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Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and Their Legacies$
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Robert Wokler and Bryan Garsten

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691147888

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691147888.001.0001

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Perfectible Apes in Decadent Cultures: Rousseau’s Anthropology Revisited1

Perfectible Apes in Decadent Cultures: Rousseau’s Anthropology Revisited1

(p.1) Chapter 1 Perfectible Apes in Decadent Cultures: Rousseau’s Anthropology Revisited1
Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and Their Legacies

Robert Wokler

, Bryan Garsten

Christopher Brooke

Princeton University Press

The diffusion of Rousseau's influence over the past two centuries has been so wide and so substantial that hardly a subject or movement appears to have escaped his clutches. Rousseau perceived a historical connection between the animal and cultural features of humanity, and between our physical evolution and social development, which led him to construct a comprehensive anthropological theory remarkably original in his own day and remains worthy of critical investigation now. This chapter sketches the leading features of that theory in the intellectual context, which at once most clearly establishes their meaning and elucidates their significance as well. For Rousseau, our physical evolution is based on a set of conjectures to the effect that the human race may have descended from apes.

Keywords:   Jacques Rousseau, humanity, physical evolution, social evolution, anthropological theory, human race, apes

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