Sentimentalism and Jean-jacques Rousseau
“I want to show my fellow-men a man in all the truth of nature; and this man is to be myself”. Rousseau in Confessions did what most would not dare in an autobiography: reveal ‘everything’. Confessions does not follow the conventions of a traditional eighteenth-century autobiography; he creates a self-portrait that shows both the good and bad qualities and actions. For a man that admits all his wrongdoings, he wanted people to believe, must be fundamentally innocent and therefore ‘good’. Written in framework of morality, Rousseau believed that man is naturally good, and it is the environment that shapes the person. Comprised of juxtaposed stories of his sexuality and childhood traumas, the novel addresses topics that traditionally would have been regarded as irrelevant and therefore would be omitted. In Rousseau, coherence can be defined as a consistent account of both good and bad experiences whilst not omitting events that may seem small or unimportant. In Rousseau, his consistent reflection upon sexuality allows him to evaluate past events which shape his self-development.
In Confessions sexuality is at the foundation of Rousseau’s self, however not in a natural way. Growing up with his three aunts and father, their beliefs about chastity, Rousseau had confused thoughts about sexuality and had no sensual desire than what he received from Mlle de Lambercier. Mlle de Lambercier was the mother figure in his life; she cared for and similarly punished as a mother would do. “Who would have believed that this ordinary form of childhood punishment, meted out to a boy of eight years by a young woman of thirty, should have decided my tastes, my desires, my passions, my whole self, for the rest of my life, and in a direction that was precisely the opposite of what might naturally be expected?” Rousseau’s reaction to his punishment of spanking was perverse. Spanking, rather than creating fear, leads to an element of sensuality. Rousseau proclaims that it was primarily his early childhood that influenced his later self and that his sexual preferences were influenced by his early childhood spankings of an older mother figure.
Rousseau’s desire to be spanked, he declares, shapes his whole self. However, it is outside his moral framework because according to Rousseau, sexuality is not natural. Often times, when children are punished, children associate their action with a negative consequence, and as a result will avoid doing that action again. Rather, Rousseau looks forward to punishment and considers this incident his entrance into adult sexuality. As his life progresses, he maintains an innocent knowledge and thinks the idea that sexual intercourse is disgusting, “Not only had I reached adolescence before I had any clear idea about sexual union, but such confused ideas as I did have always took some odious and disgusting form. I had a horror of common prostitutes that I have never lost…What I had seen dogs doing always came to mind too when I thought of how it might be for people, and the very memory was enough to sicken me”. Rousseau’s discourse about sexuality implies that a shameful connotation. He finds sexual pleasure in feeling guilt and shame and in the ways he first presents his sexual preferences.
As a child, Rousseau steals a valueless ribbon and when accused of doing so, blames a girl, Marion. Rousseau reflects upon this childhood moment as being the worst thing he has done. He imagines the suffering Marion must have endured as a result of his actions despite having no knowledge, “I do not know what became of the victim of my false witness…I fear too, that wretchedness and destitution were not the worst dangers I exposed her to”. Rousseau’s purpose in writing about the ribbon story is to allow himself to feel guilty. Rousseau imagines he caused terrible things such to happen to Marion so he can feel shame and derive sexual pleasure from that shame. In conclusion, Rousseau’s childhood events had a lasting effect that transformed how he viewed events and causing him to have a unique perspective from others about sexuality.
Rousseau’s Doctrines and My Analysis
My goal in this article is to examine whether the ideal political society proposed in Jean- Jacques Rousseau’s book successfully resolve the problems of three types of the dependence identified in his book . To examine the effectiveness and the limitations of Social Contract in regard to the problems of dependence, I will look closely into both and . On the one hand, I will start by identifying three types of dependences, addressing the origin, and defining the consequences in society. On the other hand, I will focus on the solutions proposed by the Social Contract, explaining each aspect of the proposed political society and addressing the goals of it corresponding to the problems. Finally, by linking the solutions to the problems, I will argue the effectiveness and the limitations of Rousseau’s ideal political society.
In Rousseau’s book, he recognized two types of human dependences that result into the moral inequality as the consequences of human revolutions. The state of nature, as Rousseau argues, was initially a static condition where humans enjoyed their freedom and they were able to live on their own without outside influence. The human concerned only about his preservation – things that would satisfy his own needs of food, sleep, and sex. However, as humans exited from the state of nature and started to form a society, various environmental forces, described as “difficulties”, multiplied, and such difficulties forced them to introduce corresponding differences in their lifestyles. The first evolution began when the human started to use tools and build habituations that host the families. People started to live with each other, and this sparked the cooperation. As the humans spent less time on their tasks, they began to use activities like dancing in their leisure time. It further helped to spread their relationships and tighten their bonds. They began to look at each other and wished to be looked at themselves and compared themselves to the others. This first type of dependence, social dependence, is therefore formed, as humans needed the others to validate their own self-worthiness. As humans continued living with each other, they began to split the complex tasks among labors. For Rousseau, this is when the second revolution started. The division of labor created the second type of dependence, the economic dependence, in human society. Rousseau illustrates the example of agriculture and metallurgy industries and he argues that labors of both industries rely on each other because the organized farming accelerated the agriculture production and the innovations on the iron tools stimulated the organized farming.
Moral inequality as a consequence of the revolution
Furthermore, the cooperation in agriculture constituted the institution of property, as man can apply his labors his own property. In order to preserve their dominations, the rich designed political societies and made the poor to believe that they agree to give up their freedom for the safety guaranteed by such political society. Therefore, the social and economic dependence finally led to the political dependence such that humans are able to find a way to protect their own properties. In the end, Rousseau points out that the economic and social dependence results in the political dependence that eventually made the poor to give up their freedom in the “chains” created by the rich, and Rousseau’s goal here is to measure how much physical freedom does the citizen need to give up in exchange to his civil freedom. To do so, he developed a social contract that represents not only the rich but every member in the society and form a government that represents the general will.
In Rousseau’s work, he proposed that the legitimate political entity should be the one that is founded upon a social contract that is agreed by all the citizens for their common preservation. He designs his ideal state from three aspects: administration, legislation, and executive power. Starting from the administration, he first defined the “sovereign” as the collective group of all citizens and argued that such “sovereign” should be viewed as an individual person. Here, the sovereign represents the general will that aims at the common good and the sovereign enjoys its absolute authority within its domain. People within its domain ought to be called regularly to address their opinions on the administration. Apart from the administration, Rousseau also requires the legislation system to follow certain rules. First, the general and abstract laws of this political entity will be clearly expressed by the general will and will be created by an impartial lawgiver who is not part of the society. Second, under any circumstances, all laws should preserve the liberty and equality. Thirdly, all the laws should be applied generally and fairly. Furthermore, Rousseau also sets up standards for the executive power. He argues that there exists different types of governments and, among all of them, the strongest one is the monarchy and the most stable one is aristocracies. Thus, from Rosseau’s perspective, such an ideal political society that is established upon the social contract will ensure citizens’ civil freedom at the expenses of their physical freedom embodied in the human nature.
Now, I am going to examine whether Rousseau’s ideal political society will solve the problems of social, economic, and political dependence. I will start my arguments from the political dependence, followed by economics dependence and social dependence. From my point of view, the political dependence is resolved under this proposed political system. Without the advent of the social contract, people are able to claim their ownerships by forces as long as they are powerful enough to do so. Since they are the powerful ones in the society, even though the properties they claim are not legitimate, they cannot be punished by the weak. Yet, the changes are made as the social contract is being generated, determined, executed, and monitored by all the citizens. Instead of protecting the property rights for rich people in the society, the social contract now protects the ownership of each individual. With this being said, a combination of rights comes as part of the general will to protect each individual’s property right. Unlike previously when the vulnerable man has to stand alone to protect his rights in front of the richer and more powerful individuals, the men now gives up its own rights to the group, unite with each other, and form a more powerful and protective entity to defend the ones who are against the general will. Such condition leaves no room for any man to hurt the other before hurting the whole group. It also makes it impossible to hurt the rights of the entire group without harming any individuals. Under no circumstances will anyone hold more power or enjoy more rights than the others. Therefore, the property rights of each individual in this society is protected.
Even though Rousseau’s Social Contract resolves the political dependence addressed in the Second Discourse, in my opinion, it hardly resolves the economic dependence. According to Rousseau, the economic dependence emerges as the humans started to cooperate in the production. As the industry diversifies, human cannot get what he/she wants solely on his own, they need to depend on others for the goods that they are not able to produce. I understand that the social contracts require human to give up their own desires in exchange for the common desire but giving over its own desire for the general desire does not mean that people are able to self-sustain themselves without the products offered by the others. I admit that by giving up his/her needs for the luxurious goods driven by the social interactions for the common goods, the economic dependence driven from the excessive desire for the consumable goods eliminated, but the economic dependence based on the basic needs of the man still exist. Although people might argue that, since the sovereign nowadays represents every individual in society, it could thus be viewed as an individual. If so, the sovereign could sustain itself without the dependence from the others. However, our discussion on the economic dependence stays on the individual level, and, consequently, Rosseau’s Social Contract fails to resolve the economic dependence.
Society, Contacts and Basic Needs
The definition of an ideal life may vary greatly for different people. Several political and moral philosophies have been proposed which aim to address this age-old topic by exploring our role in society. This essay discusses the role of individuals in society by referring to the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Stuart Mill.
Although individuals are born to freedom, they are inevitably obligated to follow the rules and regulations of the society in which they live. According to Rousseau, people should associate together to form a collective body that rules over themselves. This collective body, which is bound together by the social contract, is called the Sovereign. The sovereign, both inalienable and indivisible, is the ultimate authority in the state. The will of the sovereign is the general will, which always addresses the “common good”, offering equal consideration to the good of each citizen. However, the general will does not conform to everyone’s desire, because it is not the sum of all interests or the “will of all”
If everyone is born to freedom, it would be interesting to understand why people would come together to form this collective body called the “sovereign.” According to Rousseau, when people exercise their individual freedom, they only act according to their personal interests, impulse and appetite. However, when people join forces and are bound by the social contract, they enjoy the civil liberty of being able to think rationally. He believes that this gain in civil liberty outweighs the loss in natural liberty of the individual. As a member of the entire society, it is understandable that we should always consider public interests while making decisions that may affect the society.
However, personally, I feel that Rousseau’s stance on this tension between conflicting individual interests and the collective interest of society is somewhat extreme to the extent where self-interests are suppressed. It could even be considered a form a Totalitarianism, where the state has complete political power over its citizens and restricts individual opposition to the state.
Meanwhile, it could be argued that the society should pay more consideration to the individual freedom of its people. This not only ensures a peaceful society, but also a satisfied one where people have the liberty to follow their interest or passion. More importantly, suppression of individual liberty certainly hinders social progress or human development. If Isaac Newton had to prioritize public interests over his personal passion in physics, would we understand the foundation of classical mechanics which drives the world today? If Steve Jobs had to give up his passion for technology for public interests, would we be able to use the iPhone today?
An appropriate contemporary example is The United States of America, which is the largest and, arguably, the most powerful economy today. The current progress of U.S illustrates why individual liberty is so important to development.
In conclusion, it is clear that Rousseau strongly believes in the moral philosophy of putting public interests before our private interests by obeying the sovereign. On the one hand, this may lead to an altruistic society where everyone has a selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. However, on the other hand, this mode of life may severely hinder the advancement that humans have made today. In fact, our current progress can be credited to the modern laws, which are largely influenced by the Harm Principle, in most countries.
The Biography of Jean-jacques Rousseau, a Francophone Genevan Philosopher
Who Was Rousseau?
Because Rousseau grew up and into Calvin’s Geneva, and because Calvin is yet another individual who succeeded in having a group of followers due to his works and writings, such as Rousseau did as was described towards the end of the video, one can say that although Rousseau might not have agreed with Calvin’s ideas, he could’ve had respect for him due to his methods, and impact on society. Rousseau claims that private property created the need for society and government because it is private property that generated the necessity of someone who could take care and protect the private property. This necessary evil created an inevitable class division.
It is due to the existence of private properties that governments had to ensure someone was protecting it, and during the process certain people sacrificed some of their rights in order for that government to be established and successful, with its private properties. According to Rousseau, it’s the people within society that generate the issues and turmoil that they later observe and experience within society. According to Sargent, Rousseau says while government is a problem, it is a necessary problem. Rousseau views society influence on “natural man” and natural goodness as a corrupt factor, where the meaning of a society is ruined due to factors such as private property, lacking education, or agreement with that of the general will.
The creation and existence of private properties within societies meant that there were going to be property owners and there were going to be property protectors, in other words, workers. When a government comes around to assign certain people as that property’s protector, that person ends up losing some of his or her rights. Thus, in order for the government to be successful in its methods, certain people had to lose some of their rights. As explained in his book Discourse on the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind, Rousseau states that although the government is a necessity, it’s nevertheless an evil necessity. One of the roles explained in this book of the government is that it’s a necessary way to control and regulate the behaviors and actions that particular people can engage in, that will be a danger to themselves, and possibly the society. Moreover, Rousseau believes the government should be considerate of the general will, as stated in the Social Contract.
The idea that Rousseau is famous for, which is of the primitive man, was generally termed the name “noble savage”. If one brings to light the idea of the noble savage, one can easily notice a repeating topic of the history of primitivism within Europe. What Rousseau was trying to explain was that there once was an era where humans were more in touch not only with nature, but with themselves; as Rousseau states, whether this be a religious self, political self, or a social self. The general will Rousseau actively emphasizes in his book, the Social Contract, is what goes on to lead the democratic communities we see today, such as the one seen within the American Constitution. Rousseau famously stated that man was born free, and everywhere is in chains. These symbolic chains Rousseau is referring to are the chains government and society has woven around themselves. It’s the government’s duty, in Rousseau’s opinion, to be considerate of the general will. Those that don’t agree with the general will should be compelled to be free by being compelled to follow the general will.
Henri Rousseau and Karl Marx’s Philosophies and How They Tackle the Inequality Issue
What is the difference between the general will and the will of all in Rousseau? Does this difference matter according to you?
Basically, the general will calls upon every one of the general population to think regarding the general and public interest. In this case, everyone must put aside thoughts of what will personally benefit him/her, and consider what is best for the state as a whole. Moreover, the final decision that will be made will be a reflection of the moral choice, with citizens putting aside their personal interests. In contrast, the will of all always considers what individuals think, and the final decision which is made will be based on the majority. Therefore, it is obvious that the will of all is more democratic due to the fact that it takes into consideration what each and every individual has to say and then the one that has more votes at the end is accepted. As a conclusion, there is a great deal of difference between both, since one considers the common interests while the other take into account private interest (Campbell, 2015).
Describe Rousseau’s understanding of the state of the nature? How does it differ from Thomas Hobbes? Why those difference matters?
The state of nature is a concept in political and moral philosophy, which is commonly used in religion and social contract theories as well as in international law. In fact, this theory aims to denote the hypothetical conditions of what the human lives might have been like before the civilizations, and civil society came into existence. According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, before the civilizations and societies came into existence, people were much happier. Rousseau points out that people were neither good nor bad, but according to him, people were born as a blank slate, and later, the environment and society influenced them (Rousseau, 1778). Therefore, Rousseau believes that in the first place, people did not know each other enough to come into serious conflicts. Hobbes however points out that human had to establish political societies because of the need for finding institutions of self-protection. Unlike Rousseau, Hobbes stresses that in the first place the natural state of man was nasty, brutal and miserable in which everyone was free to act as they wish and this way of living may pose a risk to other people’s existence. Therefore, both Rousseau and Hobbes in their theories appeal to the state of man’s nature as a phase before the political societies come into existence, but their views of the state of nature are quite different (Rousseau, 1778).
Define the following Marxist economic terms, and in doing so, also provide an example of what you mean: Use Value, Exchange Value, and Surplus Value
In classical and Marxian economic theories, Value in use or use value refers to the utility of consuming a good. According to Karl Marx, each product has a labor-value and use value-value. This means that if the same product is traded as a commodity in markets, it traditionally has an exchange value, which is most often is expressed as “money-value” (KEEN, n.d.). The exchange value, however, refers to one of four most important elements that work together to determine the value of goods or services. For instance, a product or service which is produced for and sold on the market has an exchange value which is not interchangeable to its price. The exchange value of a product represents the quantity of other commodities it will exchange for it if this product is traded (KEEN, n.d.).
The surplus value, on the other hand, consists of the concept whereby, the sales revenue is less than the cost of materials used to produce that good. According to Karl Marx, the surplus value is equal to the new value created by employees more than their labor-cost (Marx, n.d.).
Name and explain 3(of 4) forms of alienation as explained by Marx in the Economic Manuscript of 1844
According to Karl Marx, the types of alienation include the alienation of the worker from the work, the alienation of the worker from working, as well as the alienation of the worker from himself. Workers are alienated from the products of their labor because the products do not belong to them. Simmilarly, the reason labor does not satisfy the worker is because it belongs to another. Therefore, workers are alienated from their bodies and human potential because their life-activity if a means to physical existence (Marx, 1844).
Some have argued that Rousseau is a “proto-Marxist.” Does this analysis make sense to you? Why does it make sense or why not? In answering this question, makes sure to define a Marxist is and then use your definition of a Marxist to judge Rousseau.
A Marxist is every person who believes and follows the ideals of Karl Marx, such as the brand of communism articulated by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto and Das Capital. Marxism is an economic system also referred to as communism whereby people share and own everything equitably (KEEN, n.d.). Therefore, in order to be Marxist, one would be in favor of no capital gains and that the government would be in control of products or services and usually there is a committee which is in charge of the quantity of production.
Over time, the issue of inequalities between people has been the focus of the vast majority of researches. A big number of people think that the key role of the government is to negotiate and solve those issues of inequalities between people (Academia.edu, 2015). Therefore, Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are two political theorists whose works significantly address the inequality issues, and they have been the subject of various arguments and comparison.
In the social contract or principles of political Right Jean-Jacques, Rousseau discusses how to establish a government that will mediate inequality issues in the society. Furthermore, he sought to replace the dominating society with an egalitarian government that was by and for the people (Marx, 1844). On the other hand, Karl Marx claims that the capitalism and the class struggle were on top of causes for much of the negative aspects of the Human condition (Academia.edu, 2015).
As a conclusion, it is important to note that Rousseau and Marx were addressing the same problem of inequality between people, although they suggested two different approaches to tackling this issue. Therefore, it makes sense to say that Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Marxist.