Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the most outstanding representative of the radical wing of the French Enlightenment, and was one of the founders of European sentimentality. His ideological differences with the leading figures of the era often took the form of an open conflict. Voltaire ridiculed Rousseau's democratic ideas; Rousseau, in turn, implacably condemned Voltaire for, as he believed, concessions to aristocratic views. Rousseau did not accept the materialism of the encyclopaedists; the rationalism of Voltaire and Diderot, he contrasted the feeling. While most educators saw the pulpit and the rostrum at the theater, Rousseau blamed the theater for falling morals; because of this, he quarreled with D'Alembert and refused to participate in the "Encyclopedia."
Rousseau's "Confessions", firstly published in 1782, is a kind of synthesis of an autobiography and a novel. The subject of it is the life of Rousseau himself, a specific person, a certain personality. The author thinks and clarifies, comprehends and artistically generalizes his life path, his history. He reveals in it features that are characteristic not only of the person concerned, but also of the person in general. So autobiography draws closer to the novel.
"Confessions" according to critics, has not lost its brilliant relevance, unlike several other, also known works of Rousseau. "Confessions" of Rousseau is a forever living, amazing anticipation of analytical prose. Confession is almost always literature, suggesting readers in the future or in the present, a kind of plot mood of the image of reality and the image of a man. Dynamic forward is replaced by retrospective dynamics. The reader goes through the life of the character, in which the characters of the author and the hero of the book are almost inseparably intertwined.
The author's image, as is known, does not necessarily consist of personal traits of biographical events, according to fiction the material serves as a general, historical, but necessarily a fact of personal spiritual experience. Without this authenticity of inner experience, spirituality can not exist, but there is only a dead verbal husk. A conscious attitude to the problems of modeling an individual began with romanticism and was conditioned by its romantic understanding.
This book, of course, went beyond the biography. Conceived as an analysis of the human soul, it at the same time paved the way for a socio-psychological novel of the 19th century. "Confessions" tell about the true spiritual events of Rousseau, but with his hero can occur and what in fact with Rousseau did not. In addition, it is the aged author, and not the hero, who analyzes his actions. The author and the hero represent the central image of "Confessions", on which Rousseau's creative memory is concentrated, he himself declared his image unique - in the first and so famous lines of his memoirs.
For Rousseau, a man is a complex multi-component mechanism that continuously reacts to a variety of external irritations, continuously adapts to the environment and seeks satisfaction with his needs and desires. A person is simultaneously subject to different influences, from purely physiological to purely spiritual, because ideals and moral values are inherent in a person as inalienable as a desire to eat and drink. Soulful life, thus, represents for Rousseau a synchronous combination of different levels, which generates so many imaginary paradoxes that occupied him. This conception of man led Rousseau to the initial discovery of the psychic mechanism.