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Rousseau's Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in…

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

by David Edmonds, John Eidinow (Author)

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This book is more history than biography, being an exploration of the fight between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and David Hume, the latter being the benefactor of the former until they had their falling out. Hume helped Rousseau escape to London when he was in danger of being arrested for his subversive writings; Rousseau became paranoid and suspected Hume of plotting against him. The book flows easily, and the authors have done a great deal of research in primary sources, but somehow something feels a bit off. The authors attempt to psychoanalyze both Hume and Rousseau, and perhaps that's the problem, because it's difficult to do that from such a distance. Also, the sources are not truly reliable, since they do not agree on certain key things, and the authors usually report both sources, but you suspect they have a preference for which one is correct. In the end, they salvage the text by bringing it around in the final wrap-up to demonstrate that they have, in fact, caught the big picture that they appeared to be missing, but only with a few swipes at the Enlightenment on the way. Overall, a decent read, but sometimes it's better not to know too much about people. I won't be able to read Rousseau the same way again; Hume is only slightly smirched, but Rousseau comes off looking like a buffoon, which I don't think was the intent of the authors. ( )
  Devil_llama | May 20, 2013 |
If you are looking to tuck into a meaty exploration of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, you will leave this table unsated. This reads more like a gossip column than a serious exploration of thought. The book has its interesting tidbits interspersed through an overabundance of detail. You will get a better insight into the men behind their respective philosophies, and for this reason the book is worth reading for those interested in Enlightenment thinkers. ( )
  Mazidi | Aug 7, 2011 |
In a bit of a continuing on with a theme, having recently read The Courtier and the Heretic, I jumped at Rousseau's Dog when I happened upon it at The Tattered Cover in May.

A wise move.

Reading of the follies of these two "great thinkers," these two revered men, humanized them for me and brought me past the usual one dimensional assessment of great men to the confirmation that great men are often great in spite of their foibles.

Rousseau's Dog is the story of the falling out and resulting bitter enmity of Jean Jacques Rousseau and David Hume.

I read fascinated and a bit disgusted as Rousseau's paranoia led him to concoct a conspiracy where there was none. I grudgingly came to the acceptance that Hume's faults also contributed to the outcome in large measure. I ended up with the thought that some things are inevitable.

Edmonds and Eidinow present just enough of these two men's philosophies to introduce the reader to their dramatic differences and just enough to perhaps whet the reader's appetite for a bit more research.

While I have seen it disparaged in literary reviews, notably Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/13/books/13masl.html?ex=1299906000&en=52626c8...), I was quite intrigued by the beast referenced in the title. I enjoyed puzzling out the dual significance of Rousseau's dog or dogs as it were.

In contrast to the Courtier and the Heretic, I did not slog as much while reading Rousseau's Dog. With more of a focus on the events which transpired and less of a primer on the philosophers' contributions to the field, Rousseau's Dog was a more engaging read.

After reading and digesting it, I perused the back cover and was struck by the truth of the blurb from the Boston Globe, "[a] beach book for the brainy set, engaging and erudite." ( )
1 vote iammbb | Jul 10, 2007 |
This is a lot of fun>the rather bitchy battle between Voltaire and Rousseau is glossed over quite entertaingly, perhpas a little more depth was needed.Part of the famous person and silly animal conncetion series that seems to be seen in bookshops today ( )
  sblake | Sep 17, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Edmondsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eidinow, JohnAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060744901, Hardcover)

In 1766 philosopher, novelist, composer, and political provocateur Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a fugitive, decried by his enemies as a dangerous madman. Meanwhile David Hume—now recognized as the foremost philosopher in the English language—was being universally lauded as a paragon of decency. And so Rousseau came to England with his beloved dog, Sultan, and willingly took refuge with his more respected counterpart. But within months, the exile was loudly accusing his benefactor of plotting to dishonor him—which prompted a most uncharacteristically violent response from Hume. And so began a remarkable war of words and actions that ensnared many of the leading figures in British and French society, and became the talk of intellectual Europe.

Rousseau's Dog is the fascinating true story of the bitter and very public quarrel that turned the Age of Enlightenment's two most influential thinkers into deadliest of foes—a most human tale of compassion, treachery, anger, and revenge; of celebrity and its price; of shameless spin; of destroyed reputations and shattered friendships.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:37 -0400)

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"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, Rousseu, 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 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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