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POLI 362 - Rousseau: State of War.doc

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Political Science
POLI 362
Catherine Lu

Rousseau – The State of War Begins, like in Perpetual Peace, with the Great Contradiction: “man to man we live in a civil state and subject to laws; people to people, each enjoys natural freedom: which at bottom makes our situation worse than if these distinctions were unknown. For by living both in the social order and in the state of nature, we are subject to the inconveniences of both without finding security in either” (163). On international law: “the right of nations, having no other guarantee than its utility to the one who submits to it, its decisions are respected only as long as self-interest confirms them” (163). On Hobbes and the State of Nature Rousseau argues that it is madness to conceive of the state of nature as war of all against all. “How can one conceive that this species, so monstrous and so detestable, could last even two generations?” (164). Furthermore, the civil state merely constrains our natural inclinations, not eradicates them. If humans are naturally warmongers, we would still find cause to war in the civil state. I think Rousseau is strawmaning here... “The error of Hobbes and of the philosophers is to confuse natural man with the men they have before their eyes, and to move into one system a being that can thrive only in another” (164). “Superfluity arouses greed; the more one gets, the more one desires” (164). “The madness for universal monarchy never tormented any but a great king's heart” (165). Hence, Rousseau claims that greed is not so much a fixed component of human nature, but rather, a symptom of society. Furthermore, even if one grants this a priori greed to philosophers such as Hobbes, one still encounters a problem: “this unbridled desire to appropriate everything is incompatible with that of destroying all of one's fellows... the victor who, having killed everyone, had the misfortune to remain alone in the world, would enjoy nothing in it precisely because he would have everything... Will his stomach devour all of the earth's fruit? Who will gather for him the produce from the four corners of the earth; who will carry the evidence of his empire to the vast wastes he will never inhabit?” (165). Rousseau's State of Nature “Man is naturally peaceable and timorous, at the slightest danger his first movement is to flee; he becomes warlike only by dint of habit and experience... He becomes a soldier only after having been a citizen” (166). “If natural law were inscribed only in human reason, it would have little capacity to guide most of our actions” (166). “War is a permanent state which presupposes lasting relations, and such relations rarely obtain between man and man, where e
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