Philosophical Review 110 (3):446 (2001)

In this substantial and challenging book, O’Hagan gives central place to three of Rousseau’s works—the Discourse of Inequality, the Emile, and the Social Contract—which, he says, “constitute the axes of Rousseau’s idea of formation. The formation of the human race is the axis of the Second Discourse, the formation of the individual that of the Emile, and the formation of the citizen that of the Social Contract”. However, he also draws extensively on other material, particularly Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse, to extend and deepen some of Rousseau’s accounts, particularly of moral and psychological issues. Such selectivity enables O’Hagan to consider in some detail each of his chosen texts, which he does with persistent intensity and rigor, in chapters 2 to 6, devoting three of these chapters to his treatment of the Social Contract. Additionally, he selects certain topics for particular attention, with individual chapters on amour-propre, on Rousseau’s views about men and women, on Rousseau’s treatment of some issues concerning language, and he closes with an extended treatment of Rousseau’s religious ideas and views about the role of religion in society. It is pleasing to see this aspect of Rousseau’s thought, which is seldom considered at length these days, dealt with with such care. Another useful aspect of O’Hagan’s discussion is that he makes available and engages with some of the ideas of leading French critics of Rousseau, which helpfully broadens the horizons of the assessments he makes.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108
DOI 10.2307/2693659
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