Rousseau's memorial practice of happiness: Autobiography, askesis and ataraxia

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Abstract / Description of output

This article argues that Rousseau’s autobiographies outline an account of personal happiness as an Epicurean memorial practice. For Rousseau, happiness is secured by an attitude to pleasure cultivated by practices utilizing the powers of memory and imagination. In describing these practices autobiographically, he hoped to teach his readers to avoid the false pleasures of vulgar sensuality and pursue instead the true pleasures of what he called ‘temperate sensuality’. This orienting idea of the autobiographies is a distinctly Epicurean ascetic practice — combatting the constant threat of vulgar hedonism to bring about a new relationship to the self. By reconstructing this account, the article provides a basis to reconsider the relationship between solitude, sociability and citizenship in Rousseau’s political thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-491
Number of pages32
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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