Human Nature: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Unlike Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophies on human nature and the state of nature can be compared easily to those of Locke. In Rousseau’s state of nature, he believed than man is born inherently good; it was the invention of private property, in his perspective, that ruined the state of nature. He thought that once man could claim something other than his own self, then the right to preservation would be extended to his property. It was this that led Rousseau to conclude that property undercuts a person’s humanity and it takes away from his or her compassion and ability to pity. The more property a man accumulates, the bigger his ego became, which leads to a less compassionate society, and then eventually leads to war. When it comes …show more content…
Although these two sound similar, they are much different. The “general will” is Rousseau’s idea of how society should function. He theorizes that the “general will” is the community as a whole, that people would surrender their rights to; Rousseau expects that the people will obey it blindly. The purpose of the “general will” is to protect what is good for the whole of society and to perfect the idea of freedom in the state of nature. Even though that sounds similar to the majority, the two are not the same; however, the “general will” should reflect the majority in practice. Rousseau writes, “Each of us places in common his person and all his power under the supreme direction of the general will; and as one body we all receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole” (214). In Rousseau’s Social Contract, the people are the sovereign, not the government or anyone/anything else, and although they loose natural liberty, the people gain civil liberty. In this society, “whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to it by the whole body: this in fact only forces him to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, guarantees his absolute personal independence, a condition which gives motion and effect to the political machine” (217). For the “General Will” to be a functional society, every member has to obey it and him or herself. Unlike the “Will of All’, the “General Will” is never wrong, and it is impartial. The “Will of All” is not the will of the majority; it is the sum of the private interest in society. It also is not unanimous, and could be bad for society since it reflects private will, and private will could be wrong. Rousseau’s Social Contract is one that requires all citizen’s to give up their right for the good of the whole, yet it is the citizen’s who control the government, because they are

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