Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Swiss-born French Philosopher, Novelist, Political Theorist

"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."

"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. "

"Many men, seemingly impelled by fortune, hasten forward to meet misfortune half way."

"Men always love what is good or what they find good; it is in judging what is good that they go wrong."

"Men and nations can only be reformed in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow old."

"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."

"Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves."

"No more by the law of reason than by the law of nature can anything occur without a cause."

"One may live tranquilly in a dungeon; but does life consist in living quietly?"

"Our greatest misfortunes come to us from ourselves."

"Presence of mind, penetration, fine observation, are the sciences of women; ability to avail themselves of these is their talent."

"Remorse sleeps during prosperity but awakes to bitter consciousness during adversity."

"Sacrifice life to truth."

"Self-love is an instrument useful but dangerous; it often wounds the hand which makes use of it, and seldom does good without doing harm."

"Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them."

"Taste is, so to speak, the microscope of the judgment."

"Teach him to live a life rather than to avoid death; life is not breath but action."

"That which renders life burdensome to us generally arises from the abuse of it."

"The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: "Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one! "

"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."

"The greater number of nations, as of men, are only impressible in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow old."

"The legislative power belongs to the people, and can belong to it alone... What then is government? An intermediate body set up between the subjects and the Sovereign, to secure their mutual correspondence, charged with the execution of the laws and the maintenance of liberty, both civil and political."

"The money which a man possesses is the instrument of freedom; that which we eagerly pursue is the instrument of slavery."

"The opportunity of making happy is more scarce than we imagine; the punishment of missing it is, never to meet with it again; and the use owe make of it leaves us an eternal sentiment of satisfaction or repentance."

"The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before. This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution."

"The tone of good conversation is brilliant and natural; it is neither tedious nor frivolous; it is instructive without pedantry, gay without tumultuousness, polished without affectation, gallant without insipidity, waggish without equivocation."

"The training of children is a profession where we must know to lose time in order to gain it."

"The training of children is a profession, where we must know how to lose time in order to gain it."

"The want of occupation is no less the plague of society than of solitude."

"The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. Not being able to enlarge the one, let us contract the other; for it is from their difference that all evils arise which render us unhappy."

"There can be no patriotism without liberty, no liberty without virtue, no virtue without citizens; create citizens, and you have everything you need; without them, you will have nothing but debased slaves, from the rulers of the State downwards. To form citizens is not the work of a day; and in order to have men it is necessary to educate them when they are children."

"There is a deportment which suits the figure and talents of each person; it is always lost when we quit it to assume that of another."

"There is a period of life when we go back as we advance."

"They must know but little of mankind who imagine that, having once been seduced by luxury, they can ever renounce it."

"To endure is the first thing a child ought to learn, and that which he will have most need to know."

"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."

"To write a good love-letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written."

"Two kinds of people: ... those who think and those who don't; the difference comes almost entirely from education."

"War... is a relation, not between man and man, but between State and State, and individuals are enemies only accidentally, not as men, nor even as citizens, but as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders. Finally, each State can have for enemies only other States, and not men."

"We do not know either unalloyed happiness or unmitigated misfortune. Everything in this world is a tangled yarn; we taste nothing in its purity; we do not remain two moments in the same state. Our affections as well as bodies, are in a perpetual flux."

"Were there a people of gods, their government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not for men."

"By doing good we become good."

"Everything is good when it leaves the Creator's hands; everything degenerates in the hands of people."

"Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost."

"I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about."

"I know of nothing so potent in its effect on my feelings as an act of courage performed at the right moment on behalf of the weak, unjustly oppressed."

"It is not [a child’s] hearing of the word, but its accompanying intonation that is understood."

"Luxury either comes of riches or makes them necessary; it corrupts at once rich and poor, the rich by possession and the poor by covetousness; it sells the country to softness and vanity, and takes away from the state all its citizens, to make them slaves one to another, and one and all to public opinion."