POLI 362 Chapter Notes -Unbridled, General Idea, Totalitarianism
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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
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
Rousseau's State of Nature
“Man is naturally peaceable and timorous, at the slightest danger his first
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