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Redeeming Love:Rousseau and Eighteenth-Century Moral Philosophy

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This essay employs Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) as a vehicle to explore love in eighteenth-century French moral philosophy and theological ethics. The relation between love of self and love of God was understood variously and produced contrasting models of the relation between the public and the private. Rousseau, perhaps more than any other figure in the eighteenth century, wrestled with the complex, competing traditions of love, and in doing so he probed and articulated the tension between and the harmony of life alone and life together. Using as ideal types a set of historical models of private and public vice and virtue, the author describes Rousseau's three contradictory proposals for dealing with the corruption of social institutions and the human heart and discloses their underlying cohesion.

Keywords: Rousseau; communitarianism; liberalism; love; moral theology

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2000

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