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A nasty book by a nasty man
on 21 July 2009
I have a theory that while it's possible to be a bad man but a good engineer or scientist (von Braun, probably Einstein, in his dealings with women, maybe even Newton), you cannot be a bad man and a good philosopher, certainly not of ethics or political philosophy.
Rousseau, on this account, was a worthless man who wrote the ur-text of modern authoritarianism.
Whether it's the specious twaddle of 'the general will' (you know, the one that tells you to kill the kulaks or the Jews or people who need to wear glasses, and it's OK because the General Will said so), or the weird drivel of the 'noble savage' (who presumably was immune to polio, malaria, leprosy, smallpox as well as to the competitive attentions lions, bears, locusts and so on) whose life was more convincingly described by Hobbes, Rousseau managed to give a completely unconvincing and historically refuted account of the social and political evolution of man.
But it's his murderous treatment of his children, his disgusting treatment of the unfortunate women whom he attracted and his foul disloyalty to David Hume, who took him in after he had been ejected from everywhere else that should settle the fate of this man's philosophy.