Review: Rousseau's Dog

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Rortabend
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Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by Rortabend » Wed Jun 18, 2008 3:40 pm

Just finished Rousseau's Dog by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. I enjoyed it but not as much as their first pop history of philosophy book, Wittgenstein's Poker. This book is an account of the relationship between David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hume saved Rousseau from his persecutors on the continent by bringing him to England, after which point everything went a bit pear-shaped. I won't spoil the story, just to say that the book tries to correct the view that all the blame for the collapse of their friendship lies with Rousseau.

The first thing to say about the book is that, despite what the title says, there is very little in the book about Rousseau's dog. There are occasional mentions of Rousseau's actual dog and, in a rather forced way, Rousseau's metaphorical dog - paranoia and depression - that caused him to ruin so many relationships. Of course, a book solely about Rousseau's dog would be a little on the dull side but this reader found the title misleading. The great thing about Wittgenstein's Poker is that it takes one seemingly insignificant (but very funny) incident and places it in the context of a clash between two fundamentally different conceptions of philosophy. Although it is written with the same intention, Rousseau’s Dog doesn’t quite succeed in doing this.

The book begins well, describing the philosophies of Hume and Rousseau against the backdrop of the Enlightenment. Yet this concern with contextualizing views is lost in the second half of the book where the narrative descends into a rather bland description of the correspondence between Hume, Rousseau and their respective supporters. I found it hard to finish the book because of this. One suspects that publishing deadlines may have had something to do with the seemingly rushed and unpolished nature of the later chapters of the book. If so this is a great shame as it gives the book a very unbalanced feel.

Overall Rousseau’s Dog is an interesting but flawed book. Worth a read but don’t feel guilty if you get bored toward the end.

Lusia Mousky
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Post by Lusia Mousky » Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:33 pm

Now I know what to expect from this book. :)
Judging by the title only I would expect a story about Rousseau´s life, told from the interesting perspective of a dog.
I once read a fragment of "Flash", this was a dog who told the story of Virginia Woolf (or Elisabeth Browning ?)
Flash did not approve of the male visitor coming to see his mistress.

Steve
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by Steve » Sat May 02, 2009 7:43 am

I have also read this one. The Authors are pretty good at dramatising events that may have happened. We are not sure. They also done Wittgenstein.

For a corking good read from the horses mouth, try The Confessions from Jean Jacques himself or The Reveries of a Solitary Walker.

Both enjoyable.

chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:38 pm

Rortabend wrote:Just finished Rousseau's Dog by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. I enjoyed it but not as much as their first pop history of philosophy book, Wittgenstein's Poker. This book is an account of the relationship between David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hume saved Rousseau from his persecutors on the continent by bringing him to England, after which point everything went a bit pear-shaped. I won't spoil the story, just to say that the book tries to correct the view that all the blame for the collapse of their friendship lies with Rousseau.

The first thing to say about the book is that, despite what the title says, there is very little in the book about Rousseau's dog. There are occasional mentions of Rousseau's actual dog and, in a rather forced way, Rousseau's metaphorical dog - paranoia and depression - that caused him to ruin so many relationships.

................ I think you may be missing the other possible use of the term. It was Hume that was his dog. JJR Manipulated Hume for his own good, failed to be gracious about the help Hume gave him; and then tried to blacken his name across Europe. Hume was well known for his generosity (for a Scot), good humour and all round bon viveur attitude to life friends and compatriots.
On the other hand JJR only seemed to care about his (real) dog, and was so obsessed with his own meanness that he was shamed to accept the help so generously offered..


Of course, a book solely about Rousseau's dog would be a little on the dull side but this reader found the title misleading. The great thing about Wittgenstein's Poker is that it takes one seemingly insignificant (but very funny) incident and places it in the context of a clash between two fundamentally different conceptions of philosophy. Although it is written with the same intention, Rousseau’s Dog doesn’t quite succeed in doing this.

The book begins well, describing the philosophies of Hume and Rousseau against the backdrop of the Enlightenment. Yet this concern with contextualizing views is lost in the second half of the book where the narrative descends into a rather bland description of the correspondence between Hume, Rousseau and their respective supporters. I found it hard to finish the book because of this. One suspects that publishing deadlines may have had something to do with the seemingly rushed and unpolished nature of the later chapters of the book. If so this is a great shame as it gives the book a very unbalanced feel.
.............Its the correspondence that holds the key to the story

Overall Rousseau’s Dog is an interesting but flawed book. Worth a read but don’t feel guilty if you get bored toward the end.
Contextualist Historians will appreciate its attention to detail.
True Historians will only find it a trivialised episode of yet another conditioned and focussed by the enlightenment meta-narrative.
Last edited by chaz wyman on Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

philofra
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by philofra » Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:48 pm

The one interesting thing I read in it is that David Hume changed his name from 'Home' because he was tired of his school chums rhyming it with comb. Also, that Rousseau wrote an opera, and that Kant referred to the ideas of both men.

chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:36 pm

Rortabend wrote:Just finished Rousseau's Dog by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. I enjoyed it but not as much as their first pop history of philosophy book, Wittgenstein's Poker. This book is an account of the relationship between David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hume saved Rousseau from his persecutors on the continent by bringing him to England, after which point everything went a bit pear-shaped. I won't spoil the story, just to say that the book tries to correct the view that all the blame for the collapse of their friendship lies with Rousseau.

The first thing to say about the book is that, despite what the title says, there is very little in the book about Rousseau's dog. There are occasional mentions of Rousseau's actual dog and, in a rather forced way, Rousseau's metaphorical dog - paranoia and depression - that caused him to ruin so many relationships. Of course, a book solely about Rousseau's dog would be a little on the dull side but this reader found the title misleading. The great thing about Wittgenstein's Poker is that it takes one seemingly insignificant (but very funny) incident and places it in the context of a clash between two fundamentally different conceptions of philosophy. Although it is written with the same intention, Rousseau’s Dog doesn’t quite succeed in doing this.

The book begins well, describing the philosophies of Hume and Rousseau against the backdrop of the Enlightenment. Yet this concern with contextualizing views is lost in the second half of the book where the narrative descends into a rather bland description of the correspondence between Hume, Rousseau and their respective supporters. I found it hard to finish the book because of this. One suspects that publishing deadlines may have had something to do with the seemingly rushed and unpolished nature of the later chapters of the book. If so this is a great shame as it gives the book a very unbalanced feel.

Overall Rousseau’s Dog is an interesting but flawed book. Worth a read but don’t feel guilty if you get bored toward the end.

2 points.

First, although the book corrects the blame - it does make clear who was taking advantage of whom (or should I say Hume?). For the implication is not only that the 'dog' is JJ's paranoia, JJ's dog is also Hume upon whose kindness and charity he preyed.
Secondly, the second part of the book - the correspondence is really the heart of the book and provides the evidence upon which the book in built.


chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:46 pm

philofra wrote:The one interesting thing I read in it is that David Hume changed his name from 'Home' because he was tired of his school chums rhyming it with comb. Also, that Rousseau wrote an opera, and that Kant referred to the ideas of both men.
I don't think this is correct. According to the biography I read recently Hume changed the spelling to Hume, as the English were in the habit of pronouncing his name as home (as in a house).It was a simple Anglicisation. As Hume was only tutored in Scotland I find it hard to accept that any true Scotsman would confuse the pronunciation of his name and use a play on the word comb?!?! His ancestor Sir Alec Douglas Home PM in the 1950s who preserves the original spelling, used to pronounce it 'hume'.

Kant thanked Hume for rousing him from his philosophical slumber - I though everyone knew that!

ImagineThat
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by ImagineThat » Wed May 18, 2011 3:38 pm

chaz wyman wrote:
philofra wrote:The one interesting thing I read in it is that David Hume changed his name from 'Home' because he was tired of his school chums rhyming it with comb. Also, that Rousseau wrote an opera, and that Kant referred to the ideas of both men.
I don't think this is correct. According to the biography I read recently Hume changed the spelling to Hume, as the English were in the habit of pronouncing his name as home (as in a house).It was a simple Anglicisation. As Hume was only tutored in Scotland I find it hard to accept that any true Scotsman would confuse the pronunciation of his name and use a play on the word comb?!?! His ancestor Sir Alec Douglas Home PM in the 1950s who preserves the original spelling, used to pronounce it 'hume'.

Kant thanked Hume for rousing him from his philosophical slumber - I though everyone knew that!
have heard the same thing. It wasn't that he was being made fun of, it's that he was becoming frustrated with the mispronunciation. I am so glad that I was able to find this book in the depth of Ohio where I usually can't find anything. After reading tons of bookstore reviews I finally settled on the bookstore for Xavier University and although it cost me a pretty penny, this text is going to be my go to for a number of issues. Have any of you ever used the bookstore reviews on angies list to help you find texts?
Last edited by ImagineThat on Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Thu May 19, 2011 1:26 am

ImagineThat wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:
philofra wrote:The one interesting thing I read in it is that David Hume changed his name from 'Home' because he was tired of his school chums rhyming it with comb. Also, that Rousseau wrote an opera, and that Kant referred to the ideas of both men.
I don't think this is correct. According to the biography I read recently Hume changed the spelling to Hume, as the English were in the habit of pronouncing his name as home (as in a house).It was a simple Anglicisation. As Hume was only tutored in Scotland I find it hard to accept that any true Scotsman would confuse the pronunciation of his name and use a play on the word comb?!?! His ancestor Sir Alec Douglas Home PM in the 1950s who preserves the original spelling, used to pronounce it 'hume'.

Kant thanked Hume for rousing him from his philosophical slumber - I though everyone knew that!
have heard the same thing. It wasn't that he was being made fun of, it's that he was becoming frustrated with the mispronunciation.
Correction. Alec Douglas Home PM was not an ancestor of Hume . Hume was an ancestor of Home.

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Rortabend
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by Rortabend » Thu May 19, 2011 4:53 pm

First, although the book corrects the blame - it does make clear who was taking advantage of whom (or should I say Hume?). For the implication is not only that the 'dog' is JJ's paranoia, JJ's dog is also Hume upon whose kindness and charity he preyed.
Agreed. Hume is JJ's bitch!
Secondly, the second part of the book - the correspondence is really the heart of the book and provides the evidence upon which the book in built.
True, but remember that this is a trade book, not an academic monograph. I'm sure this is just because I work in publishing, but it annoys me when authors forget what kind of book they are supposed to be writing.

chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Thu May 19, 2011 5:17 pm

Rortabend wrote:
First, although the book corrects the blame - it does make clear who was taking advantage of whom (or should I say Hume?). For the implication is not only that the 'dog' is JJ's paranoia, JJ's dog is also Hume upon whose kindness and charity he preyed.

Agreed. Hume is JJ's bitch!


I would not put it in those terms. JJ was poor and full of shame for the charity he received. The nub of the book is that Hume expected the normal courtesies and thank yous; JJ was too proud to give them. It was a misunderstanding. I don't think JJ was deliberately behaving like a twat.

Secondly, the second part of the book - the correspondence is really the heart of the book and provides the evidence upon which the book in built.
True, but remember that this is a trade book, not an academic monograph. I'm sure this is just because I work in publishing, but it annoys me when authors forget what kind of book they are supposed to be writing.



I can't see why you think this is relevant given the topic we are discussing.
If it were academic it would be full of babble; hard to read; and not as interesting.

There are lots of books made for a wider audience that are perfectly respectable in terms of their academic rigour; ,The Lunar Men, Uglow, Ingenious Pursuits,Liza Jardine The Age of Wonder, Richard Homes, Desmond & Moore's books on Darwin
All perfectly quotable in an academic context.


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Rortabend
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by Rortabend » Fri May 20, 2011 10:34 am

I can't see why you think this is relevant given the topic we are discussing.
If it were academic it would be full of babble; hard to read; and not as interesting.

There are lots of books made for a wider audience that are perfectly respectable in terms of their academic rigour; ,The Lunar Men, Uglow, Ingenious Pursuits,Liza Jardine The Age of Wonder, Richard Homes, Desmond & Moore's books on Darwin
All perfectly quotable in an academic context.
This seems to be unnecessarily confrontational. I thought the topic of this thread was the merits of the book (which I started!).

That's a pretty sweeping generalisation about academic books too. Also, I never said that popular trade books couldn't be respectable in terms of their academic rigour. I said that, for me, the inclusion of the correspondence doesn't work in this sort of book.

chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Fri May 20, 2011 4:08 pm

Rortabend wrote:
I can't see why you think this is relevant given the topic we are discussing.
If it were academic it would be full of babble; hard to read; and not as interesting.

There are lots of books made for a wider audience that are perfectly respectable in terms of their academic rigour; ,The Lunar Men, Uglow, Ingenious Pursuits,Liza Jardine The Age of Wonder, Richard Homes, Desmond & Moore's books on Darwin
All perfectly quotable in an academic context.
This seems to be unnecessarily confrontational. I thought the topic of this thread was the merits of the book (which I started!).

That's a pretty sweeping generalisation about academic books too. Also, I never said that popular trade books couldn't be respectable in terms of their academic rigour. I said that, for me, the inclusion of the correspondence doesn't work in this sort of book.
THere is nothing whatever confrontational here.
Neither is there any sweeping generalisation. I was making a specific comment about how any 'more' academic approach would deal with this topic, specifically.
I insist that the tone and gravity of the book, as written, by Edmonds and Einiow, fit the task perfectly, requiring not one more shred of academic reference; fit for purpose.
"I said that, for me, the inclusion of the correspondence doesn't work in this sort of book"
In what way? The correspondence and conveys the spirit of 18thC communication perfectly.

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Rortabend
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by Rortabend » Fri May 20, 2011 4:39 pm

Neither is there any sweeping generalisation. I was making a specific comment about how any 'more' academic approach would deal with this topic, specifically.
Fair enough. But some of us prefer things that are hard to read and full of babble!

chaz wyman
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Re: Review: Rousseau's Dog

Post by chaz wyman » Fri May 20, 2011 5:32 pm

Rortabend wrote:
Neither is there any sweeping generalisation. I was making a specific comment about how any 'more' academic approach would deal with this topic, specifically.
Fair enough. But some of us prefer things that are hard to read and full of babble!
That would depend.
But not in a book whose aim is to investigate the friendship between 2 figures of 18thC philosophy?

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