On Rousseau

Jose Hernandez - Diptico, Ceremonial del Enviado
[José Hernández via A Journey Round My Skull]


I had occasion today to return to some notes I took in 2005 on my readings in Rousseau's corpus. I am astonished now at how influential those readings were -- in a way I didn't expect at the time and that I'm glad I've grown out of -- romanticism can be a dangerous spirit to drink down unquestionably.

From Reveries of a Solitary Walker I find:

Thus, in order to contemplate myself before my decline, I must go back at least a few years to the time when, losing all hope here-below and no longer finding any food here on earth for my heart, I gradually became accustomed to feeding it with its own substance and to looking within myself for all its nourishment.

This idea, far from being cruel and rending to me, consoles me, calms me, and helps me to resign myself. I do not go as far as St. Augustine, who would have consoled himself to be damned if such had been the will of God. [...] God is just; He wills that I suffer; and He knows that I am innocent. That is the cause of my confidence; my heart and my reason cry out to me that I will not be deceived by it. Let me, therefore, leave men and fate to go their ways. Let me learn to suffer without a murmur. In the end, everything must return to order, and my turn will come sooner or later.

And on his philosophy:
The whole present generation sees only errors and prejudices in the sentiments with which I alone nourish myself. It finds truth and evidence opposed to mine. It even seems incapable of believing that I adopt my own in good faith; and although I give myself up to it wholeheartedly, even I find it has insurmountable difficulties which are impossible for me to resolve but which do not prevent me from persisting in it. Am I then alone wise, alone enlightened, among mortals? To believe that this is the way things are, is it sufficient that they suit me? Can I put enlightened trust in appearances which have nothing solid in the eyes of other men and which would seem illusory to me if my heart did not confirm my reason? [...] I believe myself wise, but I am only a dupe, a victim, and a martyr of vain error.


Dark moments during those solitary walks.