October 3, 2013
The two Rousseaus:
1. “Authenticity has been threatened, perhaps destroyed by progress.”
-Romantic theme of the “Discourse on Inequality”
2. “Reason tells us that we are fundamentally free and that consent is the only
basis of legitimate political rule.”
-Enlightenment theme of “On the Social Contract”
6 Topics covered in Book 1:
1. Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”
-Necessary evil of government
-Search for reconciliation through reason: “men as they are and laws as they
ought to be.”
-It could mean that every individual is born free, independent of what gov’t
or society they live under. That would be a liberal notion of freedom. IT is
essentially anti-Aristotilian. People obey their parents because they are
naturally dependent on them. Aristotle wanted to say that that was a
principle in all of nature. That there were natural rulers and natural subjects.
Modernity fundamentally breaks from this. There is nothing in nature that
makes us under authority of anyone, like we are naturally under the
guidance of our parents. All rulers are chosen. We are not naturally under
-Political regimes are not our choice, we are born into them. There is a
contradiction, that Rousseau thinks we should not have this natural
-So what can we do about it? There is a tradition in liberalism to say that
gov’t has to exist. We justify our diminishing of our freedom. That view is
now libertarianism. It also starts with the premise that we are naturally free,
but we need gov’t to get on with our lives.
-What Rousseau wants to show is how we can transform those chains. How
we can live under gov’t and still be free.
(quote page 165…. Book 1, chapter 6)
-We do not want to give up any of our freedom living under gov’t
(quote page 156… )
-He is making this claim universally. All gov’ts should be this way. It should
be a political unit that does not violate our freedom.
2. Authority/ Obligation/ Legitimacy/ Sovereignty
-Why do we obey laws?
-Why ought we to obey laws? -What is the legitimate foundations of laws?
-When we think of power we often think that a person has a legitimate right
to that authority. Teachers have authority over us.
-Authority is some form of a right to order someone around. It almost always
comes with power.
-Sometimes obligation goes hand in hand with authority. A teacher can kick
you our, and you are obliged to leave.
-What is the basis of obligation? It implies that there is an ought. It is a
-Why do people follow the law? Habit, fear, believing it is the right thing to
do, you don’t want to get caught. Mostly it comes from legitimacy. IT is
thought that you cannot have a stable political so