I think I know man, but as for men, I know them not.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau

It is said that the single ornament adorning the walls of Immanuel Kant’s sparsely furnished study was a portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Tradition also has it that the only occasion on which Kant neglected his daily walk—proverbially so punctual that his neighbors in Königsberg set their watches by it—was in 1762 when Rousseau’s novel Émile appeared and Kant sat reading it the whole day, utterly enthralled. What did the philosopher find so appealing about Rousseau? One would be hard pressed to think of two more divergent personalities. The chaste, dutiful, overwhelmingly intellectual Kant and the famously erratic Rousseau, with his personal excesses, his celebration of feeling and sentiment, and his strident pronouncements about the corrupting effects of modern civilization: they...


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