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Rousseau

Ivan Paul Manaligod

Life

He was born in the Swiss town of Geneva in


1712 and appreciated its civic virtue.
He lived the life of a vagabond philosopher and
had a long lasting affair with the Swiss
Baroness Madame de Warrens.
He later had five children with the maid and
washer woman Therese Levasseur.

Life - continued

Befriended and quarreled with Denis Diderot.


In 1750, his celebrity began when he wrote an ironical
essay addressing the question Has the restoration of the
sciences and arts tended to purify morals?
In 1762, he published The Social Contract and Emile.
His works were condemned as heretical and Rousseau
became an international fugitive.
Stayed with and quarreled with David Hume.
He wrote his Confessions as the first autobiographical
defense of the modern self.
He died on July 2, 1778, leaving an intellectual and
political legacy as complicated as his life.

Rousseaus Garden: Worldview and


Human Nature

Original innocence and solitude in the state of nature: Mans


original condition was marked by natural goodness, selfsufficiency, radical freedom, and amour de soi the
sentiment of his own existence.

The fall sociality and private property: The qualities of reason and
amour propre (vanity or pride) emerge. All vice greed, lust,
jealousy, envy, wrath, gluttony, and sloth stems from amour
propre the prideful comparison of oneself to others. Natural
goodness and innocence are lost. Compassion and pity are
weakened. The human condition is now marked by war, inequality,
inner division between ones public duty and private inclination, and
dependence on others. A bogus social contract provides legal
sanction to inequality. These inequalities reach high levels of
corruption in civilized bourgeois society, where money defines
morality and where there is dependence on elites.

Rousseaus Garden: Worldview and


Human Nature - Continued

Redemption and liberation the general will:


Mans condition in the good society is marked
by political equality, civic virtue, and the
reconciliation of ones particular will with the
general will. This prescription for the good
society will break down the evils of mass
dependence on organized economic, social,
and political elites. A legitimate social contract
will be based on the general will, in which it will
be necessary to force individuals to be free.

Rousseaus Savage Man

The stage of human development associated with what


he called "savages" was the best in human
development.
The mediator between the less-than-optimal extreme of
brute animals on the one hand and the extreme of
decadent civilization on the other.
Nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when
placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity
of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man.

Rousseaus Savage Man


continued

Rousseau said that this savage stage of


human societal development was an
optimum, between the extreme of the state
of brute animals and animal-like "ape-men"
on the one hand, and the extreme of
decadent civilized life on the other.

Rousseaus Savage Man


continued

Rousseau never suggests that humans in the state of


nature act morally
Terms such as "justice" or "wickedness" are inapplicable
to prepolitical society as Rousseau understands it.
Morality proper, (such as self-restraint), can only
develop through careful education in a civil state.
Humans "in a state of Nature" may act with all of the
ferocity of an animal. They are good only in a sense that
insofar as they are self-sufficient and thus not subject to
the vices of political society.

Rousseaus Natural Man

Rousseau's natural man is virtually identical to a solitary


chimpanzee or other ape, such as the orangutan as described by
Buffon; and the "natural" goodness of humanity is thus the
goodness of an animal, which is neither good nor bad

Definitions for good and evil do arise from nature - good is that
which promotes the long-term survival of life. Because man must
be able to cope with extreme competition in order to survive, the
emotions that cause him to inflict pain and dominance are also
innate. That does not make them good. So a solitary chimpanzee
can be said to do bad in the same way that man does.

Amour de soi and Amour de propre

In Rousseau's philosophy, society's negative influence


on men centers on its transformation of amour de soi, a
positive self-love, into amour-propre, or pride. Amour de
soi represents the instinctive human desire for selfpreservation, combined with the human power of
reason. In contrast, amour-propre is artificial and
encourages man to compare himself to others, thus
creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take
pleasure in the pain or weakness of others.

Amour de soi and Amour de propre


- continued

In Discourse on the Arts and Sciences Rousseau argues


that the arts and sciences have not been beneficial to
humankind, because they arose not from authentic
human needs but rather as a result of pride and vanity.
Proposed that the progress of knowledge had made
governments more powerful and had crushed individual
liberty; and he concluded that material progress had
actually undermined the possibility of true friendship by
replacing it with jealousy, fear, and suspicion.

The Birth of Conventional Inequality


and the Swindle

Natural inequality exist but such inequalities do not give


anyone the right to rule over others.
Conventional inequality robs human beings of original
freedom in the state of nature.
A bogus social contract is entered into:

The first person who, having fenced off a plot of ground, took
it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple
enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.
What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors
would the human race have been spared by someone who,
uprooting the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his
fellow men: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are lost
if you forget that the fruits belong to all and the earth to no
one!

The Birth of Conventional Inequality


and the Swindle - Continue

The institution of property leads to the


despotism of the rich over the poor.

If we follow the progress of inequality in these


different revolutions, we shall find that the
establishment of the law and the right of property
was the first stage, the institution of the
magistracy the second, and the third and last
was the changing of legitimate power into
arbitrary power.

The Bourgeois and the Corrupt Society

The people consented to their servitude in order


to enjoy tranquility.
Modern society produces the bourgeois, a
soulless product of a commercial society that
measures happiness and success in terms of the
market.
The public good is used as a mask for private
interests.
Bourgeois life is filled with petty pleasures built
upon the slavery of the poor.

The Bourgeois and the Corrupt Society Continued

Self interest diminishes pity that binds us to our


fellow citizens.
The original freedom, innocence, and felicity of
the state nature is lost.

Man is born free and yet everywhere he is in chains.

Rousseau finds this step desirable because


intelligence raises us above the animals.
The selfish society can be transcended by a
society dedicated to the common good.

Discourse on Inequality

In this essay, which elaborates on the ideas


introduced in the Discourse on the Arts and
Sciences, Rousseau traces man's social
evolution from a primitive state of nature to
modern society.
The earliest solitary humans possessed a basic
drive for self-preservation and a natural
disposition to compassion or pity.

Discourse on Inequality Continued

They differed from animals, however, in


their capacity for free will and their potential
perfectibility.
As they began to live in groups and form
clans they also began to experience family
love, which Rousseau saw as the source of
the greatest happiness known to humanity.

Discourse on Inequality Continued

As long as differences in wealth and status among families were


minimal, the first coming together in groups was accompanied by a
fleeting golden age of human flourishing.
The development of agriculture, metallurgy, private property, and
the division of labour and resulting dependency on one another,
however, led to economic inequality and conflict.
As population pressures forced them to associate more and more
closely, they underwent a psychological transformation: They began
to see themselves through the eyes of others and came to value
the good opinion of others as essential to their self-esteem.

Discourse on Inequality Continued

Rousseau posits that the original, deeply flawed Social


Contract (that of Hobbes), which led to the modern
state, was made at the suggestion of the rich and
powerful, who tricked the general population into
surrendering their liberties to them and instituted
inequality as a fundamental feature of human society.
Rousseau's own conception of the Social Contract can
be understood as an alternative to this fraudulent form
of association.

Rousseaus Social Contract The


General Will

The aim of the Social Contract is to determine


whether there can be a legitimate political
authority, since people's interactions he saw at
his time seemed to put them in a state far worse
than the good one they were at the state of
nature, even though living in isolation.
General Will (volont gnrale) is the will of the
people as a whole

Rousseaus Social Contract The


General Will Continued

Rousseau posits that the political aspects


of a society should be divided into two
parts.

There must be a sovereign consisting of the


whole population (women included) that
represents the general will and is the legislative
power within the state
The government should be distinct from the
sovereign

Rousseaus Social Contract The


General Will Continued

This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot


deal with particular matters like applications of the law.
Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore
damage its legitimacy.
Thus, government must remain a separate institution
from the sovereign body.
When the government exceeds the boundaries set in
place by the people, it is the mission of the people to
abolish such government, and begin anew.

Rousseaus Prescription: The General


Will

The Social Contract offers a public path of


redemption through the mechanism of the general
will.
Civil freedom is to replace natural freedom
according to this construct.
Rousseau effort is an attempt to reconcile duty
and freedom.
Private person is transformed into the public
citizen and the interest self is replaced by an
interest in the common good.

Rousseaus Prescription: The General


Will - Continued

The bogus social contract needs to be replaced by the true social


contract.
Civil freedom is obedience to a law that one prescribes to
oneself. Any other law is despotism.
The legitimate social contract is a contract among equals
committed to the public good.
The most general will is also the most just, and that the voice of
the people is the voice of God
The will of all or selfish interests are contrasted with the general
will or the common good.
Property rights are limited by the common good and the general
will.
Citizens who have given their consent to the general will may be
forced to be free.

Rousseaus Good Society

The General Will is only possible under


rare and special circumstances:
1.
2.

3.

4.

It can only be operative in a small territory.


Participatory democracy is the only legitimate
form of association.
Government is ministerial and sovereignty
cannot be divided.
Factions are dangerous and worthless and
should be avoided.

Rousseaus Good Society - continued

A lawgiver will be needed to illuminate the general will.

Rousseau is a criticizer of a vulgar enlightenment but


believes in the beneficial role of rare geniuses like himself.
The lawgiver must repress peoples desires to act selfishly.
Only a great artist is capable of helping human beings to
reconcile freedom and duty within a moral and communal
existence.

Citizens must be virtuous and their sense of pity and


amour propre needs to be guided toward patriotic ends.
Appropriate habituation is key to the good society.
Statecraft is soulcraft for Rousseau. Society needs to
guard against that which arouses selfish desires. Private
life must serve public virtue.

Rousseaus Good Society - Continued

Inequalities of wealth must be minimized since


they weaken social bonds.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 1778)