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PHIL 2345 Rousseau Social Contract, Book 2:. The General Will (‘GW’): as standard and decision Common good; public utility—a standard; Also a collective.

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Presentation on theme: "PHIL 2345 Rousseau Social Contract, Book 2:. The General Will (‘GW’): as standard and decision Common good; public utility—a standard; Also a collective."— Presentation transcript:

1 PHIL 2345 Rousseau Social Contract, Book 2:

2 The General Will (‘GW’): as standard and decision Common good; public utility—a standard; Also a collective decision: –Not your private interest or sum of private or partial interests of some citizens. Constrains you as citizen: –you may not do anything that goes against it, or –you become an enemy of the Sovereign (1.7.8); –But see II.5 on the death penalty.

3 How the GW may err “…the general will is always upright…but it does not follow…that the people’s deliberations are always equally upright”; “One always wants one’s good, but one does not always see it” (II.3.1); “By itself the people always wills the good, but by itself it does not always see it”; The general will is always upright, but the judgment which guides it is not always enlightened” (II.6.10).

4 Will of all vs general will (II.3.2) Will of all does NOT = general will! GW = common interest But GW can be derived from “sum of small [private] differences”: –“…if, from these same wills, one takes away the pluses and the minuses which cancel each other out, what is left as the sums of the differences is the general will” (II.3.2).

5 Assumptions behind GW Perfect information No political parties, ‘PACs’, lobbies, factions: “no partial society in the State, and every citizen state[s] only his own opinion” (II.3.4). Example: “troops of peasants seen attending to affairs of State under an oak tree and always acting wisely” (IV.1.1).

6 Question Rousseau believes that the ideal political situation is one in which each one of us express our own opinion. However, suppose there are 100 people with 100 opinions, how can we make these 100 opinions become one ‘general’ will? It is as if 100 men are talking 100 different languages, how can we make the ground and achieve the ‘general’ point that everyone can accept? If we were still in ancient Greece, Rousseau’s idea seems plausible as that society was less complicated than today. But how about a modern society which emphasizes efficiency? Is such a voting system plausible today? The difference is, in ancient Greece, people can discuss until they reach a decision andthey never hurry. However, our modern society just can't slow down. It seems unaffordable for us to spend so much time on voting or figuring out what the general will is.

7 Enforcement of GW— Totalitarian? Each has a particular will (private interest) as individual; –he may not want to give what is required by general will/Sovereign; And general will as citizen; Hence Sovereign enforces compliance: –“whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the entire body”; –“he shall be forced to be free” (1.7.8).

8 Death Penalty (II.5) enemy of the Sovereign is “forced to be free” (1.7.8); “…it is in order not to become the victim of an assassin that one consents to die if one becomes an assassin oneself”; “Besides every evil-doer who attacks social rights becomes a rebel and a traitor to the fatherland by his crimes, by violating its laws he ceases to be a member of it, and even enters into war with it. Then the preservation of the State is incompatible with his own, one of the two has to perish, and when the guilty man is put to death it is less as a citizen than as an enemy.”

9 Qualifications to Death penalty (II.5) “…frequent harsh punishments are always a sign of weakness of laziness in the Government. ‘In a well-governed state there are few punishments….’ “There is not a single wicked man who could not be made good for something. One only has the right to put to death, even as an example, someone who cannot be preserved without danger.” ‘…let us leave these questions to be discussed by the just man who has never lapsed, and never himself been in need of pardon.’

10 Public Utility Limitation (II.4.3) “It is agreed that each man alienates by the social pact only that portion of his power, his goods, his freedom, which it is important for the community to be able to use, but it should also be agreed to that the Sovereign is alone judge of that importance.”

11 Question: When a person enters the social contract, he gives up his natural freedom (the ability to do anything one wants which is to be found in the SoN) in exchange for civil freedom. Is Rousseau giving a higher priority to civil freedom than to natural freedom? Rousseau asserts that anyone who does not obey the general will should be compelled to do so by the community. Does this imply that Rousseau supports tyanny and disregards individual rights?

12 Why is GW “indestructible” (IV.1)?

13 Enter The Lawgiver Ex: Lycurgus of Sparta Solon of Athens

14 ‘All are equally in need of guides’ (II.6.10)

15 Critical role of Lawgiver (II.7) ‘capable of…changing human nature’ ‘an extraordinary man in the State’ –Not a magistrate or king, pre-constitutional –Ancient custom to ask a foreigner to draft laws He makes individual part of whole that gives him life, being: –Natural forces taken away (competition) –Replaced by new forces (cooperation) Whole > than sum of parts: –each Citizen can do nothing w/out others

16 The Lawgiver’s secret work Must find a way to speak to the people; His ideas and language are not theirs: –His ‘sublime reason which rises beyond the reach of vulgar men…’ Problem of overcoming personal interest –rational choice of each to pursue own good –Competitively or cooperatively? –Hobbes’s problem too. Convince people to ‘freely obey the yoke of public felicity, and bear it with docility’ (II.7.11); ‘resort to the intervention of heaven’.

17 The Fit between laws and peoples (II.8) Architect analogy: –s/he tests the ground before building –Wise institutor (lawgiver) examines the people for whom laws are to be written; Laws should fit the people: –Laws for free men different than for those used to tutelage or bondage E.g. the ancient Romans after the Tarquins had to be led gradually back to freedom (Dedicatory letter to DOI) Swiss and Dutch after they threw out ‘Tyrants’ Time of maturity is key –Russia should have stayed war-like, and developed a Russian identity –Instead, the ‘Tartars’, the Russians’s subjects, will conquer Europe!

18 4 kinds of laws (II.12) Political: –If they are bad, they may be changed –This is the people’s right—they may even make them worse! Civil: independence of Citizen w/ respect to others (property protection), but dependent on State Criminal Unwritten law written in the hearts of Citizens: –‘morals, customs, and above all opinion’—’the immovable Keystone’ –‘to which the great Lawgiver attends in secret’ –‘the most important of all’.

19 Book 3

20 Question It seems puzzling that Rousseau, who is very much in favour of freedom and liberty, should side with Aristocracy as the best form of government. Although he points out the dangers of democracy as well as those of Aristocracy and Monarchy, why should it be better for a single person to act on behalf of the majority? Surely it follows that the general will is best understood by the general population who, when acting together, devolve power from a potentially corrupt leader. He claims that the problems associated with Aristocracies are easier to spot and prevent than those of democracy--is this not merely a baseless assumption?

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