Billeder på siden

teenth and twentieth

pure centuries have The ulate this

tended to reg


given some direction, and some way had to be sought But the nineby which these rights he had secured might function. Without guidance or socialization of any sort, individualism must have resulted in anarchy. more the individualistic movement succeeds, then, the movement and produce more necessary it is to ascertain what the individual an era of has to do and how he is to do it. The main tendencies of the eighteenth century would logically have resulted in disintegration, had not the nineteenth century made a conscious effort to justify the eighteenth, and bring out the positions that were only implied in the negations of the latter. It is not alone the individual as such that has interested the nineteenth century, but more and more the individual in relation to the social whole to which he belongs, as it is only in this way that his conduct can be evaluated. Thus, while the mission of the eighteenth century may be interpreted as tending largely toward free movement and getting the individual under way, the mission of the nineteenth and twentieth has been gradually to regulate this movement,-to know the law and help the individual to adjust himself to it. If the one period seem an abrupt revolution from the preceding centuries and 'the End of a Social System,' the other may be considered a natural evolution from its predecessor and the rude beginning of æons of possibilities for the individual and society. Thus the main movements of the eighteenth century may be said to have but cleared the deck for action in modern times. The Two Epochs in the Eighteenth Century. But this revolt of the eighteenth century from absolutism in politics, religion, and thought falls naturally into two parts. During the first half of the century the move

In the first eighteenth century the

half of the

revolt was

against eccle

siastical repression; in the second,

against political.

The former movement is typified by

the rational

ism of Voltaire; the

latter by the

naturalism of Rousseau.


ment was directed against repression in theology and intellect, and during the second half against repression in politics and the rights of man. The former tendency appears in the onslaught upon the church made by the rationalism and skepticism of such men as Locke, Voltaire, and the encyclopedists, while the latter becomes evident chiefly in the emotionalism and 'naturalism' of Rousseau. Although these aspects of the movement somewhat overlapped each other and had certain features in common, they should be clearly distinguished. The one prepared the way for the other by seeking to destroy existing abuses, especially of the Church, by the application of reason, but it soon degenerated into skepticism and an intellectual despotism. It undertook an absolute break from the old system of society and thought, but it gave no ear to the claims of the masses. It sought merely to replace the traditionalism and despotism of the clergy and monarch with the dogmatism and tyranny of an intellectual few and with irreligion and rationalistic materialism. In distinction to this rule of 'reason,' 'naturalism' declared that the intellect could not always be trusted as the proper monitor, but that conduct could better be guided by the emotions as the true expression of nature. It opposed the control of intellectual aristocracy and demanded rights for the common man. But to grasp the significance of this later phase of the eighteenth century revolt, with its far-reaching effect upon education and society in general, we must turn to another chapter and study more in detail the positions of Rousseau, its chief exponent and popularizer.

1Op. cit., Chapter XIX.




largely ac

his count for his

want of con

be trol, love of


The Training and Times of Rousseau.-The exposi- Rousseau's tion and advocacy of 'naturalism' by Rousseau find a and early sur ready explanation in his antecedents and career. The roundings theories of no man are more clearly a product of heredity, experience, and times, and they should viewed in this setting. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712- nature, sympathy for the 1778) was born in the simple Protestant city of poor, and unGeneva, but his father, a watchmaker, was descended systematic from a Parisian family. The latter inherited much of the romanticism, mercurial temperament, and love of pleasure of his forbears, and was most irresponsible in his attitude toward his son. The mother of Rousseau, too, although the daughter of a clergyman, was of a morbid and sentimental disposition. She died at the birth of Jean Jacques, and the child was brought up by an indulgent aunt, who made little attempt to instil in him any real moral principles. Naturally Rousseau early showed a tendency toward emotionalism and a want of self-control. His early years from eight to ten were spent in the village of Bossey, just outside Geneva, where he had been sent with a cousin of about the same age to be educated. Here his love of nature, which had already been cultivated by the beauties of Genevan environment, was greatly heightened. He found a wonderful enjoyment in the rural life, until a severe

These personal charac

teristics were

punishment for a boyish offense turned all to dross After this the boy returned to Geneva and spent a couple of years in idleness and sentimentality. Then, during trade apprenticeships, lasting four years, he was further corrupted by low companions. Eventually he ran away from the city, and spent several years in vagrancy, menial service, and dissoluteness. During this time the beauties of nature were more than ever impressed upon the youth by the wonderful scenery of the Savoy country through which he passed. His education meanwhile was somewhat improved by incidental instruction from a relative of one of the families he served and through Madame de Warens, a person of easy morals and considerable beauty. Through occasional wanderings he also learned to sympathize with the condition of the poor and oppressed. At length he gravitated to Paris, where he was forced to earn a livelihood for himself and a coarse and stupid servant girl, with whom he lived for the rest of his life. He thus began to develop some sense of responsibility.

While Rousseau's days of vagabondage were now over, they had left an ineffaceable stamp upon him. His in keeping sensitiveness, impulsiveness, love of nature, and symgeneral senti-pathy for the poor, together with his inaccurate and ments of the unsystematic education, were ever afterward in evidence.

with certain


Further, it should be noted that these characteristics of Rousseau blended well with a body of inchoate sentiments and vague longings of this period that were striving for expression. These were the days of Louis XV and royal absolutism, when the administration of all affairs in the kingdom was controlled nominally by the monarch, but really by the small clique of idle and

extravagant courtiers about him. It was necessary for those who had any desire for advancement to seek to attach themselves to the court and adopt its elaborate rules and customs. In consequence, a most artificial system of etiquette and conduct had grown up everywhere in the upper class of society. Under this veneer and extreme conventionality the degraded peasants were ground down by taxation, deprived of their rights, and obliged to minister to the pleasure of a vicious leisure class. But against this oppression and decadence there had gradually arisen an undefined spirit of protest and a tendency to hark back to simpler conditions. There had come into the air a feeling that the despotism and artificiality of the times were due to the departure of civilized man from an original beneficent state of nature, and that above all legislation and institutions was a natural law in complete harmony with the divine will. Hence it happened that Rousseau, emotional, uncontrolled, and half-trained, was destined to bring to consciousness and give voice to the revolutionary and naturalistic ideas and tendencies of the century. He was overwhelmed by the number of existing abuses and bad institutions, and easily came to hold that all social regulation was wrong, and, having turned his back upon social traditions, he found his guide in nature.

Rousseau's Earlier Works. It was some time before Rousseau crystallized this spirit of the age and resultant of his own experience in any writing. But in 1750, by a curious accident, he undertook a literary work, which at once lifted him into fame. The preceding year the Academy of Dijon 1 had proposed as a theme for a

1 A few of the larger cities of France had, in imitation of Paris, founded

To these tendencies he gave voice in his

prize essays upon The Progress of the Arts and The Origin of Inequality, and

« ForrigeFortsæt »