What Is the General Will in the Social Contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains an important figure in the history of philosophy, both for his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and for his influence on later thinkers. Rousseau`s own view of philosophy and philosophers was decidedly negative, seeing philosophers as post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as a role in alienating the modern individual from humanity`s natural impulse to compassion. The concern that dominates Rousseau`s work is to find a way to preserve human freedom in a world where people are increasingly interdependent in meeting their needs. This concern has two dimensions: material and psychological, the latter having greater significance. In the modern world, people derive their sense of self from the opinions of others, a fact that Rousseau considers corrosive to freedom and destructive to individual authenticity. In his mature work, he mainly explores two ways of achieving and protecting freedom: the first is a political path, which aims to build political institutions that allow the coexistence of free and equal citizens in a community in which they themselves are sovereign; The second is a project for the development and education of children that promotes autonomy and avoids the development of the most destructive forms of self-interest. Although Rousseau believes that the coexistence of human beings in relations of equality and freedom is possible, he is constantly and massively pessimistic that humanity will escape a dystopia of alienation, oppression and lack of freedom. In addition to his contributions to philosophy, Rousseau was active as a composer and music theorist, as a pioneer of modern autobiography, as a novelist, and as a botanist. Rousseau`s appreciation of the wonders of nature and his emphasis on the meaning of feeling and emotion made him an important influence and precursor of the Romantic movement. To a very large extent, the interests and concerns that characterize his philosophical work are also reflected in these other activities, and Rousseau`s contributions in seemingly non-philosophical fields often serve to shed light on his philosophical obligations and arguments. Although self-love has its origins in sexual competition and comparison within small societies, it only reaches its full toxicity when combined with a growing material interdependence between people. In the discourse on inequality, Rousseau traces the growth of agriculture and metallurgy and the first establishment of private property, as well as the emergence of inequality between those who own land and those who do not own land. In an unequal society, people who need both the social good of recognition and material goods such as food, warmth, etc.

become entangled in social relationships that harm both their freedom and self-esteem. Subordinates need superiors to access food; Supervisors need subordinates who work for them and also give them the recognition they need. In such a structure, there is a clear incentive for people to distort their true beliefs and desires in order to achieve their goals. Thus, even those who receive the apparent love and admiration of their subordinates cannot find satisfaction for their self-love. This trope of misrepresentation and frustration is most clearly addressed in Rousseau`s portrait of the figure of the European minister towards the end of the discourse on inequality, a figure whose need to flatter others to secure his own desires leads to his alienation from himself. Self-love, self-love and pity are not the complete complement of the passions of Rousseau`s thought. As soon as people have acquired an awareness of themselves as social beings, morality also becomes possible and this depends on the additional capacity of consciousness. The most detailed accounts of Rousseau`s conception of morality can be found in the Lettres Morales and in sections of the Confession of Faith of the Vicar of Savoy, which is part of Emile.

In the most primitive forms of human existence, before the emergence of self-love, pity balances or inhibits self-interest. In this respect, it sounds like a moral feeling like huhmic sympathy. But as something that is only instinctive, Rousseau lacks a truly moral quality. True morality, on the other hand, consists in the application of reason to human affairs and behavior. This requires the mental faculty, which is the source of a truly moral motivation, namely conscience. Conscience pushes us in an almost aesthetic way to love justice and morality. Like the appreciation of justice and the desire to act to promote it, consciousness is based on a rational appreciation of the orderly nature of God`s benevolent plan for the world. However, in a world dominated by fiery self-love, the normal pattern is not just a complete morality of reason or replaces our natural proto-moral sympathies. Instead, the usual course of events in civil society is that reason and sympathy are repressed, while people`s increased ability to argue is not put at the service of morality, but of the impulse to dominate, repress, and exploit. .