The Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce (1910-1989) gave an original interpretation of the modern secular age. In this paper, I analyze the reasons why Del Noce saw in Descartes and in Rousseau two fundamental expressions of secularization: according to the two French philosophers, the human being is characterized by an original goodness (status naturae purae). Del Noce noted that this anthropological optimism, widespread in modernity, made superfluous the Christian faith: without the presence of original sin (an evil in human nature), the redemption is no longer necessary.
In the last part of the paper it is examined “the Rousseau problem”, i.e. the constitutive ambiguity of the Genevan thinker. Rightly Del Noce pointed out that Rousseau was, at the same time, a religious and revolutionary philosopher: on the one hand, Rousseau criticized modern rationalists and reevaluated the sphere of human feelings (including religious feelings), but on the other, he theorized a revolutionary and Jacobin thought. Therefore, Rousseau can be interpreted as a philosopher who emblematically expressed the ambiguities of the modern process of secularization.