FACT: “When Voltaire died at the end of May 1778, Rousseau remarked that his own death must follow soon, since their lives had been inextricably bound each with the other. Almost as if to prove his point, he in fact expired five weeks later.”
Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and Their Legacies
by Robert Wokler
Edited by Bryan Garsten
With an introduction by Christopher Brooke
Robert Wokler was one of the world’s leading experts on Rousseau and the Enlightenment, but some of his best work was published in the form of widely scattered and difficult-to-find essays. This book collects for the first time a representative selection of his most important essays on Rousseau and the legacy of Enlightenment political thought. These essays concern many of the great themes of the age, including liberty, equality and the origins of revolution. But they also address a number of less prominent debates, including those over cosmopolitanism, the nature and social role of music and the origins of the human sciences in the Enlightenment controversy over the relationship between humans and the great apes. These essays also explore Rousseau’s relationships to Rameau, Pufendorf, Voltaire and Marx; reflect on the work of important earlier scholars of the Enlightenment, including Ernst Cassirer and Isaiah Berlin; and examine the influence of the Enlightenment on the twentieth century. One of the central themes of the book is a defense of the Enlightenment against the common charge that it bears responsibility for the Terror of the French Revolution, the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth-century and the Holocaust.
“These essays—small masterpieces of analysis, exposition, and integration, combining vast learning with an intuitive grasp of what is central in the thought of individual thinkers and epochs—testify to the unifying passion, intellectual versatility, and lasting contributions of both their author, and his subjects. This scrupulously prepared, wide-ranging collection makes invaluable contributions to political theory and cultural and intellectual history. It also presents readers of all backgrounds with an education, and a feast.”—Joshua L. Cherniss, Harvard University