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How Does Rousseau Understand The Concept Of Freedom? Is His Account Adequate?

1574 words - 7 pages

Readings of Rousseau’s writings’ have exposed distinct arguments around his concept of freedom, and what constitutes natural, moral and civil freedoms. Since the publication of his works, in the eighteenth century, the complexity of the concepts in Rousseau’s writings has cause furious debate and controversy. Much of this deliberation arises out of the ambiguity inherent in his concepts of freedom. In his writing, at times, the concepts of natural, moral and civil freedoms are mutually exclusive, but at other junctures they are ambiguously intertwined. With the concept of freedom sitting as the corner stone of Rousseau’s philosophy, it is understandable, even in contemporary times, his essays still evokes debate. By individually exploring each stage in his manifestations of freedom, the intention of this paper will be to reveal Rousseau’s conceptual ideas which establish what he argues to be freedom. Initially the essay will build Rousseau’s ‘Natural State’ with the intention of explaining his concept of ‘Natural Freedom’. The obvious progression, from this juncture, will be to look at what Rousseau believes are the corrupting elements that lead to the pollution the ‘Natural State’. All the time leading to the un-reclaimable loss of ‘Natural Freedom’, as people coalesce and interact; and ultimately progress towards a civilised society and the inevitable state of becoming unfree. The paper will then continue by looking at Rousseau’s solution to the loss of natural freedom, and how his ‘Social Contract’ theory is intended to bestow the ideals of moral and civil freedom, onto wholly engaged citizens in a truly democratic society. The essay will conclude by probing Rousseau account of freedom in order to examine its adequacy.
In order for Rousseau to construct his vision of the state of nature, the natural state, he creates a fictitious allegory of a simple wood wandering noble savage, who is naturally free, living authentically and uncorrupted by the processes of civilization. Rousseau prescribes to the idea that in our original state of nature, we are naturally free and solitary creatures. Free from interdependency with other wood wanders, and for the most part, except on an empathic level, oblivious and un-reliant on others for existence and ultimately naturally free. Rousseau describes his natural state as being in constant flux and change and differs dramatically from Hobbes’s construct of the state of nature. Where Hobbs believed that all people in the state of nature were of relative equality and acted rationally, Rousseau argues that those in the natural state are not all of an equal stature. He argues, that this perceived inequality between the solitary persons in the natural state, is the catalyst that forces people to adapt to their environment and interact with others in a bid for survival. This, he determines, is the start of the slow and monotonous process of the corrupting influence of civilisation. As people in the natural state...

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