Rousseau Joseph Fornieri Life Rousseau’s influence on the French Revolution and the narcotic effect of his writing are point from which to reflect on his significance. He was born in the Swiss town of Geneva in 1712 and appreciated its civic virtue.
Rousseau’s influence on the French Revolution and the narcotic effect of his writing are point from which to reflect on his significance.
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 and left the care of these children to state.
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.
Original innocence and solitude in the state of nature: Man’s original condition was marked by natural goodness, self-sufficiency, 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 – 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 one’s 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.
Redemption and liberation – the general will: Man’s condition in the good society is marked by political equality, civic virtue, and the reconciliation of one’s 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.
Aristotle explains that human beings by nature are political animals, and that those who live apart from the city-state are either beasts or gods. How would Aristotle understand the solitary creatures in Rousseau’s Garden – as men? As beasts? Or as something in between?
By claiming that human nature changes as it passes through stages of historical development, does Rousseau’s political thought contribute to the rise of historicism – the idea that human nature and consciousness are not fixed but are relative throughout time, place, and circumstance? If this is the case, it follows that the flux of history, rather than the qualities of an unchanging nature, becomes crucial to understanding the dynamics of man and society. In Natural Right and History, Leo Strauss argues that Rousseau’s political thought represents an early version of historicism and moral relativism that culminates in the 19th century political philosophies of Marx, Hegel, and Nietzsche. Is Strauss correct? What do you think?
Should Rousseau be considered a forerunner of animal rights? He looks to orangutans as early humans in the state of nature, claiming that human intelligence differs from that of an animal only by degree and that animals, like humans, are capable of pity or commiseration.
If man is naturally good, in Rousseau’s sense of the term, does it follow that he is corrupted or made bad by his environment? Does evil reside in the human heart or is it acquired through flawed social conditions – for example, vast inequalities and multigenerational dependence on welfare within inner-city neighborhoods? If evil is indeed the result of society, can it be remedied through proper social engineering? How might Bill Cosby and Rousseau differ in their understanding of the poor attitude that many inner-city young people have toward their education.
Sex was initially random and based on pleasure with no attention of consequences.
Disasters and the development of agriculture and other crafts led to commingling and conjugal relations in a “hut” stage of human development.
Each family was more or less self-sufficient in the “hut” stage of human development and human relations were peaceful and cooperative.
The discovery of human differences in ability in singing and dancing led to amour propre and resentment.
Pride and dependence create servitude.
“What makes a man essentially good is to have few needs and to compare himself little to others, what makes him essentially wicked is to have many needs and to depend very much on opinions.”
The passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct, and giving his actions the morality they had formerly lacked. Then only, when the voice of duty takes the place of physical impulses and right of appetite, does man, who so far had considered only himself, find that he is forced to act on different principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations.
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.
Is Enron a modern example of Rousseau’s teaching on bourgeois selfishness and the corrupt society where money buys power, access, and influence, and where unequal extremes of wealth lead to the vanity of conspicuous consumption, as well as the dependence of the citizens on the will of the economic elites.
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.
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.
Citizen’s who have given their consent to the general will may be forced to be free.
In the general will discovered as something that is preexisting, or is it created by formal political processes through an agreement between the people? In either case, is the general will morally relative to the particular character of each people, or does it enjoin just moral principles that are universal to all?
How far is Rousseau willing to permit popular government to apply the political principle of forcing people to be free? To seat belts? Mandatory inoculation?
What accounts for the differing paths to liberation in Rousseau’s thought? Are these paths compatible with one another?
His emphasis on sentiment as opposed to rationality makes him the father of the romantic movement.
His celebration of people’s local heritage makes him the father of 19th century nationalism.
His critique of economic inequality and his understanding of how history forms human nature makes him an ancestor of Karl Marx.
His views of love and sexual sublimation makes him a precursor of Freud.