The Philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Genevan philosopher writing in French, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote essentially:
- Discourse on the Sciences and Arts (1750)
- The Social Contract (1762)
- Emile – On Education (1762)
Rousseau has been subject to multiple interpretations, often contradictory and caricatured and beyond these, critics have beens sometimes simplistic, but the attentive reader discovers in these works an original and coherent thinker, which was fundamentally interested in the real contract, and repressing the world of violence.
Rousseau’s key political ideas was the general will rather than the social contract. Political society is seen by Rousseau as involving the total voluntary subjection of every individual to the collective general will; this being both the sole source of legitimate sovereignty and something that cannot but be directed towards the common good.
Rousseau and the natural man theory:
So is this the famous concept of state of nature, which is often subject to interpretations and caricatures which, far from representing a given reality, means a methodological hypothesis and a working instrument for Rousseau.
- If we subtract by assumptions that the company has brought to man, we get a condition that probably never existed but which, through abstraction, to enlighten our present situation.
Thus emerges the natural man, methodological fiction. What are its characteristics?
- We include it as opposed to those of animals, this simple machine.
- Consciousness and freedom define man, always able to acquiesce or resist his impressions, as we said Rousseau in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.
- The natural man can provide for his needs: he is happy.
- The only social sentiment that belongs to him is pity, effective power to identify with anyone who suffers.
► Pity is a natural feeling which, in moderating the activity of each individual’s love of oneself, contributes to the mutual preservation of the entire species.
► distinguish here with Rousseau, love and self-esteem: the first refers to a natural feeling for any animal to ensure its preservation. The second, however, born into society, each individual door to more cases of itself than any other.
Man, unlike animals, going forward: it has indeed the perfectibility, opportunity to grow, and to open a development and its history.
If the animal is characterized by its static and ignores history, man appears as an intelligent and creative dynamism.
Rousseau, education and social evil:
Thus man can evolve in the direction of good, of course, but also in trouble, because this is the flip side, because human creativity is coupled with the formation of social evil.
The property ownership rights of certain objects, represents the extreme end of the state of nature.
- The first who thought of saying ‘this is mine “was the real founder of civil society.
- In effect, the property that is the foundation of civil society, that is to say, organized and has a culture.
Progressing and in this context, political inequality, characterized by various privileges enjoyed by some, to the detriment of others: being the richest, most powerful …
Civil society, ruled by violence, force unleashed, without any recourse to law, thus tends to despotism, its extreme form, which is almost inherent.
- Call despotic political authority, refuse to submit to the law, putting themselves above it, and usurping the sovereign power.
- The tyrant, the usurper of sovereign power, should not be confused with the tyrant, usurper of the royal authority.
Thus, the man is everywhere in chains.
Rousseau and the social contract:
How to remedy the evil? How can democracy solve the problem ?
- The problem arises in such clear terms: to find a form of society where man can recognize himself, obey the law and at the same time, be free.
- The optics of Rousseau will be in this quest, normative.
So, the foundation of the right political bases its object of study. The social contract refers to as the pact establishing the rule of law policy, which is legitimate.
- It is not about what really happened, but what needs to be. That is to say, a pact, under which the citizens surrender all their natural rights in favor of Sovereign, higher body of power, the body politic as it is considered active.
- In this perspective, citizens call, all persons participating in the sovereign and subjects, the same individuals as they are subject to the laws of the State.
The concept of sovereignty is, as we see, Central:
- It means the exercise of the general will, will of the social body united for a common interest.
- There is therefore a close link between the concept of the sovereign and the general will: the sovereign, the supreme authority, must act, not according to his pleasure, but according to the wishes of the general will, which will recognize all members of society.
Finally, the general will, can not be transmitted: Rousseau eliminates the representative system, since the exercise of the general will can not be delegated.
- The law of the city will emanate directly from this general will.
- With this in mind and the prospect that political freedom can be actualized, the law being an instrument of freedom and its organ.
- The law, mandatory and universal expression of the general will, allows autonomy:
► Men abide, in fact, that emanates from them into law.
► They are accountable to it for freedom and justice.
► By law, they escape the arbitrary inclinations.
► Attention must be distinguished from the simple law decree, act of executive power.
Thus, with the real contract, the Good and the Right will eventually have the last word.
Rousseau and morality:
It was in Emile or education or, more precisely, in the famous Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar, Rousseau explains his morality, the principle is innate: that principle is consciousness, conceived as the property possessed the human mind to bear moral evaluations.
Conscience is a feeling, that is to say, a spiritual, intuitive and immediate.
- God gave us love good conscience.
- What is God mentioned in Emile? Being one who wants and can, which moves the universe and orders all things.
If human history is that of a fall, the cure is within our reach. Robespierre and Saint-Just make statements of Rousseau (by transforming course …) a revolutionary programme.