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Rousseau’s: State Of Nature And Social Contract

1480 words - 6 pages

In the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau he describes what he believes is the state of nature and the social contract that humans form in civilizations. This discussion mostly takes place in his book called the “Social Contract”. The first area that will be covered is what Rousseau thinks is the state of nature. This will then be followed by what he believes is the social contract that humans enter to live in normal society or civilization. The last portion will be to critic and summarize his findings.
One of the interesting things about Rousseau was that he had different views then previous philosophers, such as Hume and Locke, on the state of nature. In Rousseau’s point of view humans ...view middle of the document...

This does not mean that everyone is born with the same strengths and weaknesses, but the opposite is more likely the case. This would mean that one person might be stronger, another faster, and another more intelligent, thus giving an edge to each, but at the same time balancing out each. On this note Rousseau argues that no one is born into slavery, but that they are forced by society to either accept the role or become content with it and this is the only way that someone can accept a role of slavery. Rousseau also argues that we are not naturally social. He also argues with this that in a pure state of nature we act in self-preservation, thus we are driven to eat when we are hungry, or drink when we are thirsty. This overall leads to the idea that in a state of nature humans would have complete physical freedom and would be able to do what they wanted, when they wanted because of this lack of obligations to others and only to one’s self.
With this in mind it is not to say that humans do not have pity for others or are selfish. In fact this is one of the arguments that Rousseau makes to say that humans in a state of nature are naturally good. In fact he argues that humans have an innate repulsion to seeing other human beings in a state of suffering. This would then allow Rousseau to argue against Hume’s idea that the state of nature is a war like environment. This would follow because this innate repulsion or pity would cause humans in a state of nature to restrain themselves from harming others. One of the other issues that Rousseau raises is that due to structured society that humans now live in, it is impossible to ever return to the original state of nature. These items would be the main points of the Rousseau thoughts on the state of nature.
This then follows into what Rousseau thinks it means to enter a social contract. One of the most famous phrases by Rousseau is “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. What he means by this is that because we do not have obligations to others in a state of nature when we enter civilization we began to form obligations that tie us down, or change our views from autonomy to a group of people. In Rousseau mind he believes that when we give up our natural liberty for civil and moral liberty, it is a much better than to remain with natural liberty and thus he indicates that humans should enter into this social contract. Thus what it takes to enter this social contract is to give up your own sovereignty and natural freedom to form a general will or group sovereignty. When entering a social contract every humans being becomes a moral agent. The reason this happens as Rousseau argues it is that morals are simply what we ought to do (morally right) and what we out not to do (morally wrong).
This social contract that is entered is mainly for mutual preservation. This mutual preservation is created with the formation of the collective sovereign. This collective sovereign is the main authority....

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