Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712July 2, 1778) was a Franco-Swiss philosopher of Enlightenment whose political ideas influenced the French Revolution, the development of socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism.


A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
  • All that time is lost which might be better employed.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Quotations in Most Frequent Use: Taken Chiefly from the Latin and French, but comprising many from the Greek, Spanish, and Italian Languages, translated into English (1809) by David Evans Macdonnel
  • L'accent est l'âme du discours.
    • Accent is the soul of language; it gives to it both feeling and truth.
    • English translation as quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 2
  • An honest man nearly always thinks justly.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 277
  • A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
    • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 301
  • Days of absence, sad and dreary,
    Clothed in sorrow's dark array,—
    Days of absence, I am weary:
    She I love is far away.
    • Day of Absence, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

Discourse on Inequality (1754)

Also known as Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men and A Dissertation On the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind. Translation by G. D. H. Cole online
The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society...
You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
  • Le premier qui, ayant enclos un terrain, s'avisa de dire: Ceci est à moi, et trouva des gens assez simples pour le croire, fut le vrai fondateur de la société civile. Que de crimes, de guerres, de meurtres, que de misères et d'horreurs n'eût point épargnés au genre humain celui qui, arrachant les pieux ou comblant le fossé, eût crié à ses semblables: Gardez-vous d'écouter cet imposteur; vous êtes perdus, si vous oubliez que les fruits sont à tous, et que la terre n'est à personne.
    • The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
    • Variant translation: The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.
  • Never exceed your rights, and they will soon become unlimited.
  • Money is the seed of money, and the first guinea is sometimes more difficult to acquire than the second million.
  • I know that [civilized men] do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in their chains.... But when I see [barbarous man] sacrifice pleasures, repose, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and despising captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword, and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.
  • In reality, the difference is, that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. It is not to my present purpose to insist on the indifference to good and evil which arises from this disposition, in spite of our many fine works on morality, or to show how, everything being reduced to appearances, there is but art and mummery in even honour, friendship, virtue, and often vice itself, of which we at length learn the secret of boasting; to show, in short, how abject we are, and never daring to ask ourselves in the midst of so much philosophy, benevolence, politeness, and of such sublime codes of morality, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness.
    • Second Treatise on Inequality, translated by Roger D. and Judith R. Masters

The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762)

Du Contrat Social as translated by G.D.H. Cole (1913) Full text online
Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in?
From whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive.
  • L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.
    • Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.
    • Variant translations: Man is born free, and everywhere he is in shackles.
      Man was born free, but is everywhere in bondage.
    • I, Ch. 1
  • The strongest is never strong enough always to be master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
    • Variant translations: The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
      The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms his strength into right, and obedience into duty.
    • I, Ch. 3
  • Tranquility is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? To say that a man gives himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and madness creates no right. Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. Before they come to years of judgment, the father can, in their name, lay down conditions for their preservation and well-being, but he cannot give them irrevocably and without conditions: such a gift is contrary to the ends of nature, and exceeds the rights of paternity. It would therefore be necessary, in order to legitimize an arbitrary government, that in every generation the people should be in a position to accept or reject it; but, were this so, the government would be no longer arbitrary. To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience.
    • I, Ch. 4
  • The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. If war does not give the conqueror the right to massacre the conquered peoples, the right to enslave them cannot be based upon a right which does not exist. No one has a right to kill an enemy except when he cannot make him a slave, and the right to enslave him cannot therefore be derived from the right to kill him. It is accordingly an unfair exchange to make him buy at the price of his liberty his life, over which the victor holds no right. Is it not clear that there is a vicious circle in founding the right of life and death on the right of slavery, and the right of slavery on the right of life and death?
  • From whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.”
    • I, Ch. 4
  • The mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to the law we prescribe to ourselves is liberty.
    • I, Ch. 7
  • In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed.
    • III, Ch. 4
As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State "What does it matter to me?" the State may be given up for lost.
  • The very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affair, however little influence my voice may have in them.
  • The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction.
    • Variant: The body politic, as well as the human body, begins to die as soon as it is born, and carries itself the causes of its destruction.
    • III, Ch. 11
  • Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse.
    • III, Ch. 15
  • At Genoa, the word Liberty may be read over the front of the prisons and on the chains of the galley-slaves. This application of the device is good and just. It is indeed only malefactors of all estates who prevent the citizen from being free. In the country in which all such men were in the galleys, the most perfect liberty would be enjoyed.
    • IV, (This appears in the footnotes of the translation by G. D. H. Cole.)
  • As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State "What does it matter to me?" the State may be given up for lost.
    • III, Ch. 15

Emile: Or, On Education (1762)

Émile ou De l'éducation Full text online
The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
  • Tout est bien sortant des mains de l'Auteur des choses, tout dégénère entre les mains de l'homme.
    • Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man.'
    • Variant translations: Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the Creator; everything degenerates in the hands of man.
      God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.
    • Book I
  • I shall always maintain that whoso says in his heart, "There is no God," while takes the name of God upon his lips, is either a liar or a madman.
    • Book I
  • Men, be kind to your fellow-men; this is your first duty, kind to every age and station, kind to all that is not foreign to humanity. What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? Love childhood, indulge its sports, its pleasures, its delightful instincts. Who has not sometimes regretted that age when laughter was ever on the lips, and when the heart was ever at peace? Why rob these innocents of the joys which pass so quickly, of that precious gift which they cannot abuse? Why fill with bitterness the fleeting days of early childhood, days which will no more return for them than for you? Fathers, can you tell when death will call your children to him? Do not lay up sorrow for yourselves by robbing them of the short span which nature has allotted to them. As soon as they are aware of the joy of life, let them rejoice in it, go that whenever God calls them they may not die without having tasted the joy of life.
    • Book II
  • Une des preuves que le goût de la viande n’est pas naturel à l’homme, est l’indifférence que les enfants ont pour ce mets-là, et la préférence qu’ils donnent tous à des nourritures végétales, telles que le laitage, la pâtisserie, les fruits, etc. Il importe surtout de ne pas dénaturer ce goût primitif, et de ne point rendre les enfants carnassiers; si ce n’est pour leur santé, c’est pour leur caractère; car, de quelque manière qu’on explique l’expérience, il est certain que les grands mangeurs de viande sont en général cruels et féroces plus que les autres hommes; cette observation est de tous les lieux et de tous les temps.
    • The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character; for how can one explain away the fact that great meat-eaters are usually fiercer and more cruel than other men; this has been recognised at all times and in all places.
    • Book II
  • La gourmandise est le vice des cœurs qui n’ont point d’étoffe. L’âme d’un gourmand est toute dans son palais; il n’est fait que pour manger; dans sa stupide incapacité, il n’est qu’à table à sa place, il ne sait juger que des plats; laissons-lui sans regret cet emploi; mieux lui vaut celui-là qu’un autre, autant pour nous que pour lui.
    • Gluttony is the vice of feeble minds. The gourmand has his brains in his palate, he can do nothing but eat; he is so stupid and incapable that the table is the only place for him, and dishes are the only things he knows anything about. Let us leave him to this business without regret; it is better for him and for us.
    • Book II
Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.
  • Le plus heureux est celui qui souffre le moins de peines; le plus misérable est celui qui sent le moins de plaisir.
    • The happiest is he who suffers least; the most miserable is he who enjoys least.
    • Book II
  • I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.
    • Book III
  • Jamais la nature ne nous trompe; c’est toujours nous qui nous trompons.
    • Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.
    • Book III, More extensive translation: In the sensation the judgment is purely passive; it affirms that I feel what I feel. In the percept or idea the judgment is active; it connects, compares, it discriminates between relations not perceived by the senses. That is the whole difference; but it is a great difference. Nature never deceives us; we deceive ourselves.
  • Puisqu’il nous faut absolument des livres, il en existe un qui fournit, à mon gré, le plus heureux traité d’éducation naturelle. Ce livre sera le premier que lira mon Émile; seul il composera durant longtemps toute sa bibliothèque, et il y tiendra toujours une place distinguée. Il sera le texte auquel tous nos entretiens sur les sciences naturelles ne serviront que de commentaire. Il servira d’épreuve durant nos progrès à l’état de notre jugement; et, tant que notre goût ne sera pas gâté, sa lecture nous plaira toujours. Quel est donc ce merveilleux livre ? Est-ce Aristote ? est-ce Pline ? est-ce Buffon ? Non; c’est Robinson Crusoé.
    • There is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No — it is Robinson Crusoe.
    • Book III
  • Our passions are the chief means of self-preservation; to try to destroy them is therefore as absurd as it is useless; this would be to overcome nature, to reshape God's handiwork. If God bade man annihilate the passions he has given him, God would bid him be and not be; He would contradict himself. He has never given such a foolish commandment, there is nothing like it written on the heart of man, and what God will have a man do, He does not leave to the words of another man. He speaks Himself; His words are written in the secret heart.
    • Book IV
  • I consider those who would prevent the birth of the passions almost as foolish as those who would destroy them, and those who think this has been my object hitherto are greatly mistaken.
    But should we reason rightly, if from the fact that passions are natural to man, we inferred that all the passions we feel in ourselves and behold in others are natural? Their source, indeed, is natural; but they have been swollen by a thousand other streams; they are a great river which is constantly growing, one in which we can scarcely find a single drop of the original stream. Our natural passions are few in number; they are the means to freedom, they tend to self-preservation. All those which enslave and destroy us have another source; nature does not bestow them on us; we seize on them in her despite.
    • Book IV
  • The origin of our passions, the root and spring of all the rest, the only one which is born with man, which never leaves him as long as he lives, is self-love; this passion is primitive, instinctive, it precedes all the rest, which are in a sense only modifications of it. In this sense, if you like, they are all natural.
    • Book IV
  • Il n’y a point de folie dont on ne puisse guérir un homme qui n’est pas fou, hors la vanité.
    • Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly but vanity; there is no cure for this but experience, if indeed there is any cure for it at all; when it first appears we can at least prevent its further growth. But do not on this account waste your breath on empty arguments to prove to the youth that he is like other men and subject to the same weaknesses. Make him feel it or he will never know it.
    • Book IV
  • We cannot teach children the danger of telling lies to men without realising, on the man's part, the danger of telling lies to children. A single untruth on the part of the master will destroy the results of his education.
    • Book IV
  • Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil... Blushes are the sign of guilt; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
    • Book IV
  • I had been brought up in a church which decides everything and permits no doubts, so that having rejected one article of faith I was forced to reject the rest; as I could not accept absurd decisions, I was deprived of those which were not absurd. When I was told to believe everything, I could believe nothing, and I knew not where to stop.
    I consulted the philosophers, I searched their books and examined their various theories; I found them all alike proud, assertive, dogmatic, professing, even in their so-called scepticism, to know everything, proving nothing, scoffing at each other. This last trait, which was common to all of them, struck me as the only point in which they were right. Braggarts in attack, they are weaklings in defence.
    • Book IV
  • The one thing we do not know is the limit of the knowable. We prefer to trust to chance and to believe what is not true, rather than to own that not one of us can see what really is. A fragment of some vast whole whose bounds are beyond our gaze, a fragment abandoned by its Creator to our foolish quarrels, we are vain enough to want to determine the nature of that whole and our own relations with regard to it.
    • Book IV
  • Leonidas died for his country before Socrates declared that patriotism was a virtue; Sparta was sober before Socrates extolled sobriety; there were plenty of virtuous men in Greece before he defined virtue. But among the men of his own time where did Jesus find that pure and lofty morality of which he is both the teacher and pattern? The voice of loftiest wisdom arose among the fiercest fanaticism, the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the most degraded of nations.
    • Book IV
Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined...
  • La mort de Socrate, philosophant tranquillement avec ses amis, est la plus douce qu’on puisse désirer; celle de Jésus expirant dans les tourments, injurié, raillé, maudit de tout un peuple, est la plus horrible qu’on puisse craindre. […] Jésus, au milieu d’un supplice affreux, prie pour ses bourreaux acharnés. Oui, si la vie et la mort de Socrate sont d’un sage, la vie et la mort de Jésus sont d’un Dieu.
    • One could wish no easier death than that of Socrates, calmly discussing philosophy with his friends; one could fear nothing worse than that of Jesus, dying in torment, among the insults, the mockery, the curses of the whole nation. In the midst of these terrible sufferings, Jesus prays for his cruel murderers. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Christ are those of a God.
    • Variant translation: If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a God.
  • Dirons-nous que l’histoire de l’Évangile est inventée à plaisir ? Mon ami, ce n’est pas ainsi qu’on invente; et les faits de Socrate, dont personne ne doute, sont moins attestés que ceux de Jésus-Christ. Au fond c’est reculer la difficulté sans la détruire; il serait plus inconcevable que plusieurs hommes d’accord eussent fabriqué ce livre, qu’il ne l’est qu’un seul en ait fourni le sujet. Jamais les auteurs juifs n’eussent trouvé ni ce ton ni cette morale; et l’Évangile a des caractères de vérité si grands, si frappants, si parfaitement inimitables, que l’inventeur en serait plus étonnant que le héros. Avec tout cela, ce même Évangile est plein de choses incroyables, de choses qui répugnent à la raison, et qu’il est impossible à tout homme sensé de concevoir ni d’admettre. Que faire au milieu de toutes ces contradictions ? Etre toujours modeste et circonspect, mon enfant; respecter en silence ce qu’on ne saurait ni rejeter, ni comprendre, et s’humilier devant le grand Etre qui seul sait la vérité.
    • Shall we say that the gospel story is the work of the imagination? My friend, such things are not imagined; and the doings of Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those of Jesus Christ. At best, you only put the difficulty from you; it would be still more incredible that several persons should have agreed together to invent such a book, than that there was one man who supplied its subject matter. The tone and morality of this story are not those of any Jewish authors, and the gospel indeed contains characters so great, so striking, so entirely inimitable, that their invention would be more astonishing than their hero. With all this the same gospel is full of incredible things, things repugnant to reason, things which no natural man can understand or accept. What can you do among so many contradictions? You can be modest and wary, my child; respect in silence what you can neither reject nor understand, and humble yourself in the sight of the Divine Being who alone knows the truth.
  • A young man when he enters society must be preserved from vanity rather than from sensibility; he succumbs rather to the tastes of others than to his own, and self-love is responsible for more libertines than love. Self-love makes more libertines than love.
    • Book IV, Original French of the last line: L’amour-propre fait plus de libertins que l’amour.
  • He who knows enough of things to value them at their true worth never says too much; for he can also judge of the attention bestowed on him and the interest aroused by what he says. People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little. It is plain that an ignorant person thinks everything he does know important, and he tells it to everybody. But a well-educated man is not so ready to display his learning; he would have too much to say, and he sees that there is much more to be said, so he holds his peace.
    • Book IV
  • Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man's object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth.
    • Book V; Variant translation: A man speaks of what he knows, a woman of what pleases her: the one requires knowledge, the other taste.
  • Où est l’homme de bien qui ne doit rien à son pays ? Quel qu’il soit, il lui doit ce qu’il y a de plus précieux pour l’homme, la mortalité de ses actions et l’amour de la vertu.
    • Where is the man who owes nothing to the land in which he lives? Whatever that land may be, he owes to it the most precious thing possessed by man, the morality of his actions and the love of virtue.
    • Book V

A Lasting Peace Through the Federation of Europe (1756)

  • What good would it be to possess the whole universe if one were its only survivor?

Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1770, published 1782)

Les Confessions Full text online
I propose to show my fellows a man as nature made him, and this man shall be myself.
  • I have entered on an enterprise which is without precedent, and will have no imitator. I propose to show my fellows a man as nature made him, and this man shall be myself.
    • I
  • I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mould with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work.
    • Variant translations: I may not be better than other people, but at least I am different.
      If I am not better, at least I am different.
Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I.
  • Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I. With equal freedom and veracity have I related what was laudable or wicked, I have concealed no crimes, added no virtues; and if I have sometimes introduced superfluous ornament, it was merely to occupy a void occasioned by defect of memory: I may have supposed that certain, which I only knew to be probable, but have never asserted as truth, a conscious falsehood. Such as I was, I have declared myself; sometimes vile and despicable, at others, virtuous, generous and sublime; even as thou hast read my inmost soul: Power eternal! assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow-mortals, let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings; let each in his turn expose with equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man.
    • Variant translation: Let the trumpet of the day of judgment sound when it will, I shall appear with this book in my hand before the Sovereign Judge, and cry with a loud voice, This is my work, there were my thoughts, and thus was I. I have freely told both the good and the bad, have hid nothing wicked, added nothing good.
  • Remorse sleeps during a prosperous period but wakes up in adversity.
    • Variant translations: Remorse sleeps during prosperity but awakes bitter consciousness during adversity.
      Remorse goes to sleep during a prosperous period and wakes up in adversity.
    • II
  • It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living.
    • Variant translation: It is too difficult to think nobly when one only thinks to get a living.
    • II
  • Hatred, as well as love, renders its votaries credulous.
    • V
  • I remembered the way out suggested by a great princess when told that the peasants had no bread: "Well, let them eat cake".
    • Variant: At length I recollected the thoughtless saying of a great princess, who, on being informed that the country people had no bread, replied, "Then let them eat cake!"
    • This passage contains a statement Qu'ils mangent de la brioche that has usually come to be attributed to Marie Antoinette; this was written in 1766, when Marie Antoinette was 10 and still 4 years away from her marriage to Louis XVI of France, and is an account of events of 1740, before she was born. It also implies the phrase had been long known before that time.
    • VI
  • The thirst after happiness is never extinguished in the heart of man.
    • IX

On the musicians of the Ospedale della Pieta (book VII)

An account of a visit to the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice.
  • A kind of music far superior, in my opinion, to that of operas, and which in all Italy has not its equal, nor perhaps in the whole world, is that of the 'scuole'. The 'scuole' are houses of charity, established for the education of young girls without fortune, to whom the republic afterwards gives a portion either in marriage or for the cloister. Amongst talents cultivated in these young girls, music is in the first rank. Every Sunday at the church of each of the four 'scuole', during vespers, motettos or anthems with full choruses, accompanied by a great orchestra, and composed and directed by the best masters in Italy, are sung in the galleries by girls only; not one of whom is more than twenty years of age. I have not an idea of anything so voluptuous and affecting as this music; the richness of the art, the exquisite taste of the vocal part, the excellence of the voices, the justness of the execution, everything in these delightful concerts concurs to produce an impression which certainly is not the mode, but from which I am of opinion no heart is secure. Carrio and I never failed being present at these vespers of the 'Mendicanti', and we were not alone. The church was always full of the lovers of the art, and even the actors of the opera came there to form their tastes after these excellent models. What vexed me was the iron grate, which suffered nothing to escape but sounds, and concealed from me the angels of which they were worthy. I talked of nothing else. One day I spoke of it at Le Blond's; "If you are so desirous," said he, "to see those little girls, it will be an easy matter to satisfy your wishes. I am one of the administrators of the house, I will give you a collation [light meal] with them." I did not let him rest until he had fulfilled his promise. In entering the saloon, which contained these beauties I so much sighed to see, I felt a trembling of love which I had never before experienced. M. le Blond presented to me one after the other, these celebrated female singers, of whom the names and voices were all with which I was acquainted. Come, Sophia, — she was horrid. Come, Cattina, — she had but one eye. Come, Bettina, — the small-pox had entirely disfigured her. Scarcely one of them was without some striking defect.
    Le Blond laughed at my surprise; however, two or three of them appeared tolerable; these never sung but in the choruses; I was almost in despair. During the collation we endeavored to excite them, and they soon became enlivened; ugliness does not exclude the graces, and I found they possessed them. I said to myself, they cannot sing in this manner without intelligence and sensibility, they must have both; in fine, my manner of seeing them changed to such a degree that I left the house almost in love with each of these ugly faces. I had scarcely courage enough to return to vespers. But after having seen the girls, the danger was lessened. I still found their singing delightful; and their voices so much embellished their persons that, in spite of my eyes, I obstinately continued to think them beautiful.


  • 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.
  • Cities are the abyss of the human species.
  • Conscience is the voice of the soul; the passions of the body.
    • Variant: Conscience is the voice of the soul; the passions are the voice of the body.
  • 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.
  • 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 English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing. In the brief moment of its freedom, the English people makes such a use of that freedom that it deserves to lose it.
    • Variant: The English think they are free. They are free only during the election of members of parliament.
  • 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 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.
    • * To live is not breathing; it is action.
  • 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.
  • Virtue is a state of war, and to live in it we have always to combat with ourselves.
  • 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.

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