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POLS 2900 Feb. 26- Rousseau's social contract II.doc

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Political Science
POLS 2900
Stephen Newman

1 POLS 2900 Tuesday, February 26, 2013 ROUSSEAU: THE SOCIAL CONTRACT • Forcing one to be free: by compelling someone to arrive at a decision, they can be made free through coercion • Rousseau did not say that the particular will is irrational or that other impulses are irrational. The particular will, like the general will, can be rational. Rational goods and wants for ourselves. • The public good can be known, with certainty, because it is objective. But only known by those who possess esoteric knowledge – knowable only to philosophers. Sovereign • Sovereignty is inalienable and indivisible- sovereigns can make laws • It is wrong to delegate the law-making power to a smaller group. You cannot trust them because they possess a private will. There is risk that those who use it will use it to benefit themselves at your expense. It is only appropriate if ALL citizens participate in the decision-making. • Are people ever mistaken about their interests? Can the sovereign get it wrong, even though they wanted to do the right thing? Rousseau distinguishes this as the will of all- the sum of private wills. We arrive at the will of all by adding what each person wants for himself or herself together, in order to arrive at a public agenda. It is an aggregation of private interests. The will of all may look general, but it is not general, according to Rousseau, because the interests are private. They concern only the individuals who identify with them. The will of all turns the public agenda into a wish list. And every member of the community gets to place their private interests on the list. The general will is general because it concerns everyone. It requires all members of the community to think about what each wants as a citizen, rather than what each wants as a private individual. Particular Will and General Will • A will is particular when the object of some good is good for myself alone. It only concerns me and not anyone else. E.g. my preference to have tea or coffee in the morning is a particular will because it concerns only me and no one else. • Public power should be used to deliver the general good • The principle is: holding a vote. The
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