An eighteenth-century French philosopher; one of the leading figures of the Enlightenment. He held that in the state of nature, people are good, but that they are corrupted by social institutions; this notion became a central idea of romanticism. Some of Rousseau's best-known writings are The Social Contract, an important influence on the French Revolution; Émile, a statement of his views on education; and his autobiography, The Confessions.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.