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It is first necessary to have, in order to be able to make a critical work, a reliable edition. The first in date is undoubtedly that of Musset-Pathay, published in twenty-two volumes from 1818 to 1820, and republished in twenty-five volumes in-8° three years later. Remember that Victor-Donatien de Musset (1768-1832), better known as Musset-Pathay, is the author of a work entitled  History of the life and works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau , composed from authentic documents, published in 1821, in two volumes, and which he contributed, through numerous publications, to developing knowledge relating to Rousseau. This volume, if we are to believe the famous  Universal Biography  of the Michaud brothers, “is the capital work of Musset-Pathay. With, however, a small restriction: “By praising his zeal and his talents, we must agree that he pushed too far his admiration for the philosopher from Geneva, whose entire conduct he seeks to justify. »

This, moreover, is the theme that will agitate all criticism in the nineteenth century: should we admire Rousseau? Should we, on the contrary, protect ourselves from its influence? The same themes are then tirelessly rehashed: the abandonment of children, life with Thérèse, the possible gaps in pedagogical theory and, of course, the religious domain, where the agnosticism of the citizen of Geneva frightens conservative minds in France, marked with the seal of Catholicism, and in his hometown the most intransigent of the Calvinists, who hardly accept the questioning of dogma.


It was at the beginning of the twentieth century that we witnessed, in France, somewhat paradoxically, an upsurge in attacks against Rousseau (fed, it is true, by the turmoil of the Dreyfus affair) and an attempt to more objective analysis of his work. Gustave Lanson , in the preface to a collection of lessons given at the Ecole des Hautes to his biography, and to judge Rousseau's influence by the shortcomings of his life and the flaws in his character. Hippolyte Buffenoir was, at that time, one of Jean-Jacques' most staunch defenders, and worked with great energy to spread a positive image of the philosopher. "Image" is also the word: Buffenoir is indeed the author of an imposing iconographic study on Rousseau ( Portraits of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: historical and iconographic study , Paris, 1913).


The creation of our society in 1904, for its part, made it possible to truly stimulate Rousseauist research: the regular publication of  Annals of Jean-Jacques Rousseau  and the publication of the edition of  Complete Works  in the Pléiade Library have provided researchers around the world with the scientific bases necessary for quality work. The second half of the twentieth century gave rise to some decisive publications: let us of course mention the works of Marcel Raymond ( La Quête de soi et la rêverie , José Corti, 1962) and Jean Starobinski ( Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and obstacle , Paris, Plon, 1957, republished Gallimard, 1971), but also these two major studies of Rousseau's political philosophy which are Robert Derathé's book ( Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the political science of his time , Paris, Vrin, 1974) and that of Victor Goldschmidt ( Anthropology and politics: the principles of Rousseau's system , Paris, Vrin, 1983).


Critical research on Jean-Jacques Rousseau today concerns the entire planet.

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