What to read about Rousseau

by Chris Bertram on June 2, 2016

I was interviewed by Nigel Warburton for Five Books about Rousseau, [so here are my thoughts](http://fivebooks.com/interview/christopher-bertram-jean-jacques-rousseau/), as edited from audio of our conversation, and so reasonably spontaneous. Of course, the real starting-point should be the man himself.



Matt 06.02.16 at 2:23 pm

Extremely interesting stuff, Chris, thanks for it. (Let me go ahead and I that I also really enjoyed and learned a lot from Chris’s book on _The Social Contract_, and so I will recommend that to everyone as well.)

Let me ask you, if you don’t mind, what you think of David Gauthier’s fairly recent book on Rousseau, if you’ve read it. (It’s been sitting on my shelf for a while but I haven’t read it.) I imagine it not being “scholarly” all that much, but despite not being properly scholarly, I still think _The Logic of Leviathan_ is one of the best books on Hobbes, so I’d be interested to hear from an expert as to whether he’s done anything close to as interesting in this one, if you know.


Chris Bertram 06.02.16 at 2:47 pm

Hi Matt, I’ve read it but don’t have a very clear memory of it. I quite liked it, iirc. I’ve only met Gauthier on two occasions, about three days apart. On the first he was in Hobbesian mode and talked for a long time with his eyes closed in very long and perfectly articulate sentences, very controlled. On the second, he was talking about Rousseau on love and was warm and expressive. Almost as if the subject matter seeped into his persona.


David Margolies 06.02.16 at 6:26 pm

We are just finishing ‘Emile’ in my book club. Today’s discussion is about book V and Rousseau’s views on the role of women in society. None of the books you mention seem to focus on Emile. Are there any essays or books that provide a critical review of Emile and also discuss its place in 18th century thought in general? (We are using Alan Bloom’s translation and his introduction is one such, of course.)


Chris Bertram 06.02.16 at 6:52 pm

@David Dent focuses on Emile a lot, particularly on Book IV. One of Neuhouser’s other books, Rousseau’s Theodicy of Self-Love has a lot on Emile also.


Dean C. Rowan 06.03.16 at 5:12 am



Chris Bertram 06.03.16 at 6:23 am

Yes Starobinski, who gets a mention in the article. Despite the spin put on the article by Five Books, “the best”, I was recommending books to an anglophone audience who may not know much about Rousseau. Dent is in the Starobinski-shaped hole, for those purposes.


magari 06.04.16 at 5:56 am

Plus Starobinski is ridiculously expensive to acquire, being out of print but in demand.


Andrew 06.06.16 at 1:14 am

What about Confessions?

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