized. Why was I created with faculties so refined yet which were never intended to be adequately employed? I felt my own value, and revenged myself of my fate by recollecting and shedding tears for its injustice.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Les Confessions - Part II, 1770)

In reality, the difference is, that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. It is not to my present purpose to insist on the indifference to good and evil which arises from this disposition, in spite of our many fine works on morality, or to show how, everything being reduced to appearances, there is but art and mummery in even honour, friendship, virtue, and often vice itself, of which we at length learn the secret of boasting; to show, in short, how abject we are, and never daring to ask ourselves in the midst of so much philosophy, benevolence, politeness, and of such sublime codes of morality, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (Discourses on Inequality, 1754)

Tranquility is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? To say that a man gives himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and madness creates no right. Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. Before they come to years of judgment, the father can, in their name, lay down conditions for their preservation and well-being, but he cannot give them irrevocably and without conditions: such a gift is contrary to the ends of nature, and exceeds the rights of paternity. It would therefore be necessary, in order to legitimize an arbitrary government, that in every generation the people should be in a position to accept or reject it; but, were this so, the government would be no longer arbitrary. To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (The Social Contract - Book I, 1762)

1 | 2 | 3

Jean Jacques Rousseau Biography

Born: June 28, 1712
Died: July 2, 1778

Jean Jacques Rousseau, or also known simply as Rousseau, was a French-Genevan political philosopher and writer. His philosophy had an major influence on the French Revolution.

Top 10 Quotes

Notable Works

Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750)
Narcissus (1752)
Le Devin du Village
Discourse on Inequality (1754)
Emile: or, On Education (1762)
The Social Contract (1762)
Les Confessions
Essay on the Origin of Languages
Reveries of a Solitary Walker

Picture Quotes