The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas

Jefferson Book Club Meeting: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries

Tue, November 11, 2014 | WAG 403B

5:00 PM

Reading: The "Fifth Walk" from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker

What does happiness consist of? Is it attainable? What obstacles stand in the way of happiness? Jean-Jacques Rousseau sheds light on these important questions in the "Fifth Walk" of his autobiographical Reveries of the Solitary Walker. There, he describes the happiest time of his life, on a nearly uninhabited island in a Swiss lake. Rousseau's separation from society allowed him to live idly and achieve periods of contentment in which he sensed only his own existence. We'll consider whether or in what ways this is a compelling account of happiness and what it suggests about the possibility of attaining happiness. We'll also consider what this account suggests about the status of philosophy for Rousseau and for human beings in general. Do rational thought and clarity about our situation, in particular, our mortality, conduce to or hinder happiness?

The discussion will be led by Government department graduate student and upstanding gentleman Zachary Bennett. Paper copies of the reading are available for pick-up in BAT 2.116.

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