Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the central figures of the Enlightenment. His ideas heavily influenced the Romantics, the French revolution, and even education. Reveries of a Solitary Walker, his final work, remained unfinished at his death. Each chapter is framed by one of Rousseau's walks around Paris, but the content is a mixture of biography, anecdote, and philosophical reflection. In the first five pages of his Sixth Walk, Rousseau recalls a series of encounters with a lame beggar child and reflects on his changing feelings about these encounters. This causes him to consider the implicit contract between benefactor and beneficiary, its expectations, conditions, pleasures and pains: "I have often felt the burden of my own good deeds by the chain of duties they later entailed." These passages invite us to reflect on our motives and expectations for giving to and serving others.
The Civically Engaged Reader, eds. Davis & Lynn, (Great Books Foundation, 2006).
When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?What prevents us from being compassionate?What do those with more owe to those with less?Can selfish motives result in positive action?Do one’s motives for serving or giving matter? How?In what ways does having money give us power?
Civically Engaged Reader