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Rousseau’s God

Theology, Religion, and the Natural Goodness of Man


Rousseau’s God

Theology, Religion, and the Natural Goodness of Man


A landmark study of Rousseau’s theological and religious thought.
John T. Scott offers a comprehensive interpretation of Rousseau’s theological and religious thought, both in its own right and in relation to Rousseau’s broader oeuvre. In chapters focused on different key writings, Scott reveals recurrent themes in Rousseau’s views on the subject and traces their evolution over time. He shows that two concepts—truth and utility—are integral to Rousseau’s writings on religion. Doing so helps to explain some of Rousseau’s disagreements with his contemporaries: their different views on religion and theology stem from different understandings of human nature and the proper role of science in human life. Rousseau emphasizes not just what is true, but also what is useful—psychologically, morally, and politically—for human beings. Comprehensive and nuanced, Rousseau’s God is vital to understanding key categories of Rousseau’s thought.

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2023

Philosophy: Political Philosophy

Political Science: Classic Political Thought


"Rousseau’s God considers an important question in the manner it deserves: thoroughly. Scott succeeds in reconstructing the entire complex edifice of Rousseau’s theology and relating it to the broader and even more complex context of Rousseau’s thought as a whole. This is a remarkable achievement and a major contribution to understanding Rousseau."

Clifford Orwin | University of Toronto

"Rousseau’s God is an original and wide-ranging examination of Rousseau’s theological and religious writings. John Scott draws fertile connections to other key concepts in Rousseau’s broader project and pulls together multiple analytical threads into an exceptionally lucid and comprehensive interpretation that shows just how deeply the distinction between truth and utility permeates Rousseau’s treatment of religion (both doctrine and practice) throughout his works."

Denise Schaeffer | College of the Holy Cross

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1: Truth and Utility
Chapter 2: The Theodicy of the Discourse on Inequality
Chapter 3: Pride and Providence in the Letter to Voltaire
Chapter 4: Psychic Unity and Disunity and the Need for Religion
Chapter 5: Introduction to the “Profession of Faith”
Chapter 6: The Theological Teaching of the “Profession of Faith”
Chapter 7: The Critique—and Revival—of Religion in the “Profession of Faith”
Chapter 8: On Civil Religion


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