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15 Feb

Scholar Victor Gourevitch, examining Rousseau's Letter to Voltaire, notes: "Although he returns to the problem of materialism throughout his life, Rousseau does not ever discuss it at any length.

He chooses to write from the perspective of the ordinary course of things, and philosophical materialism breaks with the ordinary course of things.

It is what he early called one of those metaphysical subtleties that do not directly affect the happiness of mankind".

Rousseau holds that if he wrote things that were popular with the fashionable and trendy, his work would fade with the passing of fashion, "To live beyond one's century, then, one must appeal to principles that are more lasting and to readers who are less thoughtless." Rousseau's argument was controversial, and drew a great number of responses.

One from critic Jules Lemaître calling the instant deification of Rousseau as 'one of the strongest proofs of human stupidity.' Rousseau himself answered five of his critics in the two years or so after he won the prize. These responses provide clarification for Rousseau's argument in the Discourse, and begin to develop a theme he further advances in the Discourse on Inequality – that misuse of the arts and sciences is one case of a larger theme, that man, by nature good, is corrupted by civilization.

He maintains that those who reflexively support traditional thinking merely "play the free-thinker and the philosopher", and had they lived during the age of the French Wars of Religion these same people would have joined the Catholic League and "been no more than fanatics" advocating the use of force to suppress Protestants.Scholar Jack Black points out that this is because Rousseau wants his work to outlive him.In his work Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques, Rousseau used a fictional Frenchman as a literary device to lay out his intent in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences and his other systematic works.The character explains that Rousseau was showing the "great principle that nature made man happy and good, but that society depraves him and makes him miserable...and error, foreign to his constitution, enter it from outside and insensibly change him." The character describes the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences as an effort "to destroy that magical illusion which gives us a stupid admiration for the instruments of our misfortunes and [an attempt] to correct that deceptive assessment that makes us honor pernicious talents and scorn useful virtues.The line with which Rousseau opens the discourse is a quote in Latin from Horace's On the Art of Poetry (line 25), which translates into: "We are deceived by the appearance of right." Rousseau anticipated that his response would cause "a universal outcry against me", but held that "a few sensible men" would appreciate his position.He holds that this will be because he has dismissed the concerns of "men born to be in bondage to the opinions of the society in which they live in." In this he includes "wits" and "those who follow fashion".Gregory Yoast of Cleveland, Okla., recently began his journey to earn a DVM degree from Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.