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Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom

Rousseau’s Philosophic Life

A surprising look at how Rousseau defended the philosophic life as the most natural and best of lives.
Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom reveals what could be thought of as the capstone of Rousseau’s thought, even if that capstone has been nearly invisible to readers. Despite criticizing philosophy for its corrosive effects on both natural goodness and civic virtue, Rousseau, argues Laurence D. Cooper, held the philosophic life as an ideal. Cooper expertly unpacks Rousseau’s vivid depiction of the philosophic life and the case for that life as the most natural, the freest, or, in short, the best or most choice-worthy of lives. Cooper focuses especially on a single feature, arguably the defining feature of the philosophic life: the overcoming of the ordinary moral consciousness in favor of the cognitivist view of morality. Cooper shows that Rousseau, with his particular understanding and embrace of the philosophic life, proves to be a kind of latter-day Socratic. Thorough and thought-provoking, Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom provides vital insight into Rousseau.

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2023

Philosophy: History and Classic Works, Political Philosophy


"Written with a combination of true insight, grace, and humility, this book is the first of which I’m aware that undertakes to read Rousseau’s Reveries—his most beautiful but mysterious work—as a single, consistent but unfolding story: the tale of Rousseau’s journey into and then within the philosophic life."

Arthur M. Melzer, author of The Natural Goodness of Man

“In his new book, Dreaming of Justice, Waking to Wisdom, Cooper, gives us a fascinating account of what it means to live philosophically, through an analysis of Rousseau's Promenades of a Solitary Walker.  While Rousseau's life may be peculiar in many ways Cooper brilliantly uses Rousseau’s account of that life to open up for us what the experience of philosophizing can be like.  Highly recommended!”

Michael Allen Gillespie, Duke University

Table of Contents

Citations and Abbreviations
Introduction: After the Cave

Part I
Chapter 1 The Life of Philosophy and the Life of Rousseau
Chapter 2 The Reveries of the Solitary Walker: An Introduction

Part II
Chapter 3 “What Am I?”: First Walk
Chapter 4 “A Faithful Record”: Second Walk
Chapter 5 Becoming a Philosopher: Third Walk
Chapter 6 Being a Philosopher: Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Walks
Chapter 7 Becoming a More Perfect Philosopher: Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Walks
Coda: The Love of Wisdom and the Wisdom of Love: Tenth Walk

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