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Rousseau is famous for having said the following quotes:

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Famous quotes from Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (1754)

Also known as A Dissertation On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind.

  • Le premier qui, ayant enclos un terrain, s'avisa de dire: Ceci est à moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai fondateur de la société civile. Que de crimes, de guerres, de meurtres, que de misères et d'horreurs n'eût point épargnés au genre humain celui qui, arrachant les pieux ou comblant le fossé, eût crié à ses semblables: Gardez-vous d'écouter cet imposteur; vous êtes perdus, si vous oubliez que les fruits sont à tous, et que la terre n'est à personne.
    • Translation: The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
    • Variant: The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.
  • Never exceed your rights, and they will soon become unlimited.
  • Money is the seed of money, and the first guinea is sometimes more difficult to acquire than the second million.
  • I know that [civilized men] do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in their chains.... But when I see [barbarous man] sacrifice pleasures, repose, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and despising captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.
  • In reality, the difference is, that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. It is not to my present purpose to insist on the indifference to good and evil which arises from this disposition, in spite of our many fine works on morality, or to show how, everything being reduced to appearances, there is but art and mummery in even honour, friendship, virtue, and often vice itself, of which we at length learn the secret of boasting; to show, in short, how abject we are, and never daring to ask ourselves in the midst of so much philosophy, benevolence, politeness, and of such sublime codes of morality, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness.
    • Second Treatise on Inequality, translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters

Famous quotes from The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762)

Du Contrat Social

  • L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.
    • Translation: Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.
    • Variants: Man is born free, and everywhere he is in shackles.
      Man was born free, but is everywhere in bondage.
    • I, Ch. 1
  • The strongest is never strong enough always to be master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
    • Variants: The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
      The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms his strength into right, and obedience into duty.
    • I, Ch. 3
  • The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest.
    • I, Ch. 4
  • The mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to the law we prescribe to ourselves is liberty.
    • I, Ch. 7
  • In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed.
    • III, Ch. 4
  • The very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affair, however little influence my voice may have in them.
  • The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction.
    • Variant: The body politic, as well as the human body, begins to die as soon as it is born, and carries itself the causes of its destruction.
    • III, Ch. 11
  • Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse.
    • III, Ch. 15
  • At Genoa, the word Liberty may be read over the front of the prisons and on the chains of the galley-slaves. This application of the device is good and just.
  • As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State "What does it matter to me?" the State may be given up for lost.
    • III, Ch. 15

Famous quotes from  Emile: Or, On Education (1762)

Émile ou De l'éducation

  • Tout est bien sortant des mains de l'Auteur des choses, tout dégénère entre les mains de l'homme.

    • Translation: Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man.
    • Variants: Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the Creator; everything degenerates in the hands of man.
      God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.
    • Ch. I
  • I shall always maintain that whoso says in his heart, "There is no God," while takes the name of God upon his lips, is either a liar or a madman.
    • Ch. I
  • L'accent est l'âme du discours.
    • Translation: Accent is the soul of language.
  • People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.
    • Ch. I
  • The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character; for how can one explain away the fact that great meat-eaters are usually fiercer and more cruel than other men; this has been recognised at all times and in all places.
    • Ch. II
  • What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?
    • Ch. II
  • Gluttony is the vice of feeble minds. The gourmand has his brains in his palate, he can do nothing but eat; he is so stupid and incapable that the table is the only place for him, and dishes are the only things he knows anything about. Let us leave him to this business without regret; it is better for him and for us.
    • Ch. II
  • The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
    • Ch. II
  • Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves.
    • Variant: Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.
    • Ch. III
  • There is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No— it is Robinson Crusoe.
    • Ch. III
  • Self-love makes more libertines than love.
    • Ch. IV
  • A man who is not a fool can rid himself of every folly except vanity.
    • Variant: Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly but vanity.
    • Ch. IV
  • A man speaks of what he knows, a woman of what pleases her: the one requires knowledge, the other taste.
    • Variant: A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please.
    • Ch. V
  • One could wish no easier death than that of Socrates, calmly discussing philosophy with his friends; one could fear nothing worse than that of Jesus, dying in torment, among the insults, the mockery, the curses of the whole nation. In the midst of these terrible sufferings, Jesus prays for his cruel murderers. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Christ are those of a God.
    • Variants: If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a God.
      Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ as a God.
      Socrates died like a philosopher; Jesus Christ died like a God.
  • Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined; and the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ. At best, you only put the difficulty from you; it would be still more incredible that several persons should have agreed together to invent such a book, than that there was one man who supplied its subject matter. The tone and morality of this story are not those of any Jewish authors, and the gospel indeed contains characters so great, so striking, so entirely inimitable, that their invention would be more astonishing than their hero. With all this the same gospel is full of incredible things, things repugnant to reason, things which no natural man can understand or accept. What can you do among so many contradictions? You can be modest and wary, my child; respect in silence what you can neither reject nor understand, and humble yourself in the sight of the Divine Being who alone knows the truth.
  • Where is the man who owes nothing to the land in which he lives? Whatever that land may be, he owes to it the most precious thing possessed by man, the morality of his actions and the love of virtue.
    • Ch. V

Famous quotes from Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1770, published 1782)

Les Confessions

  • I have entered on an enterprise which is without precedent, and will have no imitator. I propose to show my fellows a man as nature made him, and this man shall be myself.
    • I
  • I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.
    • Variants: I may not be better than other people, but at least I am different.
      If I am not better, at least I am different.
  • Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.
    • Variant: Let the trumpet of the day of judgment sound when it will, I shall appear with this book in my hand before the Sovereign Judge, and cry with a loud voice, This is my work, there were my thoughts, and thus was I. I have freely told both the good and the bad, have hid nothing wicked, added nothing good.
  • Remorse sleeps during a prosperous period but wakes up in adversity.
    • Variants: Remorse sleeps during prosperity but awakes bitter consciousness during adversity.
      Remorse goes to sleep during a prosperous period and wakes up in adversity.
    • II
  • It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living.
    • Variant: It is too difficult to think nobly when one only thinks to get a living.
    • II
  • Hatred, as well as love, renders its votaries credulous.
    • V
  • I remembered the way out suggested by a great princess when told that the peasants had no bread: "Well, let them eat cake".
    • Variant: At length I recollected the thoughtless saying of a great princess, who, on being informed that the country people had no bread, replied, "Then let them eat cake!"
    • This passage contains a statement Qu'ils mangent de la brioche that has usually come to be attributed to Marie Antoinette; this was written in 1766, when Marie Antoinette was 10 and still 4 years away from her marriage to Louis XVI of France, and is an account of events of 1740, before she was born. It also implies the phrase had been long known before that time.
    • VI
  • The thirst after happiness is never extinguished in the heart of man.
    • IX
  • He thinks like a philosopher, but governs like a king.
    • Of Frederick the Great
    • XII

On the musicians of the Ospedale della Pieta (book VII)

Confessions includes an account of a visit to the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice.

  • A kind of music far superior, in my opinion, to that of operas, and which in all Italy has not its equal, nor perhaps in the whole world, is that of the 'scuole'. The 'scuole' are houses of charity, established for the education of young girls without fortune, to whom the republic afterwards gives a portion either in marriage or for the cloister. Amongst talents cultivated in these young girls, music is in the first rank. Every Sunday at the church of each of the four 'scuole', during vespers, motettos or anthems with full choruses, accompanied by a great orchestra, and composed and directed by the best masters in Italy, are sung in the galleries by girls only; not one of whom is more than twenty years of age. I have not an idea of anything so voluptuous and affecting as this music; the richness of the art, the exquisite taste of the vocal part, the excellence of the voices, the justness of the execution, everything in these delightful concerts concurs to produce an impression which certainly is not the mode, but from which I am of opinion no heart is secure. Carrio and I never failed being present at these vespers of the 'Mendicanti', and we were not alone. The church was always full of the lovers of the art, and even the actors of the opera came there to form their tastes after these excellent models. What vexed me was the iron grate, which suffered nothing to escape but sounds, and concealed from me the angels of which they were worthy. I talked of nothing else. One day I spoke of it at Le Blond's; "If you are so desirous," said he, "to see those little girls, it will be an easy matter to satisfy your wishes. I am one of the administrators of the house, I will give you a collation [light meal] with them." I did not let him rest until he had fulfilled his promise. In entering the saloon, which contained these beauties I so much sighed to see, I felt a trembling of love which I had never before experienced. M. le Blond presented to me one after the other, these celebrated female singers, of whom the names and voices were all with which I was acquainted. Come, Sophia, —she was horrid. Come, Cattina, —she had but one eye. Come, Bettina, —the small-pox had entirely disfigured her. Scarcely one of them was without some striking defect.

    Le Blond laughed at my surprise; however, two or three of them appeared tolerable; these never sung but in the choruses; I was almost in despair. During the collation we endeavored to excite them, and they soon became enlivened; ugliness does not exclude the graces, and I found they possessed them. I said to myself, they cannot sing in this manner without intelligence and sensibility, they must have both; in fine, my manner of seeing them changed to such a degree that I left the house almost in love with each of these ugly faces. I had scarcely courage enough to return to vespers. But after having seen the girls, the danger was lessened. I still found their singing delightful; and their voices so much embellished their persons that, in spite of my eyes, I obstinately continued to think them beautiful.

Other Rousseau Quotes

  • A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
  • A feeble body weakens the mind.
  • Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.
  • Accent is the soul of language; it gives to it both feeling and truth.
  • All of my misfortunes come from having thought too well of my fellows.
  • All that time is lost which might be better employed.
  • Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil.
  • An honest man nearly always thinks justly.
  • As long as there are rich people in the world, they will be desirous of distinguishing themselves from the poor.

  • As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall.
  • At sixteen, the adolescent knows about suffering because he himself has suffered, but he barely know that other being also suffer; seeing without feeling is not knowledge.
  • Base souls have no faith in great individuals.
  • Childhood is the sleep of reason.
  • Cities are the abyss of the human species.
  • Conscience is the voice of the soul; the passions of the body.
    • Variant: Conscience is the voice of the soul; the passions are the voice of the body.
  • Do not judge, and you will never be mistaken.
  • Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?.
    • Variant: Every man has a right to risk his own life for the preservation of it.
  • Every state funeral that shines is on its decline.
  • Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being.
  • Fame is but the breath of people, and that often unwholesome.
  • Finance is a slave's word.
  • Force does not constitute right... obedience is due only to legitimate powers.
  • Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.
  • General and abstract ideas are the source of the greatest errors of mankind.
  • Government originated in the attempt to find a form of association that defends and protects the person and property of each with the common force of all.
  • Gratitude is a duty which ought to be paid, but which none have a right to expect.
  • Great men never make bad use of their superiority. They see it and feel it and are not less modest. The more they have, the more they know their own deficiencies.
  • Happiness: a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.
  • He who is most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in performance of it. ** Variants: He who is slowest in making a promise is most faithful in its performance.
    He who is the most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in the performance of it.
  • He who pretends to look upon death without fear, lies.
  • Heroes are not known by the loftiness of their carriage; the greatest braggarts are generally the merest cowards.
    • Variant: The greatest braggarts are usually the biggest cowards.
  • How many famous and high-spirited heroes have lived a day too long?
  • However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.
  • I feel an indescribable ecstasy and delirium in melting, as it were, into the system of beings, in identifying myself with the whole of nature.
  • I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.
  • I have always believed that good is only beauty put into practice.
  • I have always said and felt that true enjoyment can not be described.
  • I have suffered too much in this world not to hope for another.
  • I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.
  • Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong.
  • It is not the criminal things which are hardest to confess, but the ridiculous and shameful.
  • It is to law alone that men owe justice and liberty. It is this salutary organ, of the will of all which establishes in civil rights the natural equality between men. It is this celestial voice which dictates to each citizen the precepts of public reason, and teaches him to act according to the rules of his own judgment and not to behave inconsistently with himself. It is with this voice alone that political leaders should speak when they command.
  • It is unnatural for a majority to rule, for a majority can seldom be organized and united for specific action, and a minority can.
  • Liberty is obedience to the law which one has laid down for oneself.
  • Little privations are easily endured when the heart is better treated than the body.
  • Living is not breathing but doing.
  • Men and nations can only be reformed in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow old.
  • Men will argue more philosophically about the human heart; but women will read the heart of man better than they.
  • Most nations, as well as people are impossible only in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow older.
  • My liveliest delight is in having conquered myself.
  • Nothing is less in our power than the heart, and far from commanding we are forced to obey it.
  • One is only happy before he is happy.
  • One loses all the time which he might employ to better purpose.
  • Our affections as well as our bodies are in perpetual flux.
  • Our greatest evils flow from ourselves.
  • Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is.
  • Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
  • Reading, solitude, idleness, a soft and sedentary life, intercourse with women and young people, these are perilous paths for a young man, and these lead him constantly into danger.
  • Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them.
  • Supreme happiness consists in self-content.
  • Take from the philosopher the pleasure of being heard and his desire for knowledge ceases.
  • Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well.
  • Taste is, so to speak, the microscope of the judgment.
  • Taxes are more injurious to liberty than manual labor.
  • Temperance and labor are the two best physicians of man; labor sharpens the appetite and temperance prevents from indulging to excess.
  • The English are predisposed to pride, the French to vanity.
  • The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing. In the brief moment of its freedom, the English people makes such a use of that freedom that it deserves to lose it.
    • Variant: The English think they are free. They are free only during the election of members of parliament.
  • The first step towards vice is to shroud innocent actions in mystery, and whoever likes to conceal something sooner or later has reason to conceal it.
  • The less reasonable a cult is, the more men seek to establish it by force.
  • The man who has lived the longest is not he who has spent the greatest number of years, but he who has had the greatest sensibility of life.
  • The mechanism she employs is much more powerful than ours, for all her levers move the human heart.
  • The person who has lived the most is not the one who has lived the longest, but the one with the richest experiences.
    • The person who has lived the most is not the one with the most years but the one with the richest experiences.
  • The person who is slowest in making a promise is most faithful in its performance.
  • Those that are most slow in making a promise are the most faithful in the performance of it.
  • The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest.
  • The training of children is a profession, where we must know how to waste time in order to save it.
  • The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
  • There are two things to be considered with regard to any scheme. In the first place, Is it good in itself? In the second, Can it be easily put into practice?.
  • There is a deportment, which suits the figure and talents of each person; it is always lost when we quit to assume that of another.
  • This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but hurled with great force.
  • To endure is the first thing that a child ought to learn, and that which he will have the most need to know.
  • To live is not merely to breathe: it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties— of all those parts of ourselves which give us the feeling of existence.
    • * To live is not breathing; it is action.
  • To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For he who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts.
  • To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written.
  • True Christians are made to be slaves, and they know it and do not mind; this short life counts for too little in their eyes.
  • Truth is no road to fortune.
  • Universal silence must be taken to imply the consent of the people.
  • Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves.
  • War then, is a relation— not between man and man: but between state and state; and individuals are enemies only accidentally: not as men, nor even as citizens: but as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders.
  • Watch a cat when it enters a room for the first time. It searches and smells about, it is not quiet for a moment, it trusts nothing until it has examined and made acquaintance with everything.
  • We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education.
  • We are born, so to speak, twice over; born into existence, and born into life; born a human being, and born a man.
  • We do not know what is really good or bad fortune.

  • We pity in others only the those evils which we ourselves have experienced.
    • We pity in others only those evils which we have ourselves experienced.
  • We should not teach children the sciences; but give them a taste for them.
  • When a man dies he clutches in his hands only that which he has given away during his lifetime.
  • When something an affliction happens to you, you either let it defeat you, or you defeat it.
  • When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.
    • Attributed to Rousseau as being from a "Speech at the commune on the 14th of October" in The history of the French revolution. By M. A. Thiers. Translated, with notes and illustrations from the most authentic sources, by Frederick Shoberl., Thiers, Adolphe, 1797-1877., page 359
  • Whoever blushes is already guilty; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
    • Variant: Whoever blushes confesses guilt, true innocence never feels shame.
  • With children use force with men reason; such is the natural order of things. The wise man requires no law.
  • Women, in general, are not attracted to art at all, nor knowledge, and not at all to genius.
  • You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.
  • You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one.
  • Your first appearance, he said to me, is the gauge by which you will be measured; try to manage that you may go beyond yourself in after times, but beware of ever doing less.


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