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Political Philosophy: Democracy - Essay Example

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The so-called “social contract” refers to a swath of primarily Enlightenment theories aiming to describe the means by which communities form governments, states, and stable social orders. Like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, French Enlightenment thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau…
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Download file to see previous pages Parties agreeing to the social contract, like with other forms of contract, assent to the set of conditions and rules by which they are government. Nevertheless, as it turns out, the voluntary nature of the social contract is a theoretically unresolved question: one that needs a dose of empiricism and applied reason to answer. The problem with Rousseau’s Social Contract, and with his consent theory in particular, is that it seems to prescribe the complete opposite of what Rousseau’s assumptions about human nature, and the state of instinct, would necessitate. On one hand, Rousseau declares the state of nature to be one of absolute individualism, for which he substitutes absolute collectivism in the civil state. Instead of entrusting individuals to free and voluntary choices, Rousseau demands humankind give up too much of his human nature in order to promote the infallible general will.
Rousseau’s purpose for writing Du Contrat Social is to reconcile, like many Enlightenment thinkers attempted to do, the existence of a government with the individual freedoms of the people living underneath that government. However, the word “freedom” is itself problematic, whether one is talking about freedom in the political, civil, metaphysical, or physical sense. In Rousseau’s state of nature, one enjoys the benefits of being without physical restrictions on one’s behavior. In the civil state, however, one gives up some physical freedom in exchange for civil freedom: namely, the ability to think rationally and as part of a community of rational beings. Beginning as animals, man becomes man: a creature that respects thought and morality. Only in the civil society, as conditioned by the social contract, are morality and rationality possible2. In fact, only is the civil society itself achievable when the members of said society agree to the terms and conditions of the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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