October 10, 2013
(p.164) Social Contract is explained.
People are in a state of nature, different than equality. Typically there are family
structures within it. There is not a lot of detail why people would enter into this
contract. In the discourse of inequality is explains the development of actual
The rule of law is introduced after unequal relations.
It is not clear what the historical status of the contract is. His claim is universal.
Some people discuss rights as being for specific peoples at specific times, but
Rousseau says it is universal for all/time.
“Althoguht perhaps they have never been formally promogated, they are
everywhere the same, everywhere passively accepted and in knowledge.”
So we are separate individuals that come together to form a people, and then we are
sovereign, and we make laws to bound ourselves by.
One of the things he thinks he has solved, is that gov’t and laws are not “chains” they
are self inflicted law. As a collective we have decided for ourselves.
p.150. Roussaeu says we are forced to be free.
-Individual vs. common good. We have our own interests, but we are also a
community and we have communal interests. Just as at the individual level we can
have conflicting ideas of what we want to do, there will also be so at the community
-The idea of a good law is one that you would have given yourself.
-We are being forced to do what we would do if we could see the truth of collective
-Misguided interests vs. best interests
-Forcing slaves to be free.
The way it makes sense, is that at the individual level we can be able or unable to
recognize our self-interests. There are small cases, and extreme cases. Ex. Slavery,
cults. There are occasions when the force to be free makes sense.
The problem arises with politics.
How do we know what is in the common good?
Rousseau has an abstract, general notion of the common good.
The answer is simple majority systems.
Even if you believe there is a general will, how do you decide what they are?
Rousseau says we don’t have any idea, so we have to go with the majority. But this
can cause trouble, because the majority imposes things on the minority.
This can lead to false consciousness.
Sometimes people can think they are doing good, but are actually just blind by false
consciousness. So Rousseau wants to say that the heart of democracy is finding policies that express
the common good. So express those policies with laws.
Freedom and liberty are synonymous. There is no difference.
3 forms of liberty: natural, civil, moral…
When Rousseau says we are forced to be free, it is a form of civil freedom.
He makes the difference between natural liberty (which is in the state of nature),
civil liberty (when we are part of this group).. the first component of which is that
we are free, with laws that give us space… it is the security and protection to do
what you want, within a protected area (it is not limitless). Civil liberty gives you
the freedom to not be interfered with or have to be scared about external threats.
Civil liberty is self determination and self-society.
Moral liberty- “to be driven by appetite alone is slavery”, and obedience when
prescribed to the law is liberty.
He begins by saying man is born free, but in chains… He does not state whether
moral liberty is at the individual level or the group.
What is apparent is the rehabilitation of reason.
“it is only then when the voice of duty replaces physical impulse, and right replaces
appetite, does man consult his reason before
“his faculties are exercised and developed, his soul is elevated to such a height that if
the abuse of this new condition did not lower his status, he ought constantly hold on
the moment that transferred him from a stupid animal to a civil human being.”
He is saying it can be a story of the best and the worst.
He is telling the story now of what it could be if it was the best.
It has to do with the ambiguity of reason. IT is when we use our reason too much
that we get into trouble.
-How does JJ solve the
“the person who holds the first piece of land, if someone had stood up and said no…
than we would be better off”
He doesn’t get rid of private property.
In the state of nature we get possession. There are natural law limits. We get to
possess what we need and what we work.
Then we set up a contract, where we set up laws that transform possession into
property. So possession is underwritten by the contract.
But.. ultimately the distrbution of private property is under total control of the
sovereign. So if the sovereign decided that property must be used somewhere/how
else, than it can be taken away. Private property is ultimately decided by us.
p.168. “Owners are considered trustees of the public good.” IT is subject to being
subordinate to the public good. However property is acquired, each individual’s right to his own, is subordinate to
the communities right to all.
What gov’ts can do with private property is limited, but
-trustees of the public good
-Right to private property?
-relative social equality as a necessary condition of freedom.
“articulation of the principle of equality is mandatory for equality.” P.189.
“it boils down to two principle qualities, liberty and equality.”
Liberty cannot exist without equality and vice versa.
We need to be able to be independent.
“We need not live by the word that power and equality is the same, but rather no
citizen can be so rich as to buy another person, nor one so poor that they have to sell
Radical distribution of equality can undermine the state.
The General Will (book two)
The idea of a will acting as a subject or a choosing. We voluntarily choose a common
Just as when we act freely as individuals we do so voluntarily as a group.
The general will can never be mistaken.
What does he mean?
In one way the general will can never be mistaken. WE act out of self-interest, or to
make ourselves happy… we choose that it is what we want to do. So our actions are
our actions, it is what we wanted to do. But we could be influenced, drugs, out of
So there is a baseline of our choosing. So there is an abstract idea of what will is
generally for the group, an ideal that stands outside of actual decisions.
“general will is always right and always goes towards the general will. The
populous is never corrupted, but often tricked. There is often a great deal of