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Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Wikipedia
Two important issues arise in relation to Rousseau’s account ofrelations between sovereign and government. The first of theseconcerns his political pessimism, even in the case of thebest-designed and most perfect republic. Just as any group has acollective will as opposed to the individual private will of itsmembers, so does the government. As the state becomes larger and morediffuse, and as citizens become more distant from one another bothspatially and emotionally, so the effective government of the republicwill need a proportionally smaller and more cohesive group ofmagistrates. Rousseau thinks it almost inevitable that this group willend up usurping the legitimate sovereign power of the people andsubstituting its corporate will for the people’s general will. Thesecond issue concerns how democratic Rousseau envisaged his republicto be. He sometimes suggests a picture in which the people would besubject to elite domination by the government, since the magistrateswould reserve the business of agenda-setting for the assembly tothemselves. In other cases, he endorses a conception of a more fullydemocratic republic. (For competing views of this question see Fralin1978 and Cohen 2010.)
Rousseau’s contributions to political philosophy are scattered amongvarious works, most notable of which are the Discourse on theOrigins of Inequality, the Discourse on PoliticalEconomy, The Social Contract, and Considerations onthe Government of Poland. However, many of his other works,both major and minor, contain passages that amplify or illuminate the politicalideas in those works. His central doctrine in politics is that a statecan be legitimate only if it is guided by the “general will” of itsmembers. This idea finds its most detailed treatment in The SocialContract.
Theorists: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. 1755. Trans. Franklin Philip. Ed. Patrick Coleman. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994.
— . Emile: or On Education. 1762. Trans. Allan Bloom. New York: Basic-HarperCollins, 1979.
—. Émile et Sophie ou les Solitaires. 1778. Paris: Rivages, 1994.
In the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality Rousseauimagines a multi-stage evolution of humanity from the most primitivecondition to something like a modern complex society. Rousseau denies that this is a reconstruction of history as it actually was, and Frederick Neuhouser (2014) has argued that the evolutionary story is merely a philosophical device designed to separate the natural and the artificial elements of our psychology. At each step ofthis imagined evolution human beings change their material and psychologicalrelations to one another and, correspondingly, their conception ofthemselves, or what Rousseau calls the “sentiment of theirexistence.” According to this narrative, humans live basicallysolitary lives in the original state of the human race, since they donot need one another to provide for their material needs. The humanrace barely subsists in this condition, chance meetings betweenproto-humans are the occasions for copulation and reproduction,child-care is minimal and brief in duration. If humans are naturallygood at this stage of human evolution, their goodness is merely anegative and amounts to the absence of evil. In this story, humanbeings are distinguished from the other creatures with which theyshare the primeval world only by two characteristics: freedom, andperfectibility. Freedom, in this context, is simply the ability not tobe governed solely by appetite; perfectibility is the capacity tolearn and thereby to find new and better means to satisfyneeds. Together, these characteristics give humans the potential toachieve self-consciousness, rationality, and morality. Nevertheless,it will turn out that such characteristics are more likely to condemnthem to a social world of deception, dissimulation, dependence,oppression, and domination.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau - New World Encyclopedia
Rousseau attributes to all creatures an instinctual drive towardsself-preservation. Human beings therefore have such a drive,which he terms amour de soi (self love). Amour de soidirects us first to attend to our most basic biological needs forthings like food, shelter and warmth. Since, for Rousseau, humans, likeother creatures, are part of the design of a benevolent creator, theyare individually well-equipped with the means to satisfy their naturalneeds. Alongside this basic drive for self-preservation,Rousseau posits another passion which he termspitié (compassion). Pitiédirects us to attend to and relieve the suffering of others (includinganimals) where we can do so without danger to our ownself-preservation. In some of his writings, such as the SecondDiscourse, pitié is an original drive thatsits alongside amour de soi, whereas in others, such asEmile and the Essay on the Origin of Languages, it isa development of amour de soi considered as the origin of allpassions.
Starobinski, Jean. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction. 1971. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: U of Chicago P,1988.
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Rousseau the origin of civil society essay
Rousseau’s term for this new type of self-interested drive,concerned with comparative success or failure as a social being, isamour propre (love of self, often rendered as pride or vanityin English translations). Amour propre makes a centralinterest of each human being the need to be recognized by others ashaving value and to be treated with respect. The presentation of amourpropre in the Second Discourse—and especially in hisnote XV to that work—often suggests that Rousseau sees it as awholly negative passion and the source of all evil. Interpretations ofamour propre centered on the Second Discourse(which, historically, are the most common ones (for example Charvet 1974)), often focus on the factthat the need for recognition always has a comparative aspect, so thatindividuals are not content merely that others acknowledge their value,but also seek to be esteemed as superior to them. This aspect of ournature then creates conflict as people try to exact this recognitionfrom others or react with anger and resentment when it is denied tothem. More recent readings of both the Second Discourse, and especially ofEmile, have indicated that a more nuanced view is possible (Den 1988, Neuhouser 2008).According to these interpretations, amour propre is both thecause of humanity’s fall as well as the promise of its redemption becauseof the way in which it develops humans’ rational capacities and their senseof themselves as social creatures among others. Although Rousseauheld that the overwhelming tendency, socially and historically, isfor amour propre to take on toxic and self-defeating(‘inflamed’) forms, he also held that there are, at least inprinciple, ways of organizing social life and individual educationthat allow it to take on a benign character. This project of containing andharnessing amour propre finds expression in both TheSocial Contract and Emile. In some works, such as theSecond Discourse, Rousseau presents amour propre as apassion that is quite distinct from amour de soi. In others,including Emile, he presents it as a form that amour desoi takes in a social environment. The latter is consistent withhis view in Emile that all the passions areoutgrowths or developments of amour de soi.
Essays and criticism on Jean-Jacques Rousseau ..
Although amour propre has its origins in sexual competitionand comparison within small societies, it does not achieve its fulltoxicity until it is combined with a growth in material interdependenceamong human beings. In the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseautraces the growth of agriculture and metallurgy and the firstestablishment of private property, together with the emergence ofinequality between those who own land and those who do not. In anunequal society, human beings who need both the social good of recognitionand such material goods as food, warmth, etc. become enmeshed insocial relations that are inimical both to their freedom and to theirsense of self worth. Subordinates need superiors in order to haveaccess to the means of life; superiors need subordinates to workfor them and also to give them the recognition they crave. In such a structurethere is a clear incentive for people to misrepresent their truebeliefs and desires in order to attain their ends. Thus,even those who receive the apparent love and adulation of theirinferiors cannot thereby find satisfaction for their amourpropre. This trope of misrepresentation and frustration receivesits clearest treatment in Rousseau’s account of the figure of theEuropean minister, towards the end of the Discourse onInequality, a figure whose need to flatter others in order tosecure his own wants leads to his alienation from his own self.
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