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november 15

Course Code
Irving Zeitlin

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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
-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, wouldn’t 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-
-This capacity for self-improvement—how 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 it—survival does not need these other capacities
-What he’s asserting is that humans have no social qualities in that condition—no 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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