Rousseou vs Voltaire Part 3

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Rousseou vs Voltaire Part 3

Post by Guest on Thu May 05, 2011 11:39 pm

The long quarrel between Voltaire and Rousseau is one of the
sorriest blemishes on the face of the Enlightenment. Their birth and
status set them far apart. Voltaire, son of a prosperous notary,
received a good education, especially in the classics; Rousseau,
born to an impoverished and soon to be broken home, received no formal
education, inherited no classical tradition. Voltaire accepted the
literary norms laid down by Boileau- "Love reason, let all your
writings take from reason their splendor and their worth";
to Rousseau (as to Faust seducing Marguerite with Rousseau) "feeling
is all." Voltaire was as sensitive and excitable as
Jean-Jacques, but usually he thought it bad manners to let passion
discolor his art; he sensed in Rousseau's appeal to feeling and
instinct an individualistic anarchic irrationalism that would begin
with revolt and end with religion. He repudiated- Rousseau echoed-
Pascal. Voltaire lived like a millionaire, Rousseau copied music to
earn his bread. Voltaire was the sum of all the graces in society;
Rousseau was ill at ease in social gatherings, and too impatient and
irritable to keep a friend. Voltaire was the son of Paris, of its
gaiety and luxuries; Rousseau was the child of Geneva, a somber and
Puritan bourgeois resentful of class distinctions that cut him, and of
luxuries that he could not enjoy. Voltaire defended luxury as
putting the money of the rich in circulation by giving work to the
poor; Rousseau condemned it as "feeding a hundred poor people in our
towns, and causing a hundred thousand to perish in our
villages." Voltaire thought that the sins of civilization
are outweighed by its comforts and arts; Rousseau was uncomfortable
everywhere, and denounced almost everything. Reformers listened to
Voltaire; revolutionists heard Rousseau.

When Horace Walpole remarked that "this world is a comedy to those
who think, a tragedy to those who feel," he unwittingly
compressed into a line the lives of the two most influential minds
of the eighteenth century

-Will Durant, Story of Civilization volume 10


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