A Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences
(1750), more commonly known as Discourse on the Sciences and Arts
(French: Discours sur les sciences et les arts
), is an essay by Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau
which argued that the arts and sciences corrupt human morality
. It was Rousseau's first successful published philosophical work, and it was the first expression of his influential views about nature vs. society, to which he would dedicate the rest of his intellectual life. This work is considered one of his most important works.
Rousseau wrote Discourse
in response to an advertisement that appeared in a 1749 issue of Mercure de France
, in which the Academy of Dijon
set a prize for an essay responding to the question: "Has the restoration of the sciences and the arts contributed to refining moral character?" According to Rousseau, "Within an instant of reading this , I saw another universe and became another man." Rousseau found the idea to which he would passionately dedicate the rest of his intellectual life: the destructive influence of civilization on human beings. Rousseau went on to win first prize in the contest in July 1750 and—in an otherwise mediocre career as composer and playwright, among other things—he had new found fame as a philosopher.
Rousseau's argument was controversial, and drew a great number of responses. One from critic Jules Lemaître
calling the instant deification of Rousseau as 'one of the strongest... Read More