Rousseau's reception as an Epicurean : from atheism to aesthetics
History of European ideas, 2019, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 553-571
HOLLEY, Jared, Rousseau's reception as an Epicurean : from atheism to aesthetics, History of European ideas, 2019, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 553-571 - https://hdl.handle.net/1814/66054
Retrieved from Cadmus, EUI Research Repository
What did Rousseau's readers mean when they called him an 'Epicurean'? A seemingly simple question with complex implications. This article attempts to answer it by reconstructing Rousseau's contemporary reception as an Epicurean thinker. First, it surveys the earliest and most widely read critics of the second Discourse: Prussian Astronomer Royal Jean de Castillon, Jesuit priest Louis Bertrand Castel, and Hanoverian biblical scholar Hermann Samuel Reimarus. These readers branded Rousseau an Epicurean primarily to highlight his atheism, his anti-providential and materialist natural philosophy. Then, it discusses Genevan pastor Jacob Vernet's positive assessment of Rousseau as a critic of 'fashionable' Epicureanism, before reconstructing Rousseau's critique of the reception of Alexander Pope's Essay on Man as an Epicurean text. These sources elucidate Rousseau's engagement with a range of ideas and argumentative positions that would inform his later self-identification as a 'refined' Epicurean. In particular, they highlight his interest in how a sentimental awareness of beauty might mitigate the potentially vicious effects of hedonism. The article concludes with novelist Mme. de Genlis' critique of Rousseau's Wise Materialism, using his thoughts on the imagination to suggest some of the ways the neglected aesthetic dimensions of Rousseau's reception of Epicureanism might be developed.
Published online: 07 Jan 2019
Cadmus permanent link: https://hdl.handle.net/1814/66054
Full-text via DOI: 10.1080/01916599.2018.1563965
ISSN: 0191-6599; 1873-541X
Publisher: Routledge Journals, Taylor & Francis Ltd
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