Talk:Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Latest comment: 5 months ago by RZiman in topic Rousseau's motto: Vitam impendere vero
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fwiw, talking to a native speaker, the item below is tricky to translate.

L'accent est l'âme du discours.
Accent is the soul of language; it gives to it both feeling and truth.

She said something like: "Even if your regional dialect ("l'accent") is not noticeable in your everyday speech, at times of high emotion like anger, it may appear. In that sense, your accent and your use of local expressions and slang adds emotional depth and a more transparent view into who you really are."


  • A feeble body weakens the mind.
  • Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.
  • All of my misfortunes come from having thought too well of my fellows.
  • As long as there are rich people in the world, they will be desirous of distinguishing themselves from the poor.
  • As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall.
  • At sixteen, the adolescent knows about suffering because he himself has suffered, but he barely know that other being also suffer; seeing without feeling is not knowledge.
  • Base souls have no faith in great individuals.
  • Childhood is the sleep of reason.
  • Do not judge, and you will never be mistaken.
  • Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?.
    • Variant: Every man has a right to risk his own life for the preservation of it.
  • Every state funeral that shines is on its decline.
  • Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being.
  • Fame is but the breath of people, and that often unwholesome.
  • Finance is a slave's word.
  • Force does not constitute right... obedience is due only to legitimate powers.
  • Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.
  • General and abstract ideas are the source of the greatest errors of mankind.
  • Government originated in the attempt to find a form of association that defends and protects the person and property of each with the common force of all.
  • Gratitude is a duty which ought to be paid, but which none have a right to expect.
  • Great men never make bad use of their superiority. They see it and feel it and are not less modest. The more they have, the more they know their own deficiencies.
  • Happiness: a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.
  • He who is most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in performance of it. ** Variants: He who is slowest in making a promise is most faithful in its performance.
    He who is the most slow in making a promise is the most faithful in the performance of it
  • He who pretends to look upon death without fear, lies.
  • Heroes are not known by the loftiness of their carriage; the greatest braggarts are generally the merest cowards.
    • Variant: The greatest braggarts are usually the biggest cowards.
  • How many famous and high-spirited heroes have lived a day too long?
  • However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.
  • I feel an indescribable ecstasy and delirium in melting, as it were, into the system of beings, in identifying myself with the whole of nature.
  • I have always believed that good is only beauty put into practice.
  • I have always said and felt that true enjoyment can not be described.
  • I have suffered too much in this world not to hope for another.
  • I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.
  • Insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong.
  • It is not the criminal things which are hardest to confess, but the ridiculous and shameful.
  • It is to law alone that men owe justice and liberty. It is this salutary organ, of the will of all which establishes in civil rights the natural equality between men. It is this celestial voice which dictates to each citizen the precepts of public reason, and teaches him to act according to the rules of his own judgment and not to behave inconsistently with himself. It is with this voice alone that political leaders should speak when they command.
  • It is unnatural for a majority to rule, for a majority can seldom be organized and united for specific action, and a minority can.
  • Liberty is obedience to the law which one has laid down for oneself.
  • Little privations are easily endured when the heart is better treated than the body.
  • Living is not breathing but doing.
  • Men and nations can only be reformed in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow old.
  • Men will argue more philosophically about the human heart; but women will read the heart of man better than they.
  • Most nations, as well as people are impossible only in their youth; they become incorrigible as they grow older.
  • My liveliest delight is in having conquered myself.
  • Nothing is less in our power than the heart, and far from commanding we are forced to obey it.
  • One is only happy before he is happy.
  • One loses all the time which he might employ to better purpose.
  • Our affections as well as our bodies are in perpetual flux.
  • Our greatest evils flow from ourselves.
  • Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is.
  • Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
    • This one seems to be a misattribution bu Hoyt. It appears in Voyages en Perse et autres lieux de l'Orient (John Chardin, 1711, page 175 ), written a year before Rousseau was born.
  • Reading, solitude, idleness, a soft and sedentary life, intercourse with women and young people, these are perilous paths for a young man, and these lead him constantly into danger.
  • Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them.
  • Supreme happiness consists in self-content.
  • Take from the philosopher the pleasure of being heard and his desire for knowledge ceases.
  • Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well.
  • Taste is, so to speak, the microscope of the judgment.
  • Taxes are more injurious to liberty than manual labor.
  • Temperance and labor are the two best physicians of man; labor sharpens the appetite and temperance prevents from indulging to excess.
  • The English are predisposed to pride, the French to vanity.
  • The first step towards vice is to shroud innocent actions in mystery, and whoever likes to conceal something sooner or later has reason to conceal it.
  • The less reasonable a cult is, the more men seek to establish it by force.
  • The man who has lived the longest is not he who has spent the greatest number of years, but he who has had the greatest sensibility of life.
  • The mechanism she employs is much more powerful than ours, for all her levers move the human heart.
  • The person who has lived the most is not the one who has lived the longest, but the one with the richest experiences.
    • The person who has lived the most is not the one with the most years but the one with the richest experiences.
  • The person who is slowest in making a promise is most faithful in its performance.
  • Those that are most slow in making a promise are the most faithful in the performance of it.
  • The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest.
  • The training of children is a profession, where we must know how to waste time in order to save it.
  • The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
  • There are two things to be considered with regard to any scheme. In the first place, Is it good in itself? In the second, Can it be easily put into practice?
  • There is a deportment, which suits the figure and talents of each person; it is always lost when we quit to assume that of another.
  • This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but hurled with great force.
  • To endure is the first thing that a child ought to learn, and that which he will have the most need to know.
  • 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.
  • True Christians are made to be slaves, and they know it and do not mind; this short life counts for too little in their eyes.
  • Truth is no road to fortune.
  • Universal silence must be taken to imply the consent of the people.
  • War then, 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.
  • Watch a cat when it enters a room for the first time. It searches and smells about, it is not quiet for a moment, it trusts nothing until it has examined and made acquaintance with everything.
  • We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man's estate, is the gift of education.
  • We are born, so to speak, twice over; born into existence, and born into life; born a human being, and born a man.
  • We do not know what is really good or bad fortune.
  • We pity in others only the those evils which we ourselves have experienced.
    • We pity in others only those evils which we have ourselves experienced.
  • We should not teach children the sciences; but give them a taste for them.
  • When a man dies he clutches in his hands only that which he has given away during his lifetime.
  • When something an affliction happens to you, you either let it defeat you, or you defeat it.
  • When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.
    • Attributed to Rousseau as being from a "Speech at the commune on the 14th of October" in The history of the French revolution. By M. A. Thiers. Translated, with notes and illustrations from the most authentic sources, by Frederick Shoberl., Thiers, Adolphe, 1797-1877., page 359 [1]
  • Whoever blushes is already guilty; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
    • Variant: Whoever blushes confesses guilt, true innocence never feels shame.
  • With children use force with men reason; such is the natural order of things. The wise man requires no law.
  • Women, in general, are not attracted to art at all, nor knowledge, and not at all to genius.
  • You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.
  • You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one.
  • Your first appearance, he said to me, is the gauge by which you will be measured; try to manage that you may go beyond yourself in after times, but beware of ever doing less.
  • There is no subjugation so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of freedom, for in that way, one captures volition itself.

Rousseau's motto: Vitam impendere vero


From Juvenal's Satires; cf. [2]. Probably worth adding to the main page somewhere. RZiman (talk) 17:11, 5 February 2024 (UTC)Reply