Jean Jacques Rousseau, The
Chapter 1 & The Right of the Strongest
- Rousseau is giving us his view of government
based on force and rights based on force. What does he think of such governments and such rights?
- Imbedded within that discussion of force and
rights based on force, Rousseau gives us a couple glimpses of what he is
- p. 225 “But the right of the social order is a
sacred right which serves as a foundation for all others. This right however, does not come
from nature. It is therefore
based on conventions. The
question is to know what these conventions are.”
- What do you think this means?
How does this compare
with what Hobbes and Locke said about human rights? (Which one does Rousseau agree with?)
- p. 226 “Let us agree, then, that might does not
make right, and that we are bound to obey none but lawful
authorities. Thus my
original question ever recurs.”
This is what he is
looking for. What is it?!
The Social Pact
- This should sound very familiar by now. Compare what Rousseau is
saying here to what Hobbes and Locke said earlier.
- But Rousseau is looking for something
different: “To find an
association which may defend and protect the whole force of the community
the person and property of every associate, and by means of which each,
coalescing with all, may nevertheless obey only himself, and remain as
free as before.” Such is the
fundamental problem of which the social contract furnishes the solution.”
(226) What do you
think this means?
- Top of page 227: what does Rousseau mean by his distinction between
natural liberty and conventional liberty? What do you think of this distinction? (Keep in mind, this is part of his
solution to the problem stated in question #4.)
- Look carefully at the next four paragraphs. This is Rousseau’s scheme for
solving the dilemma our political theorists have been struggling
with. (What rights do
we have once we enter into society?
Keep Hobbes’ and Locke’s answers in mind.) Explain as clearly as you can how
Rousseau’s scheme works.
- Who is the sovereign in Rousseau’s social
- Middle of 228: “Now, the sovereign, being formed only of the
individuals that compose it, neither has nor can have any interest
contrary to theirs; consequently the sovereign power needs no guarantee
towards the subjects, because it is impossible that the body should wish
to injure all its members; and we shall see hereafter that it can injure
no one as in individual. The
sovereign, for the simple reason that it is so, is always everything that
it ought to be.”
How is this almost
identical to Hobbes?
Yet what makes it
Rousseau thinks this
difference is profound. Do you?
- What are the two roles (and the two duties) of
every member of the social pact?
- How can each member of
the body politic be both a member of the
Sovereign and a subject of the Sovereign?
- What does Rousseau demand in the way of obedience
of subjects to the sovereign?
This may look a lot like Hobbes again. Why would Rousseau insist that is totally different
Rousseau writes, “the sovereign
power . . . can injure no one as an individual.” Explain.
Why is it that the reverse can be true: that a subject can act in a way that
13. Bottom of 228: “whoever refuses
to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so
the whole body; which means nothing else than that he shall be forced to be
this mean that in order to be free, man must be in chains?!)
What does this mean?
How does the nature of
Rousseau’s sovereign make this reasonable? (Do you find it reasonable?)
The Civil State
What do people lose when they join the civil state? What do they gain?
Whether the General Will
In the last paragraph on page 229/484
(“There is often a great deal . . .”), Rousseau
the difference between the will of all and the general will. Please explain
this difference in your own words.
How does this help to make sense of Rousseau’s assertion that the
general will is always right?
What are partial associations and why are they dangerous?
The Limits of the
What determines which powers, properties and liberties an individual gives up
ones s/he retains) when joining the social compact?
18. Hobbes and Locke wrote about the
equality that exists in the state of nature.
writes about the equality that exists in the social compact. Why is that equality
to Rousseau’s “general will’? (See
p. 231/486, first column,
“By whatever path. . .” if you are having trouble.)
Rousseau doesn’t talk about dissolving the government or the social compact.