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Rousseau's Socratism

Clifford Orwin
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 60, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 174-187
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2648006
Page Count: 14
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Rousseau's Socratism
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Abstract

Rousseau is one of the greatest of modern writers to strike a "Socratic" stance, thus forging a link between his own project and that of the founder of political philosophy. In the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, the work that established his reputation, Rousseau appeals to Plato's Apology and Socrates' alleged defense of virtue-"the sublime science of simple souls"-against the pretensions of "Enlightenment" Upon examination, however, Rousseau's endorsement of Socrates proves so ambiguous as to imply the replacement of the Platonic version by a Rousseauan one Rousseau's presentation of the role of the philosopher in society is at the same time more "populist" and more "elitist" than that of Plato It is more populist in its vindication of "ignorance" as the basis of virtue and more elitist in its suggestion that even the defense of ignorance must rest with an avant-garde of philosophers.

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