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Rousseau is referring here, in melodramatic fashion, to the fact that the essay he wrote for the competition set him on a course that ran against the grain of the Enlightenment and provoked, so he believed, the philosophes to engage in a relentless conspiracy against him.
Need raised up Thrones; the Sciences and Arts have made them strong.In the late 1740s and early 1750s, Diderot and Rousseau shared 'remarkably similar intellectual interests' and were constant companions (Wokler 1975: 63).Rousseau was, indeed, one of the key contributors to the early volumes of the to collect all the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth, to present its general outlines and structure to the men with whom we live, and to transmit this to those who will come after us, so that the work of past centuries may be useful to the following centuries, that our children, by becoming more educated, may at the same time become more virtuous and happier (in Kramnick 1995: 18).Although Isaac Kramnick's does include selections of Rousseau's writings, they come with labels that warn us that Rousseau was 'Always somewhat at odds with his fellow philosophes' (Kramnick 1995: 134).Rousseau's paradoxical relationship to the Enlightenment is exemplified in his highly influential (1755), in which he articulates a powerful critique of what he calls 'the fatal enlightenment of Civil man' and seems to endorse primitivism as an alternative.Rousseau scholars have been strangely reluctant to consider his relationship to the Enlightenment (Hulliung 1994: 2), and some of the most influential twentieth century formulations of the Enlightenment clearly had difficulty with Rousseau.Isaiah Berlin's anthology (Gay 19) homogenises the philosophes as a single, admittedly quarrelsome, family and represents their 'persecution' of Rousseau as simply an extreme family quarrel; as a consequence, Gay fails to register the radical challenge that Rousseau's writings posed for the French Enlightenment (Gay 1967: 4-7).' He claims that 'At the moment of that reading I saw another universe and I became another man' (Rousseau 1798: 294).Rousseau tells us that Diderot 'exhorted me to give vent to my ideas and to compete for the prize. All the rest of my life and misfortunes was the inevitable effect of that instant of aberration' (Rousseau 1798: 295).Instead, I will begin by sketching out the defining assumptions of the on the supposition that the massive project undertaken by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) can be taken to epitomise the French Enlightenment.I will then focus on Rousseau's 'First Discourse' -- the (published in January 1751) -- and on his polemical contributions to the critical controversy that the First Discourse provoked in the following three years.