Chapter 2 spells out Rousseau's criticisms of modern European civilization. Lund aims to ratify Rousseau's endorsement of the goods of precivilized society the "happiest epoch" by documenting its compatibility with more recent accounts of tribal life. Lund dwells especially on the writings of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas as a way of fleshing out Rousseau's prehistory. Chapter 3 then corroborates some of his insights on linguistic development as plausible and consistent with available scientific evidence.
The second set of chapters deals primarily with Rousseau's thinking on civic education and the discipline of eros. Chapter 4 focuses on the Letter to d'Alembert's criticisms of poetry--in particular on its argument that the theater corrupts mores. Since "love well depicted In the following year, this work, having been awarded the prize by the Academy, was published by its author.
Refutations of his work were issued by professors, scribblers, outraged theologians and even by the King of Poland. Rousseau endeavoured to answer them all, and in the course of argument his thought developed. From to the publication of the Social Contract and Emile in he gradually evolved his views: in those twelve years he made his unique contribution to political thought. The Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, the earliest of the works reproduced in this volume, is not in itself of very great importance. Rousseau has given his opinion of it in the Confessions.
But whatever gifts a man may be born with, he cannot learn the art of writing in a moment. The first Discourse neither is, nor attempts to be, a reasoned or a balanced production. At the most, it is only a rather brilliant but flimsy rhetorical effort, a sophistical improvisation, but not a serious contribution to thought. He is merely using a single idea, putting it as strongly as he can, and neglecting all its limitations.
Here we see him at the beginning of the long journey which was to lead on at last to the theory of the Social Contract. In appeared the Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of Inequality among Men, which is the second of the works given in this volume. With this essay, Rousseau had unsuccessfully competed in for a second prize offered by the Academy of Dijon, and he now issued it prefaced by a long Dedication to the Republic of Geneva.
Thus half the Discourse on Inequality is occupied by an imaginary description of the state of nature, in which man is shown with ideas limited within the narrowest range, with little need of his fellows, and little care beyond provision for the necessities of the moment. In one of the long notes appended to the Discourse, Rousseau further explains his position. He does not wish, he says, that modern corrupt society should return to a state of nature: corruption has gone too far for that; he only desires now that men should palliate, by wiser use of the fatal arts, the mistake of their introduction.
He recognises society as inevitable and is already feeling his way towards a justification of it. The second Discourse represents a second stage in his political thought: the opposition between the state of nature and the state of society is still presented in naked contrast; but the picture of the former has already filled out, and it only remains for Rousseau to take a nearer view of the fundamental implications of the state of society for his thought to reach maturity.
Rousseau is often blamed, by modern critics, for pursuing in the Discourses a method apparently that of history, but in reality wholly unhistorical. But it must be remembered that he himself lays no stress on the historical aspect of his work; he gives himself out as constructing a purely ideal picture, and not as depicting any actual stages in human history. The use of false historical concepts is characteristic of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and Rousseau is more to be congratulated on having escaped from giving them too much importance than criticised for employing them at all.
It would not, however, be safe to conclude from this that its date is really later. The Discourse on Inequality still has about it much of the rhetorical looseness of the prize essay; it aims not so much at close reasoning as at effective and popular presentation of a case. But, by reading between the lines, an attentive student can detect in it a great deal of the positive doctrine afterwards incorporated in the Social Contract. Especially in the closing section, which lays down the plan of a general treatment of the fundamental questions of politics, we are already to some extent in the atmosphere of the later works.
It is indeed almost certain that Rousseau never attempted to put into either of the first two Discourses any of the positive content of his political theory. They were intended, not as final expositions of his point of view, but as partial and preliminary studies, in which his aim was far more destructive than constructive. It is clear that in first conceiving the plan of a work on Political Institutions, Rousseau cannot have meant to regard all society as in essence bad.
THE SOCIAL CONTRACT & DISCOURSES
It need, therefore, cause no surprise that a work probably written before the Discourse on Inequality should contain the germs of the theory given in full in the Social Contract. He begins with a discussion of the fundamental nature of the State, and the possibility of reconciling its existence with human liberty, and goes on with an admirable short study of the principles of taxation. He conceives the State as a body aiming at the well-being of all its members and subordinates all his views of taxation to that end.
He who has only necessaries should not be taxed at all; superfluities should be supertaxed; there should be heavy imposts on every sort of luxury. The first part of the article is still more interesting. Rousseau begins by demolishing the exaggerated parallel so often drawn between the State and the family; he shows that the State is not, and cannot be, patriarchal in nature, and goes on to lay down his view that its real being consists in the General Will of its members.
The essential features of the Social Contract are present in this Discourse almost as if they were commonplaces, certainly not as if they were new discoveries on which the author had just hit by some happy inspiration. The Social Contract finally appeared, along with Emile, in Henceforth, he was to write only controversial and confessional works; his theories were now developed, and, simultaneously, he gave to the world his views on the fundamental problems of politics and education.
The Social Contract contains practically the whole of his constructive political theory; it requires to be read, for full understanding, in connection with his other works, especially Emile and the Letters on the Mount , but in the main it is self-contained and complete. The title sufficiently defines its scope. Rousseau himself, in the fifth book of the Emile, has stated the difference clearly. His desire is to establish society on a basis of pure right, so as at once to disprove his attack on society generally and to reinforce his criticism of existing societies.
Round this point centres the whole dispute about the methods proper to political theory. There are, broadly speaking, two schools of political theorists, if we set aside the psychologists. One school, by collecting facts, aims at reaching broad generalisations about what actually happens in human societies; the other tries to penetrate to the universal principles at the root of all human combination. For the latter purpose facts may be useful, but in themselves they can prove nothing.
The question is not one of fact, but one of right. Rousseau belongs esentially to this philosophical school. He is not, as his less philosophic critics seem to suppose, a purely abstract thinker generalising from imaginary historical instances; he is a concrete thinker trying to get beyond the inessential and changing to the permanent and invariable basis of human society. Like Green, he is in search of the principle of political obligation, and beside this quest all others fall into their place as secondary and derivative.
This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution. How, Rousseau asks, can the will of the State help being for me a merely external will, imposing itself upon my own? How can the existence of the State be reconciled with human freedom? How can man, who is born free, rightly come to be everywhere in chains? No-one could help understanding the central problem of the Social Contract immediately, were it not that its doctrines often seem to be strangely formulated. Thus at the very outset we are faced with the great difficulty in appreciating Rousseau.
Elsewhere Rousseau puts the point much as we might put it ourselves. It is clear that the position is not merely that of the Discourses. In them, he envisaged only the faults of actual societies; now, he is concerned with the possibility of a rational society.
It is used of necessity in the controversial chapters, in which Rousseau is refuting false theories of social obligation; but when once he has brushed aside the false prophets, he lets the idea of nature go with them, and concerns himself solely with giving society the rational sanction he has promised. He takes his stand on the nature of human freedom: on this he bases his whole system, making the will of the members the sole basis of every society.
In working out his theory, Rousseau makes use throughout of three general and, to some extent, alternative conceptions. We shall now have to examine each of these in turn. It has been adapted to the most opposite points of view, and used, in different forms, on both sides of every question to which it could conceivably be applied. It would be a long, as well as a thankless, task to trace its history over again: it may be followed best in D. For us, it is important only to regard it in its most general aspect, before studying the special use made of it by Rousseau.
Obviously, in one form or another, it is a theory very easily arrived at.
Wherever any form of government apart from the merest tyranny exists, reflection on the basis of the State cannot but lead to the notion that, in one sense or another, it is based on the consent, tacit or expressed, past or present, of its members. In this alone, the greater part of the Social Contract theory is already latent. Add the desire to find actual justification for a theory in facts, and, especially in an age possessed only of the haziest historical sense, this doctrine of consent will inevitably be given a historical setting. If in addition there is a tendency to regard society as something unnatural to humanity, the tendency will become irresistible.
By writers of almost all schools, the State will be represented as having arisen, in some remote age, out of a compact or, in more legal phrase, contract between two or more parties. The only class that will be able to resist the doctrine is that which maintains the divine right of kings, and holds that all existing governments were imposed on the people by the direct interposition of God. All who are not prepared to maintain that will be partisans of some form or other of the Social Contract theory.
It is, therefore, not surprising that we find among its advocates writers of the most opposite points of view. Barely stated, it is a mere formula, which may be filled in with any content from absolutism to pure republicanism. And, in the hands of some at least of its supporters, it turns out to be a weapon that cuts both ways. We shall be in a better position to judge of its usefulness when we have seen its chief varieties at work. All Social Contract theories that are at all definite fall under one or other of two heads.
They represent society as based on an original contract either between the people and the government, or between all the individuals composing the State. Historically, modern theory passes from the first to the second of these forms. It was often supported by references to the Old Testament, which contains a similar view in an unreflective form. It is found in most of the great political writers of the sixteenth century; in Buchanan, and in the writings of James I: it persists into the seventeenth in the works of Grotius and Puffendorf.
Grotius is sometimes held to have stated the theory so as to admit both forms of contract; but it is clear that he is only thinking of the first form as admitting democratic as well as monarchical government. In this form, the theory clearly admits of opposite interpretations. It may be held that the people, having given itself up once for all to its rulers, has nothing more to ask of them, and is bound to submit to any usage they may choose to inflict. This, however, is not the implication most usually drawn from it. The theory, in this form, originated with theologians who were also lawyers.
Their view of a contract implied mutual obligations; they regarded the ruler as bound, by its terms, to govern constitutionally. The old idea that a king must not violate the sacred customs of the realm passes easily into the doctrine that he must not violate the terms of the original contract between himself and his people. The demand was a good popular cry, and it seemed to have the theorists behind it.
Rousseau gives his refutation of this view, which he had, in the Discourse on Inequality, maintained in passing, in the sixteenth chapter of the third book of the Social Contract. See also Book I, chap. His attack is really concerned also with the theory of Hobbes, which in some respects resembles, as we shall see, this first view; but, in form at least, it is directed against this form of contract.
Rousseau; an Introduction to His Political Philosophy
It will be possible to examine it more closely, when the second view has been considered. The second view, which may be called the Social Contract theory proper, regards society as originating in, or based on, an agreement between the individuals composing it. The first theory was, historically, a means of popular protest against royal aggression. As soon as popular government was taken into account, the act of contract between people and government became in effect merely a contract between the individuals composing the society, and readily passed over into the second form.
Hobbes agrees that the original contract is one between all the individuals composing the State, and that the government is no party to it; but he regards the people as agreeing, not merely to form a State, but to invest a certain person or certain persons with the government of it. He agrees that the people is naturally supreme, but regards it as alienating its Sovereignty by the contract itself, and delegating its power, wholly and for ever, to the government.
As soon, therefore, as the State is set up, the government becomes for Hobbes the Sovereign; there is no more question of popular Sovereignty, but only of passive obedience: the people is bound, by the contract, to obey its ruler, no matter whether he governs well or ill. It has alienated all its rights to the Sovereign, who is, therefore, absolute master.
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Hobbes, living in a time of civil wars, regards the worst government as better than anarchy, and is, therefore, at pains to find arguments in support of any form of absolutism. It is easy to pick holes in this system, and to see into what difficulties a conscientious Hobbist might be led by a revolution.
For as soon as the revolutionaries get the upper hand, he will have to sacrifice one of his principles: he will have to side against either the actual or the legitimate Sovereign. It is easy also to see that alienation of liberty, even if possible for an individual, which Rousseau denies, cannot bind his posterity. But, with all its faults, the view of Hobbes is on the whole admirably, if ruthlessly, logical, and to it Rousseau owes a great deal. The special shape given to the second Social Contract theory by Hobbes looks, at first sight, much like a combination, into a single act, of both the contracts.
This, however, is not the view he adopts. The theory of a contract between government and people had, as we have seen, been used mainly as a support for popular liberties, a means of assertion against the government. Hobbes, whose whole aim is to make his government Sovereign, can only do this by leaving the government outside the contract: he thus avoids the necessity of submitting it to any obligation whatsoever, and leaves it absolute and irresponsible. He secures, in fact, not merely a State which has unbounded rights against the individual, but a determinate authority with the right to enforce those rights.
It is clear that, if such a theory is to be upheld, it can stand only by the view, which Hobbes shares with Grotius, that a man can alienate not merely his own liberty, but also that of his descendants, and that, consequently, a people as a whole can do the same. This is the point at which both Locke and Rousseau attack it. Locke, whose aim is largely to justify the Revolution of , makes government depend, not merely at its institution, but always, on the consent of the governed, and regards all rulers as liable to be displaced if they govern tyrannically.
He omits, however, to provide any machinery short of revolution for the expression of popular opinion, and, on the whole, seems to regard the popular consent as something essentially tacit and assumed. He regards the State as existing mainly to protect life and property, and is, in all his assertions of popular rights, so cautious as to reduce them almost to nothing. It is not till we come to Rousseau that the second form of the contract theory is stated in its purest and most logical form. Rousseau sees clearly the necessity, if popular consent in government is to be more than a name, of giving it some constitutional means of expression.
He looks back with admiration to the city-states of ancient Greece and, in his own day, reserves his admiration for the Swiss free cities, Berne and, above all, Geneva, his native place. Seeing in the Europe of his day no case in which representative government was working at all democratically, he was unable to conceive that means might be found of giving effect to this active agreement in a nation-state; he therefore held that self-government was impossible except for a city.
He wished to break up the nation-states of Europe, and create instead federative leagues of independent city-states. His doctrine of the underlying principle of political obligation is that of all great modern writers, from Kant to Mr. This theory was, we have seen, a commonplace. The amount of historical authenticity assigned to the contract almost universally presupposed varied enormously.
It was, therefore, almost inevitable that Rousseau should cast his theory into the contractual form. There were, indeed, writers of his time who laughed at the contract, but they were not writers who constructed a general system of political philosophy. From Cromwell to Montesquieu and Bentham, it was the practically minded man, impatient of unactual hypotheses, who refused to accept the idea of contract.
But we, criticising them in the light of later events, are in a better position for estimating the position the Social Contract really took in their political system. Rousseau, on the other hand, bases no vital argument on the historical nature of the contract, in which, indeed, he clearly does not believe. He clearly means by it no more and no less than the fundamental principle of political association, the basis of the unity which enables us, in the State, to realise political liberty by giving up lawlessness and license.
The presentation of this doctrine in the quasi-historical form of the Social Contract theory is due to the accident of the time and place in which Rousseau wrote. Rousseau claims, instead, that when laws are in accordance with the general will, good citizens will respect and love both the state and their fellow citizens.
Therefore, citizens will see the intrinsic value in the law, even in cases in which it may conflict with their individual wills. The Social Contract is, like the Discourse on Political Economy , a work that is more philosophically constructive than either of the first two Discourses. Furthermore, the language used in the first and second Discourses is crafted in such a way as to make them appealing to the public, whereas the tone of the Social Contract is not nearly as eloquent and romantic. Another more obvious difference is that the Social Contract was not nearly as well-received; it was immediately banned by Paris authorities.
And although the first two Discourses were, at the time of their publication, very popular, they are not philosophically systematic. The Social Contract , by contrast, is quite systematic and outlines how a government could exist in such a way that it protects the equality and character of its citizens. For the earlier works discuss the problems in civil society as well as the historical progression that has led to them.
The Discourse on the Sciences and Arts claims that society has become such that no emphasis is put on the importance of virtue and morality. The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality traces the history of human beings from the pure state of nature through the institution of a specious social contract that results in present day civil society. The Social Contract does not deny any of these criticisms. IV, p. But unlike the first two Discourses , the Social Contract looks forward, and explores the potential for moving from the specious social contract to a legitimate one. The concept of the general will, first introduced in the Discourse on Political Economy , is further developed in the Social Contract although it remains ambiguous and difficult to interpret.
The most pressing difficulty that arises is in the tension that seems to exist between liberalism and communitarianism. On one hand, Rousseau argues that following the general will allows for individual diversity and freedom. But at the same time, the general will also encourages the well-being of the whole, and therefore can conflict with the particular interests of individuals.
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Despite these difficulties, however, there are some aspects of the general will that Rousseau clearly articulates. First, the general will is directly tied to Sovereignty: but not Sovereignty merely in the sense of whomever holds power. Simply having power, for Rousseau, is not sufficient for that power to be morally legitimate. True Sovereignty is directed always at the public good, and the general will, therefore, speaks always infallibly to the benefit of the people. Second, the object of the general will is always abstract, or for lack of a better term, general.
It can set up rules, social classes, or even a monarchial government, but it can never specify the particular individuals who are subject to the rules, members of the classes, or the rulers in the government. This is in keeping with the idea that the general will speaks to the good of the society as a whole. It is not to be confused with the collection of individual wills which would put their own needs, or the needs of particular factions, above those of the general public. This leads to a related point. The latter looks only to the common interest; the former considers private interest and is only a sum of private wills.
But take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel each other out, and the remaining sum of the differences is the general will. This point can be understood in an almost Rawlsian sense, namely that if the citizens were ignorant of the groups to which they would belong, they would inevitably make decisions that would be to the advantage of the society as a whole, and thus be in accordance with the general will. But if the state is to protect individual freedom, how can this be reconciled with the notion of the general will, which looks always to the welfare of the whole and not to the will of the individual?
This criticism, although not unfounded, is also not devastating. To answer it, one must return to the concepts of Sovereignty and the general will. True Sovereignty, again, is not simply the will of those in power, but rather the general will. Sovereignty does have the proper authority override the particular will of an individual or even the collective will of a particular group of individuals. However, as the general will is infallible, it can only do so when intervening will be to the benefit of the society.
Proper intervention on the part of the Sovereign is therefore best understood as that which secures the freedom and equality of citizens rather than that which limits them.
Ultimately, the delicate balance between the supreme authority of the state and the rights of individual citizens is based on a social compact that protects society against factions and gross differences in wealth and privilege among its members. It was originally published just several months after the Social Contract. Like the Social Contract , the Emile was immediately banned by Paris authorities, which prompted Rousseau to flee France. The major point of controversy in the Emile was not in his philosophy of education per se, however. Rather, it was the claims in one part of the book, the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar in which Rousseau argues against traditional views of religion that led to the banning of the book.
The Emile is unique in one sense because it is written as part novel and part philosophical treatise. Rousseau would use this same form in some of his later works as well. The book is written in first person, with the narrator as the tutor, and describes his education of a pupil, Emile, from birth to adulthood. The basic philosophy of education that Rousseau advocates in the Emile , much like his thought in the first two Discourses , is rooted in the notion that human beings are good by nature.
Rousseau is very clear that a return the state of nature once human beings have become civilized is not possible. Therefore, we should not seek to be noble savages in the literal sense, with no language, no social ties, and an underdeveloped faculty of reason. Rather, Rousseau says, someone who has been properly educated will be engaged in society, but relate to his or her fellow citizens in a natural way.
At first glance, this may seem paradoxical: If human beings are not social by nature, how can one properly speak of more or less natural ways of socializing with others? The best answer to this question requires an explanation of what Rousseau calls the two forms of self-love: amour-propre and amour de soi. Amour de soi is a natural form of self-love in that it does not depend on others. Rousseau claims that by our nature, each of us has this natural feeling of love toward ourselves.
We naturally look after our own preservation and interests. By contrast, amour-propre is an unnatural self-love that is essentially relational. That is, it comes about in the ways in which human beings view themselves in comparison to other human beings. Without amour-propre , human beings would scarcely be able to move beyond the pure state of nature Rousseau describes in the Discourse on Inequality. Thus, amour-propre can contribute positively to human freedom and even virtue.
Nevertheless, amour-propre is also extremely dangerous because it is so easily corruptible. Rousseau often describes the dangers of what commentators sometimes refer to as 'inflamed' amour-propre. In its corrupted form, amour-propre is the source of vice and misery, and results in human beings basing their own self worth on their feeling of superiority over others. While not developed in the pure state of nature, amour-propre is still a fundamental part of human nature. Therefore goal of Emile's natural education is in large part to keep him from falling into the corrupted form of this type of self-love.
This will allow the pupil to be virtuous even in the unnatural and imperfect society in which he lives. The character of Emile begins learning important moral lessons from his infancy, thorough childhood, and into early adulthood. The tutor must even manipulate the environment in order to teach sometimes difficult moral lessons about humility, chastity, and honesty. They depend on women only because they desire them. By contrast, women both need and desire men. Sophie is educated in such a way that she will fill what Rousseau takes to be her natural role as a wife.
She is to be submissive to Emile. And although Rousseau advocates these very specific gender roles, it would be a mistake to take the view that Rousseau regards men as simply superior to women.
Women have particular talents that men do not; Rousseau says that women are cleverer than men, and that they excel more in matters of practical reason. These views are continually discussed among both feminist and Rousseau scholars. In his discussion of how to properly educate a pupil about religious matters, the tutor recounts a tale of an Italian who thirty years before was exiled from his town. Disillusioned, the young man was aided by a priest who explained his own views of religion, nature, and science.
The priest begins by explaining how, after a scandal in which he broke his vow of celibacy, he was arrested, suspended, and then dismissed. In his woeful state, the priest began to question all of his previously held ideas. Doubting everything, the priest attempts a Cartesian search for truth by doubting all things that he does not know with absolute certainty. But unlike Descartes, the Vicar is unable to come to any kind of clear and distinct ideas that could not be doubted.
Among these truths, the Vicar finds that he exists as a free being with a free will which is distinct from his body that is not subject to physical, mechanical laws of motion. The will is known to me in its action, not in its nature. The Profession of Faith also includes the controversial discussion of natural religion, which was in large part the reason why Emile was banned.
The controversy of this doctrine is the fact that it is categorically opposed to orthodox Christian views, specifically the claim that Christianity is the one true religion. And so, any organized religion that correctly identifies God as the creator and preaches virtue and morality, is true in this sense.
Therefore, the Vicar concludes, each citizen should dutifully practice the religion of his or her own country so long as it is in line with the religion, and thus morality, of nature. The work tells the story of Julie d'Etange and St. Preux, who were one time lovers. Later, at the invitation of her husband, St. The major tenets of his thought are clearly evident; the struggle of the individual against societal norms, emotions versus reason, and the goodness of human nature are all prevalent themes. Rousseau began writing the Reveries of the Solitary Walker in the fall of By this time, he had grown increasingly distressed over the condemnation of several of his works, most notably the Emile and the Social Contract.
This public rejection, combined with rifts in his personal relationships, left him feeling betrayed and even as though he was the victim of a great conspiracy. It is interesting that Rousseau returns to nature, which he had always praised throughout his career. One also recognizes in this praise the recognition of God as the just creator of nature, a theme so prevalent in the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar. The reader sees in it, not only philosophy, but also the reflections of the philosopher himself.
The most distinctive feature of this late work, often referred to simply as the Dialogues , is that it is written in the form of three dialogues. This somewhat confusing arrangement serves the purpose of Rousseau judging his own career. And second, the Dialogues represent one of the few places that Rousseau claims his work is systematic. He claims that there is a philosophical consistency that runs throughout his works. Perhaps his greatest directly philosophical influence is on the ethical thought of Immanuel Kant.
This may seem puzzling at first glance. For Kant, the moral law is based on rationality, whereas in Rousseau, there is a constant theme of nature and even the emotional faculty of pity described in the Second Discourse. But despite these differences, the influence on Kant is undeniable. The Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar is one text in particular that illustrates this influence.