Rousseau's Ethics of Truth A Sublime Science of Simple Souls
In 1758, Rousseau announced that he had adopted "vitam impendere vero" (dedicate life to truth) as a personal pledge. Despite the dramatic nature of this declaration, no scholar has yet approached Rousseau’s work through the lens of truth or truthseeking. What did it mean for Rousseau to lead a life dedicated to truth?
This book presents Rousseau’s normative account of truthseeking, his account of what human beings must do if they hope to discover the truths essential to human happiness. Rousseau’s writings constitute a practical guide to these truths; they describe how he arrived at them and how others might as well. In reading Rousseau through the lens of truth, Neidleman traverses the entirety of Rousseau's corpus, and, in the process, reveals a series of symmetries among the disparate themes treated in those texts. The first section of the book lays out Rousseau’s general philosophy of truth and truthseeking. The second section follows Rousseau down four distinct pathways to truth: reverie, republicanism, religion, and reason. With a strong grounding in both the Anglophone and Francophone scholarship on Rousseau, this book will appeal to scholars across a broad range of disciplines.
Introduction Part I: Rousseau’s Ethics of Truthseeking 1. Rousseau’s "Fundamental Principle" 2. Communion 3. Ethics of Truthseeking Part II: Rousseau's Pathways to Truth 4. Reverie 5. Republicanism 6. Religion 7. Reason Conclusion
"Neidleman has produced a powerful and original synthetic reading of Rousseau's principal works and concerns, one that combines a sensitivity to historical and textual detail with making clear the enduring importance of Rousseau to contemporary moral and political thought. Its value to Rousseau scholars lies in establishing the unity of Rousseau's thinking and basic approach across his writings on nature, politics, morality and religion, where previous scholars had often seen incoherence and division. Both in its overview of Rousseau's œuvre and in its penetrating discussions of particular topics such as the practice of 'reverie', the relationship between patriotism and popular sovereignty, and Rousseau's wariness about 'reason', this book makes a vital contribution to Rousseau studies and one that every serious scholar of Rousseau's work will want to engage with." --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews