The Other Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Paradox of Technical Progress
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***The author teaches at New York University***
Jean-Jacques Rousseau saw the progression of the sciences and arts in the eighteenth century as a major contributor to the corruption of virtue and morality. Since then he has been widely quoted for his attribution of alienation and inequality in society, and of the individual’s increasing unhappiness, to the progress of technology. In The Other Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Anne Deneys-Tunney explores her belief that, paradoxically, Rousseau was also saying that technical progress provided new possibilities that could increase freedom, and thus happiness, within society.
Deneys-Tunney shows that Rousseau’s philosophy actually attempts to reconcile humans and machinery; that he developed a system whereby technical progress could enable us to further our own freedom in society. Deneys-Tunney’s new study demonstrates that, for Rousseau, nature and technology could be compatible and undeserving of a unilateral condemnation of the advancement of sciences. She postulates that a new reading of Rousseau shows that he drafted an ethic that protects us against the perverted aspects of progress without preventing advances. Her groundbreaking study presents Rousseau as a modern prophet and visionary, who has reconciled people with technological progress.
Anne Deneys-Tunney :
Anne Deneys-Tunney is a professor of French Literature and Philosophy at New York University. A former student of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and a researcher at the European Institute of Research in Florence, she holds a Ph.D. in literature. She is the co-editor with Henry Deneys of Volney (Corpus, La Revue de Philosophie, 1989); Destutt de Tracy et l’Idéologie (Corpus, 1994); L’Epicurisme des Lumières, Dix-huitième Siècle, n. 35, 2003 (PUF/CNRS) with Pierre François Moreau; and with Hélène Cussac and Catriona Seth, Le corps au 18eme siècle, au croisement de la littérature, de la science et de la philosophie (Presses Universitaires de Laval à Québec, 2009).