Is The General Will Always Right? Essay

1596 Words Oct 4th, 2015 7 Pages
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 may employ wrong methods for right goals.
In fact, Rousseau’s concept of the general will is largely different from what it appears like. By the general will, Rousseau does not refer to what all or the majority of people believes (2.2.1), nor the algebraic sum of individuals’ opinions (2.3.2). Instead, the general will is what people would agree on only in sake of the social whole (2.3.3). To put it in another way, individuals are required to judge as if they were gods of justice who acted merely on behalf of the common good and never took into consideration any particular interests (2.3.3). Those particular interests are not limited to personal interests, but also family, company, group, party, race, gender, age and any other interests…

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