nasty thinkers

It should be acknowledged as a universal truth that if one person helps another, the latter will forever resent the former, because it is uncomfortable to be in moral debt. The only way to avoid this outcome is for help to be recompensed, either by a return of favours or “better far“ by an undertaking from the helpee to find an opportunity to help someone else in future, thus passing onward the good deed.

The universal truth at the hub of these remarks is well illustrated by the case of the quarrel between that unpleasant, egomaniacal, paranoid, toxic, ghastly genius Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and that unimpeachable man of reason, amenity, civilisation, and yet greater genius, David Hume. As the epithets here suggest, I am of the opposite view to that taken by David Edmonds and John Eidinow in their wonderfully readable and absorbing account of the unfortunate transactions between these two eighteenth-century savants. They eccentrically favour Rousseau’s side of the tale, which in one way scarcely matters because they tell the tale so well, providing in their comprehensive and lucid way a full background to the Enlightenment world and the place of these two seminal thinkers in it.

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