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november 15

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University of Toronto St. George
Irving Zeitlin

November 15, 2010 Lecture: Rousseau and the Federalists -social contract theorist -believes you need to use the hypothetical construct of the state of nature to suggest that we have the right to criticize certain kinds of societies -advocated democracy -first test was to address the nature of human nature -have to clarify the nature of human nature -his conception is different from his predecessors -agrees with Montesquieu -as a result of ignorance of error, we misinterpret laws -when it comes to human beings, people make decisions as part of a long chain of means and ends -behaviour is caused by telos -not all human behaviour is neutral, have moral significance and consequences -At his time, France was in royal absolutism -Accuses Hobbes of having left in tact certain social and cultural attributes, i.e. we become warriors by socialization -If we were killers by nature, wouldnt draft soldiers -Rousseau wants to strip humans down to their original nature, pre-religion,-culture,-society etc -Wants to understand as they were before society, however this is difficult since when were humans ever without society? -There are two principles: -preservation and well-being, the other is an aversion to witnessing the destruction of any other sentient creature -A third principle is not necessary: socioability -Since we feel this sentience with animals, we should not harm them -The only difference between animals and humans is that humans have the ability for self- improvement -This capacity for self-improvementhow it emerges is felt as a necessity -In the state of nature, this capacity is still dormant, because humans beings in this benign state of nature have no need for itsurvival does not need these other capacities -What hes asserting is that humans have no social qualities in that conditionno sociability, no language, culture etc -Males and females unite only in brief encounters for desire and opportunity and then each goes their own way -As soon as the child can survive without the mother, leaves, and during youth, does not even recognize mother -Have just enough sociability to prompt us to come to the aid of others -Denies sociability because they have no real needs for other humans -contradicts himself -in this view, every human being is an island unto himself -however monkeys, wolves etc have real mutual needs that are created through cooperaton etc
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