From Zaretsky and Scott we learn much about Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire, and others in the constellation of talents that made the Age of Enlightenment, even if (like Rousseau) some of them were in it rather than of it. There cannot be enough such books, or enough readers for them. They bring the time and its debates vividly into focus and remind one that what mattered then still matters now: not least the dangers of a philosophy of sentiment and passion -- Rousseau's prescription -- in which what one feels is justification for anything, though the world around one, if it has improved at all, has been improved by empirical common sense -- Hume's prescription. That is the real quarrel, which the quarrel between Rousseau the feeler and Hume the philosopher perfectly illuminates.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Here's a great essay by Grayling on the evil genius of Rousseau, and how Hume (on the right) learned about the true meaning of bad company (HT Selva Brasilis). A brief passage: