Bertrand Russell on Rousseau

This is the boldest statement from a serious thinker that I’ve read today (from Russell’s 1945 book The History of Western Philosophy):

Ever since his [Rousseau’s] time, those who considered themselves reformers have been divided into two groups, those who followed him and those who followed Locke.  Sometimes they cooperated, and many individuals saw no incompatibility.  But gradually the incompatibility has become increasingly evident.  At the present time, Hitler is an outcome of Rousseau; Roosevelt and Churchill, of Locke.

4 thoughts on “Bertrand Russell on Rousseau

  1. The key to this being relatively non-controversial is “an outcome.” I’d add that some other outcomes of Rousseau are Communism, Oprah, Freud, Stendhal, Thoreau, John Muir, Flaubert, the “unschooling” movement, Baudelaire, The National Enquirer, and almost every other anti-bourgeois cultural movement of the past 2 centuries.

  2. Rousseau’s assertion that by giving away all rights (liberty) made for a truly free society always seemed contradictory. But maybe I just never understood the context of the statement completely.
    Other than his illusion of “the noble savage,” I never held much for Rousseau. I’m a Lockean myself.

    1. Locke is part of the basic DNA of most classical liberals (perhaps with the exception of some economists). In fact, we live in a world largely shaped by Locke and his ideas (not to consign other rights theorists to oblivion).

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