Why is it worth talking about Rousseau now? Partly, perhaps, because Rousseau wrote about subjects like justice and inequality, states and sovereignty, democracy and elections that are still alive today. Partly too because Rousseau’s way of treating these subjects was picked up by a surprisingly wide range of later political thinkers, from Leo Strauss to John Rawls. In this seminar, Flora Champy and Michael Sonenscher talk about why it is worth trying to work out what Rousseau had to say about morality, history, and politics.
Flora Champy is an Assistant Professor of French at Princeton University. Her research focuses on the history of political and literary ideas in the eighteenth-century. She has published several articles on Rousseau and the Enlightenment, and, most recently, L’Antiquité politique de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, entre exemples et modèles (Classiques Garnier, 2022), a systematic examination of the argumentative function of ancient examples in Rousseau’s political philosophy.
Michael Sonenscher directed studies in history at King’s College, Cambridge (UK) for many years. His first book was The Hatters of Eighteenth-Century France (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1987). More recently, he has published Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Brill, 2021) and Capitalism: The Story behind the Word (Princeton, 2022).
Chair: Gregory Conti, Assistant Professor of Politics (Princeton University)