Swiss-born French Philosopher, Novelist, Political Theorist
Swiss-born French Philosopher, Novelist, Political Theorist
The great inequality in manner of living, the extreme idleness of some, and the excessive labor of others, the easiness of exciting and gratifying our sensual appetites, the too exquisite foods of the wealthy which overheat and fill them with indigestion, and, on the other hand, the unwholesome food of the poor, often, bad as it is, insufficient for their needs, which induces them, when opportunity offers, to eat voraciously and overcharge their stomachs; all these, together with sitting up late, and excesses of every kind, immoderate transports of every passion, fatigue, mental exhaustion, the innumerable pains and anxieties inseparable from every condition of life, by which the mind of man is incessantly tormented; these are too fatal proofs that the greater part of our ills are our own making, and that we might have avoided them nearly all by adhering to that simple, uniform and solitary manner of life which nature prescribed.
To live is not merely to breathe, it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties, of all those parts of ourselves which give us the feeling of existence. The man who has lived longest is not the an who has counted most years, but he who has enjoyed life most.
Conscience is the voice of the soul, the passions are the voice of the body. Is it astonishing that often these two languages contradict each other, and then to which must we listen? Too often reason deceives us; we have only to listen too much acquired the right of refusing to listen to it; but conscience never deceives us; it is the true guide of man; it is to man what instinct is to the body, which follows it, obeys nature, and never is afraid of going astray.
Men and nations can only be reformed in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow old.
Every political society is composed of other smaller societies of different kinds, each of which has its interests and its rules of conduct: but those societies which everybody perceives, because they have an external and authorized form, are not the only ones that actually exist in the State... Unhappily personal interest is always found in inverse ratio to duty, and increases in proportion as the association grows narrower, and the engagement less sacred; which irrefragably proves that the most general will always the most just also, and that the voice of the people is in fact the voice of God.
Modern peoples, believing themselves to be free, have representatives, while ancient peoples had none. In any case, the moment a people allows itself to be represented, it is no longer free: it no longer exists.
Everything made by man may be destroyed by man. There are no ineffaceable characters except those engraved by nature; and she makes neither princes, nor rich men, nor lords.
Force made the first slaves, and their cowardice perpetuated the condition.
Hold childhood in reverence and do not be in any hurry to judge it for good or ill. Give nature time to work before you take over her tasks, lest you interfere with her method.
In a well-ordered city every man flies to the assemblies: under a bad government no one cares to stir a step to get to them, because no one is interested in what happens there, because it is foreseen that the general will not prevail, and lastly because domestic cares are all-absorbing. Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse.
Insatiable ambition, the thirst of raising their respective fortunes, not so much from real want as from the desire to surpass others, inspired all men with a vile propensity to injure one another, and with a secret jealousy, which is the more dangerous, as it puts on the mask of benevolence, to carry its point with greater security. In a word, there arose rivalry and competition on the one hand, and conflicting interests on the other, together with a secret desire on both of profiting at the expense of others. All these evils were the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of growing inequality.
It is a great mistake of many ardent students that they trust too much to their books, and do not draw from their own resources - forgetting that of all sophists our own reason is that which abuses us least.
It is not just when a villainous act has been committed that it torments us; it is when we think of it afterward, for the remembrance of it last forever.
Law being purely the declaration of the general will, it is clear that, in the exercise of the legislative power, the people cannot be represented; but in that of the executive power, which is only the force that is applied to giver the law effect, it both can and should be represented.
Let us judge of what can be done by what has been done.
Luxury... corrupts at once rich and poor, the rich by possession and the poor by covetousness.
Man has other enemies more formidable, against which he is not provided with such means of defense: these are the natural infirmities of infancy, old age, and illness of every kind, melancholy proofs of our weakness, of which the two first are common to all animals, and the last belongs chiefly to man in a; state of society.
Astronomy was born of superstition; eloquence of ambition, hatred, falsehood, and flattery; geometry of avarice; physics of an idle curiosity; and even moral philosophy of human pride. Thus the arts and sciences owe their birth to our vices.
Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains [shackles]. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.
Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence. Its spirit is so favorable to tyranny that it always profits by such a regime. True Christians are made to be slaves, and they know it and do not much mind: this short life counts for too little in their eyes.
Many men, seemingly impelled by fortune, hasten forward to meet misfortune half way.
Coercion created slavery, the cowardice of the slaves perpetuated it.