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History of Vegetarianism - Europe: The Middle Ages to the 18th Century
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 1778)



A 1766 portrait of Rousseau by Allan Ramsay

French philosopher and writer, born in Switzerland, who strongly influenced the theories of the French Revolution and the romantics. Many of his ideas spring from his belief in the natural goodness of man, whom he felt was warped by society. His works include Du contrat social (1762), and his Confessions (1782).

Quotes:

The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service.- Emile

One of the proofs that the taste of flesh is not natural to man is the indifference which children exhibit for that sort of meat, and the preference they all give to vegetable foods, such as milk-porridge, pastry, fruits, etc. It is of the last importance not to de-naturalise them of this primitive taste and not to render them carnivorous, if not for health reasons, at least for the sake of their character. For, however the experience may be explained, it is certain that great eaters of flesh are, in general, more cruel and ferocious than other men. This observation is true of all places and of all times. English coarseness is well known. The Gaures, on the contrary, are the gentlest of men. All savages are cruel, and it is not their morals that urge them to be so; this cruelty proceeds from their food. They go to war as to the chase, and treat men as they do bears. Even in England the butchers are not received as legal witnesses any more than surgeons. Great criminals harden themselves to murder by drinking blood. Homer represents the Cyclopes, who were flesh-eaters, as frightful men, and the Lotophagi [lotus-eatersj as a people so amiable that as soon as one had any dealings with them, one straightway forgot everything, and one's country, to live with them. - Emile

I have sometimes examined those people who attach importance to good living, who thought, upon their first awakening, of what they should eat during the day, and described a dinner with more exactitude than Polybius would use in describing a battle. I have thought that all these so-called men were but children of forty years, without vigour and without consistence - fruges [carnes] consumere nati. Gluttony is the vice of souls that have no solidity. The soul of a gourmand is in his palate. He is brought into the world but to devour. In his stupid incapacity, he is at home only at his table. His powers of judgment are limited to his dishes. - Emile

Every animal (of the higher species) has ideas, since he has senses. He even combines his ideas up to a certain point, and man differs, in this respect, only in the more or less. Some philosophic writers have even advanced that there is more difference between this man and that man, than between this man and that (non-human) animal. It is not, therefore, intelligence so much as his quality of being a free agent which makes the difference. - Discourse Upon Inequality Among Men