French Philosophy

Rousseau: Confessions

Jean_Jacques_and_Mdlle._De_Boufflers_Confessions_Aldus_Pb202The Confessions is an autobiographical work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written between 1765 and 1770. The first volume was published in 1782, four years after his death, while a second appeared in 1789.

The work was the first secular autobiography inaugurating a form which was soon widely imitated.

The Confessions at online book stores
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English translations
Gutenberg: The Confessions(expurgated translation). EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: The Confessions. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Confessions, translated by W. Conyngham Mallory. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: The Complete Confessions, translated by S.W. Orson. HTML and other formats.
French texts
Wikisource: Les Confessions. HTML and other formats.
Other Resources
Librivox: The Confessions. Free public domain audiobook.
Wikipedia: Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Confessions (Rousseau)
Further reading
Bloom's Western Canon: The Confessions is listed.
French Language resources 


Rousseau: Emile

EmileFrontispieceEmile, or On Education (French: ) is a 1762 work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, describing the education of its eponymous hero from infancy to manhood.

This proved to be a powerful device for expounding Rousseau's ideas about human nature. The work was banned in France and Geneva because of the heterodox religious views expressed in the section known as The Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar.

A different source of controversy emerged from Book V describes the education of Sophie, a girl who is intended to be Emile's companion, and whose upbringing is largely directed towards that end. The strong critical response from women writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft was itself a reflection of the influence that Emile acquired in educational thought.

Emile at online book stores
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English translations

Gutenberg: Emile, translated by Barbara Foxley. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: Emilius and Sophia - Vol I | Vol II | Vol III | Vol IV. Anonymous 18th Century translation. PDF, EPUB, Kindle and other formats.
Internet Archive: Emile, abridged translation by William H. Payne. PDF, EPUB, Kindle and other formats.
French texts
Wikisource: Émile, ou De l’éducation, multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

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Rousseau: Discourse on the Arts and Sciences

Rousseau_herborisantA Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences (French: Discours sur les sciences et les arts) is a 1750 essay by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was originally composed in response to a competition announced by the Academy of Dijon,asking whether the restoration of the arts and sciences had contributed to the purification of morals.

Rousseau won the competition, and earned instant notoriety, by answering in the negative. This affirmation of nature over civilisation set him on the intellectual path that would shape much of his later work.

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English translations
Gutenberg: The Social Contract & The Discourses. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats. 
Internet Archive: The Social Contract and the Discourses, translated with an introduction by G.D.H. Cole. Everyman's Library edition (1920). EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, translated by Ian Johnston. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
French texts
Wikisource: French text. Multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

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Voltaire: Philosophical Letters on the English

D'après_Maurice_Quentin_de_La_Tour _Portrait_de_Voltaire_(c._1737 _musée_Antoine_Lécuyer)The Philosophical Letters or Letters on the English (French: Lettres philosophiques) is a 1733 work by Voltaire, revised  in 1778, composed as a series of letters reflecting on his sojourn in England from 1726 to 1728.

Voltaire's thoughts on English literature include a number of leading writers of the day who he met while in London, such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. His account of English political and religious institutions, Newtonian science, and the empiricism of Bacon and Locke, quickly became a formative influence on continental liberalism.

Letters on England at online book stores
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English translations
Gutenberg: Letters on England. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: French and English Philosophers, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hobbes (includes Letters on England). Harvard Classics Vol. 34. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Internet History Sourcebooks: Letters on the English or Lettres Philosophiques. HTML format.
Liberty Fund: The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters). EPUB, HTML, MOBI and PDF formats.
Wikisource: Letters Concerning the English Nation. English translation. HTML and other formats.
French texts
Wikisource: Lettres Philosophiques. HTML and other formats.

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Montesquieu: The Persian Letters

Persianische_BriefeThe Persian Letters (French: Lettres persanes) is a 1721 epistolary novel by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesqueieu.

The work contains the correspondence of Usbek and Rica two fictional Turkish travellers on a visit to Europe from 1711 onwards, a form which provides a vehicle for much satire of contemporary Western society. The travellers' penetrating observations on the people they encounter contrast with Usbek's disastrous relations with his own harem, to provide a sombre commentary on the difficulty of achieving self-knowledge.

The Persian Letters at online book stores
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English translations
Internet Archive: Persian Letters, Vol I | Vol II. Translated by John Davidson.EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Wikisource: Persian Letters, translated by by John Davidson (1899). HTML and other formats.
French texts
Gutenberg: Lettres Persanes - Tome I | Tome II. EPUB, MOBI, HTML and TXT formats.
Wikisource: Lettres Persanes. HTML and other formats.

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Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws

Charles_MontesquieuThe Spirit of the Laws (French: De l'esprit des lois) is a 1748 political treatise by Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Setting out to explain the principles underlying the laws of different nations, Montesquieu was innovative in the breadth of his comparative approach, and in considering natural factors such as climate. This nevertheless sometimes led him to pernicious conclusions, such as his belief that slavery, though wrong, was more tolerable in tropical regions.

Montesquieu's political recommendations were strongly influenced by his experiences in England, although it has often been insisted that he misunderstood English arrangements - generations of British schoolchildren have been taught that he missed the role of the Lord Chancellor as a member of the executive, legislature and judiciary. Nevertheless, his doctrine of the separation of powers was a decisive influence on the constitution of the United States.

The Spirit of the Laws at online book stores
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English texts
Internet Archive: Montesquieu - The Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau - On the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, The Social Contract. Britannica Great Books of the Western World edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Liberty Fund: The Spirit of the Laws. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and PDF formats.
Wikisource: The Spirit of the Laws, translated by Thomas Nugent (1758). HTML and other formats.
French texts
Gutenberg: Esprit des Lois. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Wikisource: De L'Esprit des Lois. Multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

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Rousseau: The Social Contract

'Portrait_of_Jean-Jacques_Rousseau'_by_François_GuérinThe Social Contract (French: Du Contrat Social) is a 1762 treatise by Jean Jacques Rousseau, outlining a theory of political rights based on unlimited popular sovereignty.

In contrast to Hobbes, Rousseau argues that is only in political society that human beings can be truly free. His suggestion that under circumstances people must be forced to be free has led some to see him as an authoritarian, although this has been challenged by those who stress his egalitarian republicanism. His undoubted role as a key intellectual influence on the French Revolution has given point to the controversy.

The Social Contract at online book stores

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Free online texts

Early Modern Texts: The Social Contract, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: The Social Contract and Discourses, translated by G.D.H. Cole. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: A Treatise on the Social Compact. English translation. Multiple formats. Digitisation of a copy owned by John Adams.

Internet Archive: Montesquieu - The Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau - On the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, The Social Contract. Britannica Great Books of the Western World edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.

Online Library of Liberty: Ideal Empires and Republics. Rousseau’s Social Contract, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Campanella’s City of the Sun, with an Introduction by Charles M. Andrews (1901). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Social Contract. EPUB, HTML and MOBI formats.

Wikisource: French texts and English translation by George Douglas Howard Cole. HTML and other formats.

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Pascal: The Pensées

800px-Blaise_Pascal_2The Pensées (literally thoughts) is a fragmentary collection of writings prepared by the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal for a projected defence of Christianity, left unfinished at his death in 1662. The proper order of the work has been the subject of much controversy, and older public domain works may not reflect recent scholarship.

Pascal was closely associated with the Jansenist movement in French Catholicism, and the Pensées reflect the Augustinian belief that man can be saved only by a divine grace he can do nothing to earn. This spirit is reflected in the most famous argument of the Pensées, 'Pascal's wager', which suggests that it is better to live as if God exists because one avoids infinite loss is one is right and suffers only finite loss if one is wrong.

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Bartleby: Thoughts. Harvard Classics Volume 48, Part 1. English translation. HTML format.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library: Pensées. Translated by William Finlayson Trotter. Multiple formats.

Classical Library: Pensées. English translation. HTML format.

Gallica: Pensées, Tome 1. French text edited by Léon Bruschvicg (1904). Image file format.

Gutenberg: Pascale's Pensées. English translation. Introduction by T.S. Eliot. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Pensées, translated by W.F. Trotter. 1941 Modern Library edition. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Pascal's Pensées, translated by Gertrude Burford Rawlings. Multiple formats.

Intratext: Pensées, translated by W.F. Trotter. HTML format.

Samizdat.qc.ca: Pensées. French text. PDF based on 1671 edition.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Pensées, translated by W.F. Trotter. Multiple formats.

University of Freiburg: Pensées. French text. PDF format.

University of Dusseldorf: Pensées. French text, 1812 Renouard edition. Image file format.

Wikisource: French texts and English translation by William Finlayson Trotter. HTML and other formats.

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Descartes: Discourse on Method

Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_DescartesThe Discourse on Method (French: Discours de la méthode) by René Descartes was published in French in Leiden in 1637, alongside essays on optics, meteorology and geometry. It offered the an autobiographical of Descartes skeptical method and the positive metaphysical conclusions that he would later develop more fully in the Meditations. Notable among these is the first formulation of the famous 'Cogito', the principle that 'I think therefore I am' and cannot doubt my own existence.

Of the accompanying scientific essays, that on geometry is notable for introducing Cartesian co-ordinates.

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Free online texts

Bartleby: Discourse on Method. English translation. Harvard Classics, Volume 34, Part 1. HTML format.

Gallica: Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences , plus la dioptrique, les météores et la géométrie qui sont des essais de cette méthode. French text. Image file format.

Gutenberg: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats. 

Gutenberg: Discours de la méthode. French text. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Discourse on Method. EPUB, HTML and MOBI formats.

Wikisource: French text and English translation. HTML and other formats.

Zulu Ebooks: Discours de la méthode. French text. PDF format.

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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy

Descartes3Meditations on First Philosophy (Latin: Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animae immortalitas demonstrantur) by Réne Descartes was first published in Latin in 1641, appearing in a French translation in 1647.

The six meditations which make up the book describe a series of mental exercises, undertaken over consecutive days.  The first meditation introduces Descartes' method of universal doubt. The second introduces the famous argument often summarised as 'I think therefore I am' (Latin: cogito ergo sum), and cannot doubt my own existence. 

In the later meditations, Descartes arrives at conventional opinions about God and the world, while more subtly introducing the foundations of his own system of physics. It is however, the first two meditations which have more often been seen as a foundational influence on modern philosophy, although the 'Cartesian dualism' which they introduced between mind and matter has been a target of persistent criticism.

Alongside the Meditations, Descartes published seven sets of objections by distinguished scholars along with his replies. These were 1. Johannes Caterus 2. Marin Mersenne 3. Thomas Hobbes 4. Antoine Arnauld 5. Pierre Gassendi 6. Further objections collected by Mersenne. 7. Pierre Bourdin.

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The Classical Library: The Meditations, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

Gallica: Méditations métaphysiques. French text (1690). Image file format. 

Gutenberg: Meditationes de prima philosophia - Latin text. Multiple formats.

Early Modern Texts: Meditations on First Philosophy - adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Internet Archive: Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, Objections against the Meditations and Replies, The Geometry, by René Descartes. The Ethics, by Benedict De Spinoza. Great Books of the Western World, no 31 (1925). Multiple formats.

Latin Library: Meditationes - Latin text. HTML format.

Liberty Fund: The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated by John Veitch. Multiple formats.

Marxists.org: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham. HTML format.

Philosophy-Index: Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Veitch. HTML format.

University of Leeds (Internet Archive): Hobbes' Objections to Descartes' Meditations. HTML format.

Wikisource: Latin text, French and English translations. HTML and other formats.

Wright State University: Descartes' Meditations. English, French and Latin texts. HTML format.

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