The problem with Hobbes's account is essentially the method he uses. Hobbes looks at man deformed by society, and calls him natural man. Really, he should attempt to follow Rousseau and look back at man's origins. Rousseau's idea of the natural goodness of savage man rests not on any good quality that man might have, but rather on his ignorance.
SparkNotes: Discourse on Inequality: Part One, page 3
Without language or the ability to reason, it simply never occurs to the savage to be evil. This clearly conflicts with the Biblical idea of original sin, which states that man is born bad and can only be redeemed through God's grace.
Such an idea is nonsensical to Rousseau, who argues that any idea of savage man as evil comes from confusing savage and civil man. From his picture of savage man, Rousseau derives the two basic principles of the Discourse : pity and self- preservation. The two qualities are what make it possible for savage men to exist together, because they essentially balance each other out. Pity draws one person towards another, whereas the desire for self-preservation draws men apart. These two principles rarely conflict, according to Rousseau, because one person's pity should prevent him from interfering with another's attempts to preserve himself.
The reference to Mandeville shows how important Rousseau felt pity to be: Mandeville controversially argued for the doctrine of "private vices, public benefits. Rousseau goes further than Mandeville by arguing that pity was the only rule that natural man needed.
Pity takes the place of laws because if you pity another and empathize with him, you cannot harm him. In the civil state, however, laws develop, in part because self-preservation and pity are no longer balanced against each other. Amour propre is a kind of extreme self-preservation unbalanced by pity.
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Only self-preservation and pity can guarantee a degree of harmony. Rousseau is clear that ordinary laws cannot have this effect, partly because they rely on reason. Also, laws may in fact create certain evil passions. This is an unconvincing version of the chicken-and-egg argument.
Rousseau intends to suggest that if savage man can be good without laws, then perhaps only laws make him bad. However, if this is true, then why are laws introduced? Rousseau attempts to answer this in Part Two. Many writers have interpreted this section as describing the "noble savage. This is far from Rousseau's point, however. Firstly, Rousseau makes it very clear that talking about natural goodness is a mistake; secondly, there is very little "nobility" in natural man.
He is merely an animal, without any higher faculties or interest in anything other than food, rest and sex. Thirdly, it is clear that the Discourse sets out a model of development that cannot be reversed. Rousseau may admire some aspects of the savage's life, or even think that he is better off than modern man, but he never considers that we could or should return to the state of nature. Rousseau's conclusion to this section restates and develops his central argument, but leaves several questions hanging.
The main question to be answered is how inequality develops from the basic state of nature presented here. Discourse on Inequality by: Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Important Quotations Explained. Summary Part One. Page 1 Page 2 Page 3. Discourse on Inequality: Popular pages. Take a Study Break. The key to this reconciliation is the idea of the general will: that is, the collective will of the citizen body taken as a whole. The general will is the source of law and is willed by each and every citizen.
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In obeying the law each citizen is thus subject to his or her own will, and consequently, according to Rousseau, remains free. On such a reading, Rousseau may be committed to something like an a posteriori philosophical anarchism. Such a view holds that it is be possible, in principle, for a state to exercise legitimate authority over its citizens, but all actual states—and indeed all states that we are likely to see in the modern era—will fail to meet the conditions for legitimacy. Rousseau argues that in order for the general will to be truly general it must come from all and apply to all.
This thought has both substantive and formal aspects. Formally, Rousseau argues that the law must be general in application and universal in scope. The law cannot name particular individuals and it must apply to everyone within the state. Rousseau believes that this condition will lead citizens, though guided by a consideration of what is in their own private interest, to favor laws that both secure the common interest impartially and that are not burdensome and intrusive.
For this to be true, however, it has to be the case that the situation of citizens is substantially similar to one another. In a state where citizens enjoy a wide diversity of lifestyles and occupations, or where there is a great deal of cultural diversity, or where there is a high degree of economic inequality, it will not generally be the case that the impact of the laws will be the same for everyone.
In such cases it will often not be true that a citizen can occupy the standpoint of the general will merely by imagining the impact of general and universal laws on his or her own case. In The Social Contract Rousseau envisages three different types or levels of will as being in play. First, individuals all have private wills corresponding to their own selfish interests as natural individuals; second, each individual, insofar as he or she identifies with the collective as a whole and assumes the identity of citizen, wills the general will of that collective as his or her own, setting aside selfish interest in favor of a set of laws that allow all to coexist under conditions of equal freedom; third, and very problematically, a person can identify with the corporate will of a subset of the populace as a whole.
The general will is therefore both a property of the collective and a result of its deliberations, and a property of the individual insofar as the individual identifies as a member of the collective.
In a well-ordered society, there is no tension between private and general will, as individuals accept that both justice and their individual self-interest require their submission to a law which safeguards their freedom by protecting them from the private violence and personal domination that would otherwise hold sway. In practice, however, Rousseau believes that many societies will fail to have this well-ordered character.
One way in which they can fail is if private individuals are insufficiently enlightened or virtuous and therefore refuse to accept the restrictions on their own conduct which the collective interest requires. Another mode of political failure arises where the political community is differentiated into factions perhaps based on a class division between rich and poor and where one faction can impose its collective will on the state as a whole. The Social Contract harbors a further tension between two accounts of how the general will emerges and its relation to the private wills of citizens.
Sometimes Rousseau favors a procedural story according to which the individual contemplation of self interest subject to the constraints of generality and universality and under propitious sociological background conditions such as rough equality and cultural similarity will result in the emergence of the general will from the assembly of citizens see Sreenivasan In this account of the emergence of the general will, there seems to be no special need for citizens to have any specifically moral qualities: the constraints on their choice should be enough.
However, Rousseau also clearly believes that the mere contemplation of self interest would be inadequate to generate a general will. This may partly concern issues of compliance, since selfish citizens who can will the general will might still not be moved to obey it. But Rousseau also seems to believe that citizen virtue is a necessary condition for the emergence of the general will in the first place. This presents him with a problem for which his figure of the legislator is one attempted solution.
As a believer in the plasticity of human nature, Rousseau holds that good laws make for good citizens. However, he also believes both that good laws can only be willed by good citizens and that, in order to be legitimate, they must be agreed upon by the assembly. This puts him in some difficulty, as it is unlikely that the citizens who come together to form a new state will have the moral qualities required to will good laws, shaped as those citizens will have been by unjust institutions. The legislator or lawgiver therefore has the function of inspiring a sense of collective identity in the new citizens that allows them to identify with the whole and be moved to support legislation that will eventually transform them and their children into good citizens.
In this story, however, the new citizens at first lack the capacity to discern the good reasons that support the new laws and the lawgiver has to persuade them by non-rational means to legislate in their own best interests.
George Rousseau And Jean Jacques Rousseau Essay
The figure of the legislator is a puzzle. Like the tutor in Emile , the legislator has the role of manipulating the desires of his charges, giving them the illusion of free choice without its substance. Little wonder then that many critics have seen these characters in a somewhat sinister light. In both cases there is a mystery concerning where the educator figure comes from and how he could have acquired the knowledge and virtue necessary to perform his role.
This, in turn, raises a problem of regress. Since he uses the notion in several distinct ways, though, it is important to distinguish several uses of the term. First, we should note that Rousseau regards the capacity for choice, and therefore the ability to act against instinct and inclination, as one of the features that distinguishes the human race from animal species and makes truly moral action possible.
In the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality , for example, he characterizes animal species in essentially Cartesian terms, as mechanisms programmed to a fixed pattern of behavior. Human beings, on the other hand are not tied to any particular mode of life and can reject the promptings of instinct. Rousseau also takes this freedom to choose to act as the basis of all distinctively moral action. In Book I chapter 8 of the The Social Contract , Rousseau tries to illuminate his claim that the formation of the legitimate state involves no net loss of freedom, but in fact, he makes a slightly different claim.
The new claim involves the idea of an exchange of one type of freedom natural freedom for another type civil freedom. Since all human beings enjoy this liberty right to all things, it is clear that in a world occupied by many interdependent humans, the practical value of that liberty may be almost nonexistent. Further, inevitable conflict over scarce resources will pit individuals against each other, so that unhindered exercise of natural freedom will result in violence and uncertainty.
The formation of the state, and the promulgation of laws willed by the general will, transforms this condition. With sovereign power in place, individuals are guaranteed a sphere of equal freedom under the law with protection for their own persons and security for their property. Provided that the law bearing equally on everyone is not meddlesome or intrusive and Rousseau believes it will not be, since no individual has a motive to legislate burdensome laws there will be a net benefit compared to the pre-political state. On the face of it, this claim looks difficult to reconcile with the fact of majorities and minorities within a democratic state, since those citizens who find themselves outvoted would seem to be constrained by a decision with which they disagree.
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Many commentators have not found this argument fully convincing. The picture is further complicated by the fact that he also relies on a fourth conception of freedom, related to civil freedom but distinct from it, which he nowhere names explicitly. This hostility to the representation of sovereignty also extends to the election of representatives to sovereign assemblies, even where those representatives are subject to periodic re-election.
Even in that case, the assembly would be legislating on a range of topics on which citizens have not deliberated. Laws passed by such assemblies would therefore bind citizens in terms that they have not themselves agreed upon. Not only does the representation of sovereignty constitute, for Rousseau, a surrender of moral agency, the widespread desire to be represented in the business of self-rule is a symptom of moral decline and the loss of virtue.
The practical difficulties of direct self-rule by the entire citizen body are obvious. Such arrangements are potentially onerous and must severely limit the size of legitimate states.