Sunday, 19 February 2017

Book Notes: "Meditations of a Solitary Walker" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Meditations of a Solitary WalkerMeditations of a Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I find it hard not to feel like I am cheating when I read abridged books, but I have a stack of these Penguin 60s classics that need to be read properly, so I started with the master. Rousseau sums up his philosophy in the last line (p. 52):
I laugh at all their scheming and enjoy my own existence in spite of them.
This work is an abridged version of Reveries of a Solitary Walker and I will get on and read the full book this year. But the shortened work does not lose much as a standalone piece of work. I see Rousseau as the polar opposite of Benjamin Franklin. Both Enlightenment creatures but while Franklin looked at the process of becoming a better person by reflection and deliberate self-improvement in the eyes of others, Rousseau worked at self-improvement as living by one's very nature. While you can feel Rousseau's pain in this work, you can also identify elements of Stoic philosophy, and no doubt precursors to Emerson. It is worth reading even this abridged version. The cover is interesting, too, with a painting by Gustave Courbet, The Artist before the Sea. Courbet, too, lived life his way, and is a fitting companion to Rousseau. Both admirable characters in their own right who present lessons for living even in today's times.



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