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Rousseau Social Contract, cont.

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Presentation on theme: "Rousseau Social Contract, cont."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rousseau Social Contract, cont.
PHIL 1003

2 Sovereign (1.7, II.1-2) Sovereign = whole people willing GW (like polis)’ Sovereign cannot alienate part of itself; Sovereign is not Government: Gov’t is merely agent (executive) of sovereign! Sov. cannot be obligated by a law it may not change, e.g. a Bill of Rights Ex: Great Britain: parliamentary supremacy; No need to guarantee citizens’ rights: Sovereign could never want to hurt part of itself: “The Sovereign, by the mere fact that it is, is always everything that it ought to be”; Each wills general will, so no disagreement is possible (1.7.5).

3 How is sovereignty exercised?
Legislative power is life force of Sovereign (III.12.1) Exercised by assembled people, not by representatives: “fixed and periodic assemblies” (III.13.1) “Sovereignty cannot be represented…” (III.15.5) “The English people thinks that it is free;…it is free only during the election of members of Parliament…” (III.15.5).

4 Two aspects of the General Will
As standard Conceptual Even hypothetical common good; public utility, As collective decision: Not your private interest or sum of private or partial interests of some citizens Sum of small differences Of each expressing his own opinion.

5 Enforcement of GW—Totalitarian?
Each has a particular will (private interest) as individual; And general will as citizen; As an individual he may not want to give what is required by general will/Sovereign; Hence Sovereign needs to enforce 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).

6 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.”

7 Qualifications to Death penalty
“…frequent harsh punishments are always a sign of weakness of laziness in the Government. “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.”

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

9 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).

10 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).

11 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.”

12 “indestructible” (IV.1)?
Why is GW “indestructible” (IV.1)?

13 The Social Pact/Sovereign
An “advantageous exchange” (II.4.10) Not permanent: Even Sparta and Roman republic perished (III.11.1) Usurpations by gov’t may destroy it (III.10.6) Unique feature of Rousseau’s SC: Each contracts only w/ himself: Contracts to obey the universal moral law he prescribes to himself (Kant follows this); Obeying only himself, remains as free as before.

14 Degeneration of sovereignty, social pact
Suspension of assemblies; Usurpation of sovereign authority by Gov’t; Increase in wealth, size; Increase in private diversions; citizens no longer public-minded: Res publica, public thing disregarded; mercenaries fight wars (III.15).

15 Degeneration, cont. Social bond loosens Officials proliferate
Factions, parties proliferate Esp. when one faction is dominant (II.3.3): “the result you have is no longer the sum of small differences, but one single difference”; “the opinion that prevails is nothing but a private opinion.”

16 Can the SC be dissolved? Yes, see III.10.6
Problem: Can the SC be dissolved? Yes, see III.10.6

17 Aristotle on Democracy
Not rule of the best: aristocracy, kingship, aristocracy, polity But not worst regime either—these are: tyranny, oligarchy Qualified endorsement of democracy: Democracy = best of worst; Democracy exhibits collective wisdom; Diners, not cooks, should judge quality of meal; Large group harder to corrupt than a small one.

18 Rousseau on democratic gov’t
“a genuine Democracy never has existed, and never will exist” (III.4.3) “It is against the natural order that the greater number govern and the smaller number be governed” (III.4.3); Subject to “civil wars and intestine turmoil”; “If there were a people of Gods, they would govern themselves democratically. So perfect a Gov’t is not suited to men” (III.4.[ ]).

19 Freedom is like robust food, or wine:
not for all peoples (DOI, Epistle; SC, III.8.1).

20 On what distinction does Rousseau’s skepticism about democracy rest?
(Hint: sovereignty is democratic)

21 Aristocratic republic
3 kinds aristocracy: Natural, elective, hereditary Rousseau prefers elective DOI Dedicatory epistle: people elect the best as their officials “the best and most natural order is to have the wisest govern the multitude, so long as it is certain that they will govern if for its advantage and not for their own” (III.5.7). “moderation among the rich and contentment among the poor” (approaching equality, but not “rigorous”) (III.5.9).

22 Questions Book I of The Social Contract begins with the claim: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." What are these restrictions on man's liberty and how are they affected by the social contract? Rousseau says that "whenever one believes one sees sovereignty divided, one is mistaken.” How can sovereignty not be divided when the individual's will is not necessarily the general will? What does Rousseau mean by the "general will?" (Does he mean that it's the will that's most represented?) What is Rousseau's input on equality for individuals under the Social Contract?

23 Different views of freedom
Communitarian: Aristotle: polis regulates entire life of citizen Rousseau: Sovereign has right to demand anything required by “public utility,” but nothing more (II.4.4). Libertarian: Locke: private domain of life, liberty, property—inviolable; Mill: only justification for “interfering with the liberty of action of any[one]…is self-protection” (9); State may require “positive acts for the benefit of others” (10); Can someone be punished for failing to prevent evil? (11)—more difficult to determine.

24 Mill on Freedom Key liberties: Thought, Expression, Association
Pursue one’s good in one’s own way (12) This may mean letting others do things they think may benefit them even if you believe otherwise!

25 Problem What about use of substances such as alcohol, marijuana and other drugs? Does Mill believe the state has the right to restrict individuals’ use of these? If yes, under what conditions?

26 Question on Mill According to Mill’s Harm Principle, “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm from others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” Is harm necessary to justify regulation? Should government punish individuals who interfere with others out of altruism? Take Mill's example of Good Samaritan laws. Suppose a man fails to rescue the drowning child when he can do so at little or no cost to himself. It seems that his failure to rescue harms the child. Should the government, in this case, punish this man? Does failure to provide benefits always count as harm?

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