Rousseaus Republican Romance


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He was ordered to stop by the police, and the "Confessions" was only partially published in , four years after his death all his subsequent works were only to appear posthumously.

Rousseau died on 2 July of a hemorrhage while taking a morning walk on the estate of the Marquis de Giradin at Ermenonville , near Paris. Rousseau saw a fundamental divide between society and human nature and believed that man was good when in the state of nature the state of all other animals, and the condition humankind was in before the creation of civilization , but has been corrupted by the artificiality of society and the growth of social interdependence.

This idea of the natural goodness of humanity has often led to the attribution the idea of the "noble savage" to Rousseau, although he never used the expression himself and it does not adequately render his idea. He did not, however, imply that humans in the state of nature necessarily acted morally in fact, terms such as 'justice' or 'wickedness' are simply inapplicable to pre-political society as Rousseau understood it.

For Rousseau, society's negative influence on men centers on its transformation of "amour de soi" a positive self-love which he saw as the instinctive human desire for self-preservation , combined with the human power of reason into "amour-propre" a kind of artificial pride which forces man to compare himself to others, thus creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others. In "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences" Rousseau argued that the arts and sciences had not been beneficial to humankind because they were not human needs , but rather a result of pride and vanity.

Moreover, the opportunities they created for idleness and luxury contributed to the corruption of man, undermined the possibility of true friendship by replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion , and made governments more powerful at the expense of individual liberty. His subsequent "Discourse on Inequality" expanded on this theme and tracked the progress and degeneration of mankind from a primitive state of nature to modern society in more detail, starting from the earliest humans solitary beings, differentiated from animals by their capacity for free will and their perfectibility, and possessed of a basic drive to care for themselves and a natural disposition to compassion or pity.

Forced to associate together more closely by the pressure of population growth , man underwent a psychological transformation and came to value the good opinion of others as an essential component of their own well-being , which led to a golden age of human flourishing with the development of agriculture, metallurgy, private property and the division of labor but which also led to inequality.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau concluded from his analysis of inequality that the first state was invented as a kind of social contract , but a flawed one made at the suggestion of the rich and powerful to trick the general population and institute inequality as a fundamental feature of human society. In "The Social Contract" of his most important work and one of the most influential works of Political Philosophy in the Western tradition , he offered his own alternative conception of the social contract. Opening with the dramatic lines, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they", Rousseau claimed contrary to his earlier work that the state of nature was a primitive and brutish condition, without law or morality , which humans deliberately left for the benefits and necessity of cooperation.


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He argued that, by joining together into civil society through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right , individuals can both preserve themselves and yet remain free , because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others , and also ensures that they themselves obey because they are collectively the authors of the law.

It should be noted that Rousseau was bitterly opposed to the idea that the people should exercise sovereignty via a representative assembly ; rather, he held that they should make the laws directly , which would effectively prevent the ideal state from becoming a large society , such as France was at the time. Rousseau's views on religion were highly controversial. His view that man is good by nature conflicted with the doctrine of original sin , and his theology of nature as well as the claims he made in "The Social Contract" that true followers of Jesus would not make good citizens led to the condemnation and banning of his books in both Calvinist Geneva and Catholic Paris.

Rousseau was one of the first modern writers to seriously attack the institution of private property , and therefore is considered to some extent a forebear of modern Socialism , Marxism and Anarchism.

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He also questioned the assumption that the will of the majority is always correct , arguing that the goal of government should be to secure freedom, equality and justice for all within the state, regardless of the will of the majority. The aim of education, he argued, is to learn how to live righteously , and this should be accomplished by following a guardian preferably in the countryside, away from the bad habits of the city who can guide his pupil through various contrived learning experiences. He minimized the importance of book learning and placed a special emphasis on learning by experience , and he recommended that a child's emotions should be educated before his reason.

He took the subordination of women as read, however, and envisaged a very different educational process for women, who were to be educated to be governed rather than to govern. See the additional sources and recommended reading list below, or check the philosophy books page for a full list. A huge subject broken down into manageable chunks.

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Rousseau's republican romance / Elizabeth Rose Wingrove. - Version details - Trove

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