Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. Author of The Social Contract.

Born:June 1712

Aesthetic theory, briefly:

Rousseau published very little on the arts and aesthetics, yet, a basic understanding of how Rousseau would respond to certain works of art can be figured out by looking at his political and philosophical thougths and more particularly, his most famous work: The Social Contract.

Rousseau believed that the lifestyle of the sophisticated and high spheres of society, with their artifices, their manners, and their restraint were leading to a loss of virute and creating an increasing distance between men and nature. Rousseau promoted an ideal 'state of nature' with virtues of sincerity and where the expression of human passions were central.

Rousseau saw art and artists as dangerous because they could contribute to the corruption of humanity when used by the rulers as a form of propaganda. Art, he believed, had the power to create a veneer of civilization through appearances and aesthetics elements that ultimately concealed our enslavement.

"In our days, now that more sublte study and more refined taste have reduced the art of pleasing to a system, there prevails in modern manners a servile and deceptive conformity; so that one would think every mind had been cast in the same mould. Politeness requires this thing; decorum that; ceremony has its forms, and fashion its laws, and these must always follow, never the promptings of our own nature." (Discourse on the Arts and Science)

The "Art of Pleasing," as he calls it, is well versed in techniques of deception and artifice and serve those in power by helping them maintain the population in a state of servitude and confinement to the conventions.

Rather art should be use for greater ends, to instill virtue and honesty into our corrupt and ignorant society and purify the minds of a population indoctrinated by the authority.