Evolution and Politics: A Close Look at Rousseau

Delve into the Enlightenment philosopher's stance on human nature, society, and government.

1766 portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Allan Ramsay
Mar 04

About the Event

Presented by Basic Program instructors and open to all, these lectures also complement the texts and ideas from our curriculum and always include a Q&A session.

Rousseau distinguishes his political philosophy from that of other major Enlightenment philosophers (especially Hobbes and Locke) by basing his analysis firmly in the idea that human nature has evolved and continues to evolve, so that the job of the political philosopher and of political leaders is not to structure society to curb the worst of human nature, but instead to create the conditions that can bring out and nurture the best. This lecture will explore Rousseau’s arguments for these views and develop their implications for, and their influence on, how we understand the structure and purpose of government. As Rousseau did in his time, we will also look briefly at how recent research in psychology supports or casts doubt on his assumptions and conclusions.

Who's Speaking

Clare Pearson

Clare Pearson

Basic Program Instructor

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