The disenchantment of the world
in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This chapter outlines the major philosophical problem for Rousseau: the burden of modernity. It gives an account of Rousseau's place in the emerging world of modernity, and his opposition to secularism and scientism. It shows how his general philosophical—and theological—opposition to modernity underpinned his moral philosophy. Unlike liberal or utilitarian thinkers, Rousseau sought to base his moral judgements on emotions and sensibility, not on rational calculations. It is shown how this made him overcome the poverty of ethical theory that has characterised modernity—and how Rousseau invented post-modernism (with a pre-modern face). The chapter also contains a section on Rousseau's economic philosophy, in which it is shown that he—like Adam Smith—succeeded in transcending the economic theories of mercantilists and physiocrats. An analysis of the relationship between Rousseau and Burke is also presented. Often seen as adversaries, the chapter shows that Rousseau and Burke, in fact, were in agreement on the majority of issues, including opposition to revolutionary change, reverence for religion, and a preference for gradual reform.

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