Rousseau's Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment

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9780060744908: Rousseau's Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment

In 1766 Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- philosopher, novelist, composer, educational and political provocateur -- was on the run from intolerance, persecution, and enemies who decried him as a madman, dangerous to society. David Hume, now recognized as the foremost philosopher in the English language, was universally lauded as a paragon of decency. Having willingly put himself under Hume's protection, Rousseau, with his beloved dog, Sultan, took refuge in England, where he would find safety and freedom. Yet within months, the exile had accused Hume of plotting to dishonor him. The violence of Hume's response was totally out of character, and the resulting furor involved leading figures in British and French society, and became the talk of intellectual Europe.

In Rousseau's Dog, David Edmonds and John Eidinow bring their engaging style and probing analysis to the bitter and very public quarrel that turned these two giants, the most influential thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment, into the deadliest of foes. The result is a story of celebrity and its price, of shameless spin, of destroyed reputations and shattered friendships. It is a story of two men whose writings would forever shape our world but whose personalities and ideas could scarcely have had less in common. It is also the story of reason and skepticism, as epitomized by Hume, colliding with the emotionalism and highly personalized confessional style pioneered by Rousseau.

As brilliantly researched as it is briskly paced, Rousseau's Dog traces the path from the Age of Enlightenment to our own Age of Celebrity and, at its core, tells a most human tale of compassion, treachery, anger, and revenge.

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About the Author:

David Edmonds is an award-winning journalists with the BBC. He's the bestselling authors of Bobby Fischer Goes to War and Wittgenstein’s Poker.

John Eidinow is an award-winning journalist with the BBC. He's the bestselling authors of Bobby Fischer Goes to War and Wittgenstein’s Poker.

From Publishers Weekly:

In 1766, Scottish philosopher David Hume helped the radical Swiss intellectual Jean-Jacques Rousseau find asylum in England; a few months later, the volatile philosopher accused his benefactor of masterminding a murky conspiracy against him and triggered a virulent response. The argument had nothing to do with philosophy (or Rousseau's dog), but, as in their well-received Wittgenstein's Poker, the authors use the dispute as a pretext for an engaging rundown of the two thinkers' great ideas—with a big swig of human interest to wash down the philosophical morsels. Their (sometimes excessively) detailed, meandering account of the feud points to something larger: the contrast between the affable, urbane rationalist Hume and the moody, paranoid, emotionally overwrought Rousseau prefigures, they believe, the shift from the Enlightenment cult of reason to the Romantic cult of feeling. The authors widen their vivid portraits of the antagonists into a panorama of the cross-Channel intellectual community that refereed the squabble, taking in the ancien régime salons and their brilliant hostesses and the London and Paris streets where visiting philosophers were mobbed like rock stars. The result is an absorbing cultural history of the republic of letters in its exuberant youth. (Mar.)
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