The Carnets and their author are both representative of their period and milieu and of something more personal. Joseph Joubert refuses to be pinned down and conveniently defined by portraits of him as ‘moraliste’, ‘Rousseauiste’ turned imperialist, or conversationalist turned closet writer. Such labels are inadequate and do not do justice to the obsessive aesthetic interest which the act of writing had for him. It is this dimension that is the distinguishing feature of his thought and underlies every sphere of debate in which he engaged. Even an examination of Joubert's ideological or political stances is forced, ultimately, into a consideration of their expression, simply because the very process of putting pen to paper was fraught with a tension frequently more compelling than the ideas he was trying to voice.
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