The quarrel between Rousseau and Diderot – these inseparable friends only to become enemies – constitutes a legendary topos of philosophical breaks-ups over-shadowed by wicked slander. If Rousseau’s famous Letter to d’Alembert in 1758 traces his growing disagreement with the inner circle of encyclopaedists, further confrontations seem lost in mean accusations that discredit both sides. However, when digging a little deeper in the texts on both sides, it is not only possible to reconstruct different views about philosopher’s morality, but also to relate to the complex nature that characterised the public sphere in eighteenth century France.
The purpose of this paper is exactly to examine the respective positions of Rousseau and Diderot as distorted voices in a society, in which the public sphere was actually more private than public. The first part of the study draws on the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas’ seminal work on the transformation that affected the public sphere along European bourgeois countries in quite different ways during the eighteenth century. French salon culture and its essentially private spaces urged Rousseau and Diderot to invent original writing strategies in order to justify themselves. The second and major part of the paper, accordingly aims at analysing their literary choices, Rousseau in reinventing the autobiographical approach, Diderot by writing on the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca. Both philosophers are extremely aware of the need to protect their philosophical legacy and, in doing so, each is eventually playing the role of the contra-model of the other when facing the question of moral and intellectual integrity.
Copyright (c) 2019 Anne Elisabeth Sejten
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).