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Rousseau’s Philosophy of Government

October 25, 2022 at 5:30 pm until 7:00 pm

Gilman 479

Considering Rousseau as a philosopher may still sound like an iconoclastic claim – didn’t
he spend most of his writings criticizing the philosophes of the Enlightenment? Claiming
that Rousseau is a philosopher of government may sound even bolder – isn’t he usually
considered as a mostly utopian political thinker? This talk will challenge these two
assumptions, examining the topicality of Rousseau’s views on government, and the
interesting paradox that the modernity of his philosophy of government is grounded in
ancient roots.

Champy is the author of L’Antiquité politique de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Garnier, 2022). In it she argues that the pervasive presence of ancient examples in Rousseau’s political oeuvre is not a call to direct imitation. An attentive study of his rewriting of classical and contemporary sources reveals how he deliberately turns traditional exemplarity into a critical tool to assess emerging social theories. By emphasizing the Roman model, Rousseau puts the question of duration at the center of his political theory. How can political authority retain legitimacy through the eventfulness of history?

Flora Champy