Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Introverted Controversial Questioner


In The Social Contract, Rousseau (1712 – 1778) wrote, “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” He believed we’re all good by nature but are corrupted by society. Our real teachers are experience and emotion; our institutions mess us up. On the other hand, he thought all citizens should be committed to the general good, even if it means acting against their private or personal interests. For example, we might support a political party that proposes to tax us heavily (if we have a large income!) because we can see the benefit this taxation can bring to all.

What kind of a guy was Rousseau? At the time, they said he was paranoid, a hypochondriac, and insane; he behaved erratically, had sudden changes of mood, oscillated, was disrespectful of others’ humanity, and falsely accused people. He often fell out with his friends and associates: Diderot, Hume, Voltaire, and others. His writings and behavior brought on vicious attacks by others. At the same time, the way his mind operated opened him up to creative ways of viewing the world.

What Enneagram type was Rousseau? His habit of oscillating, his suspicious nature, and that he didn’t like superiors suggest the Questioner type. He felt alienated and would stay to himself. He certainly marched to his own drummer so I would say he was a Questioner with an Observer wing. My second choice would be the Romantic.

When he was in disfavor, the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg offered him and his partner, Thérèse, a house on their estate near Paris. Living there secluded, Rousseau produced three major works: The New Heloise, probably the most widely read novel of his day; The Social Contract, an influential book on political theory; and Émile, a classic book on education. Émile created problems with the Church in France and was burned in a number of places. Rousseau was forced to leave France for Switzerland, his birthplace, but his citizenship there was revoked as a result of the book. In 1766 he went to England where he fell out with David Hume, and returned to France under a false name.

In his last years, Rousseau completed his Confessions and returned to copying music to make a living, working in the morning and walking and “botanizing”in the afternoon. He loved nature.

I wonder if the following influenced The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle:

“But if there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul. Such is the state which I often experienced on the Island Of Saint-Pierre in my solitary reveries, whether I lay in a boat and drifted where the water carried me, or sat by the shores of the stormy lake, or elsewhere, on the banks of a lovely river or a stream murmuring over the stones.”

Rousseau’s ideal was the independent farmer, free of superiors and self-governing. His critics/peers found this distasteful. They preferred the luxuries of a civilized existence. To make matters worse for them, every new work of Rousseau’s was a tremendous success, whether on politics, theater, education, religion, or love.

See my blog on How to Get Along with an Introvert, Part I on Psychology Today. Part II will be published April 3 in Psychology Today. Also, see my list of Famous Types.


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