Tagged: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Three Perspectives on Political Theory

What is the main task for any state? Providing security, creating a diverse and stable reform-oriented middle class, or unifying the citizenship through education into a strong community? These three views on political theory can be correlated with the names of Machiavelli, Aristotle, and Plato. I will discuss them briefly.

1. Security first: political realism and the role of power (Machiavelli, Hobbes.)
2. Diversity and freedom: stability and reform (Aristotle, Locke)
3. Community, unity, and vision (Plato, Rousseau.)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Philosophy

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is the philosopher of the French revolution; he criticizes Hobbes for assuming that the human in the  “state of nature . . . has no idea of goodness; he must be naturally wicked; that he is vicious because he does not know virtue.” Rousseau assumes the opposite: in the natural state, humans have “uncorrupted morals“; not in the sense of a developed morality, but in the negative sense of a primitive morality that is not yet corrupted by society. It is a state prior to any socialization. In this state, human beings are free, self-sufficient, and because...

Rousseau – The Social Contract

“Du Contract Social” (The Social Contract), 1762) is Rousseau’s most comprehensive work on politics. It is a cornerstone of modern political philosophy. BOOK I 1. SUBJECT OF THE FIRST BOOK MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer. If I took into account only force, and the effects derived from it, I should say: “As long as a people is compelled...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Discourse on Inequality

This excerpt from Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind,” 1754, describes his view of the human in a state of nature; before socialization occurs. In his view, inequality is an effect of socialization, it is not an effect of human nature.  For some, this view creates the hope that we can build better societies, with less inequality; for others, it is an idealism that misleads people into dangerous political experiments. Part One: Man in a State of Nature “It appears, at first view, that men in a state of nature, having no moral relations...