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Jean Jacques Rousseau Essay

1525 words - 7 pages

Philosophy 4: Paper Two (Prompt #2)
Rousseau believes that even when one votes in the minority they can obey the law and still be free. But, “how can the opposing minority be both free and subject to laws to which they have not consented?” (Rousseau, pg. 153) Rousseau’s response is that citizens must consent to all the laws because “ to inhabit the territory is to submit to the sovereign.”(Rousseau, p.153) In accordance with the social contract, when a citizen votes they should completely surrender their personal interest and vote for what they believe to be the general will. The general will of each individual is considered to be their real will when it comes to social policy. The majority vote will depict the general will, and the minority shows the citizens that are mistaken about the true nature of the general will. (Rousseau, p.153) Therefore, even if you voted with the minority and ended up being wrong about your real will, you still remained true to obeying your own reasons and deliberated freely. In the end what you wanted was the general will and voting is how you find out what it is. I do not believe that Rousseau’s reasoning succeeds because he does not give an adequate explanation for how the people voting are suppose to identify what the general will is.
In order to live in a particular state a citizen must agree to live by the rules of that state or prepare to possibly be punished for not consenting. Rousseau believes men came together to avoid extinction by combining forces and implementing a set of laws and motives in order to establish more power. The social contract provides a way of combining the efforts to bond society, without sacrificing individual freedom. In order to accomplish this, each individual must put “… into the community his person and all his powers under the supreme direction of the general will.” (Rousseau, p. 61) They must give up themselves for the common good of society. Under the social contract the state would not be a make up of the sum of each of its members personal wills, but it becomes much larger in that each citizen takes into consideration the general welfare of the entire society. Rousseau refers to the sovereign as one entity that needs to be looked after by each one of it members. Because citizens are surrendering themselves completely to the state Rousseau concludes that they will have no personal rights that intervene with the consensus of the state and because this puts everyone on an equal playing field, nobody will lose their innate freedom. (Rousseau)
The general will is constant. Rousseau reasons that the common good is not something that changes over time. So, in order to establish what the general will is a sovereign state votes and the majority generates the laws. All acts of sovereignty may be decided by a majority vote. In his view the majority wins and the minority loses. A possible consequence of the contract is that according to the outcome of the votes the minority...

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