Is The General Will Always Right Analysis

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Philosophy 2400
Zhiyuan Li

Is the general will always right?
In November 2014, China released a draft amendment to its Criminal Law, including exempting nine crimes from the death penalty. However, a considerable number of people almost immediately expressed their strong disagreement on lightening punishment for those crimes and asked for the most severe punishment instead. If we regard reducing death penalty crimes as the general will, or what is best for the whole society, the opponents might therefore ask, “Is the general will always right?” According to Rousseau (1762), the answer is an absolute yes since the general will always aims at the common good (2.3.3). However, I object that the general will can be wrong because the general will
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However, this is not what Rousseau is trying to argue. He clarifies that there’s a crucial difference between the general will being wrong and people being wrong (2.3.1). With particular interests not eliminated, people are likely to arrive at a false general will, which in essence is a particular will (2.3.3). Although the general will is always right, it fails to ensure that every individual will grasp a correct understanding of it, thus resulting in unintentional mistakes. Even though people are given clear instructions on discovering general will, they could choose not to follow the correct instructions and hence misunderstand the general will. Under such circumstances, it is the people that are at fault and the innocent general will should not be blamed for being …show more content…
The first explanation indicates that everything the general will does should be right, but not necessarily promotes general prosperity, nor is for the sake of the right ends. As for the second, as long as the general will aims at the right ends, it is never a problem what means the general will employs. The third explanation is most realistic since it only focus on the current welfare and does not care about the ends or the means. Rousseau would first reject the third explanation. Merely being wealthy and living a comfortable life should not be regarded as the ultimate end of the general will because there’re more pursuable objectives available: equality and liberty (2.11.1). It is exactly the chase after equality and liberty that has inspired people to walk out of primitive days and into modern days (2.11.1). The objection posed above adopts the first explanation. However, there’s still some ambiguity on what “right” means. If “right” refers to “suitable,” the objection works. But if it refers to “morally right,” the objection will encounter a problem with the standards of morality. As Rousseau claims, morality comes from and depends on the general will,

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