Rousseau’s five children

In an earlier post I asked, Who is the most loathsome philosopher in history? I suggested that Rousseau and Heidegger be considered top candidates.

rousseau-ramsaySome more data relevant to Rousseau: He made his common-law wife leave all five of their infants at foundling hospitals, on the grounds that they’d be better off there and that he couldn’t afford to raise them.

Had he tried, Rousseau may very well have been incompetent as a father. Yet also relevant are these statistics for one foundling hospital in Paris: “Between 1771 and 1773 the Hotel-Dieu recorded mortality rates between 62 percent and 75 percent. French church registries of the same period show that in the private sector the death rate among infants was only 18 percent.”

(Source: “Children in European and American History.”)

2 thoughts on “Rousseau’s five children

  • August 31, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Rousseau is definitely more loathsome than Heidegger. Heidegger lied a lot (according to Hannah Arendt) but he never personally killed anyone (let alone his own children). There is an additional reason. Yes, Heidegger was a Nazi, but he joined the movement. He didn’t start it. Rousseau, on the other hand, was the philosopher of choice for the radicals who turned the French Revolution into a bloodbath. In addition, Rousseau’s work was a strong influence on Kant.

  • September 1, 2013 at 6:59 am

    A goodly number of Rousseau’s contemporaries agree with Mr. Marks — although they tended to lump Voltaire and Rousseau into the same wicket. Dr. Johnson, when asked their merits, replied, ‘Why, Sir, it is difficult to divide the portion of iniquity between them!” Rousseau started the “noble savage” nonsense, which implies that primitive peoples live more closely to [human] nature than do we. Diderot endorsed this primitivism in several essays, often claiming that the native diet, which could be picked off a tree, as in the breadfruit tree, surpassed corrupt civilized fare. Dr. Johnson again : He took the slice from a good loaf, held it up and said, “Nay, Sir, this is better than the breadfruit tree!”

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