On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life presents Heinrich Meier’s confrontation with Rousseau’s
Rêveries, the philosopher’s most beautiful and daring work, as well as his last and least understood. Bringing to bear more than thirty years of study of Rousseau, Meier unfolds his stunningly original interpretation in two parts.
The first part of
On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life approaches the
Rêveries not as another autobiographical text in the tradition of the
Confessions and the
Dialogues, but as a reflection on the philosophic life and the distinctive happiness it provides. The second turns to a detailed analysis of a work referred to in the
Rêveries, the “Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar,” which triggered Rousseau’s political persecution when it was originally published as part of
Émile. In his examination of this most controversial of Rousseau’s writings, which aims to lay the foundations for a successful nonphilosophic life, Meier brings to light the differences between natural religion as expressed by the Vicar and Rousseau’s natural theology. Together, the two reciprocally illuminating parts of this study provide an indispensable guide to Rousseau and to the understanding of the nature of the philosophic life.
“[A] dense but precise and enthralling analysis.”—
Heinrich Meier is director of the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation in Munich, professor of philosophy at the University of Munich, and permanent visiting professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He is the author of eight books, including
Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss and The Lesson of Carl Schmitt.
Robert Berman is professor of philosophy at Xavier University of Louisiana.
“Meier is deeply impressive in his mastery of Rousseau’s oeuvre. With
On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life, he presents a startlingly original interpretation of one of Rousseau’s most beautiful and elusive works—the
Reveries. His interpretation is sure to be controversial, but it is presented with an elegance, intensity, and thoroughness that will command the attention of all serious Rousseau scholars and those broadly interested in the history of political philosophy.”
— Susan Meld Shell, Boston College
“No one before Meier has described Rousseau’s philosophic ‘revolution’ with more plausibility and subtlety; his book sets a standard hardly surpassable over the long-term.”
— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, praise for the German edition
“[A] dense but precise and enthralling analysis.”.
— New Yorker
“Meier has written a remarkable work that, I believe, will stand the test of time, not only for its careful study of the
Reveries and the Profession, but also as a work that deserves careful study itself.”
— Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy
“Readers of Rousseau and students of philosophy and of the philosophic life more generally owe Meier a considerable debt of gratitude for his deeply probing and illuminating work. . . . Meier, a reader with an eye to the exquisite and playful and even numerical artistry of philosophers, also practices a bit of such artistry himself. How much is ‘a bit?' Let the question serve as an inducement for the reader to take up this superb book in the same admirable spirit in which it is written.”