Force, Right, and Freedom in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Philosophy

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In the Social Contract Rousseau discusses the best way to run a state and uses philosophical arguments to argue his case. He also uses the ideas of force, right and freedom to support his argument. He feels we require a civil state, as opposed to living in the state of nature, as ‘it substitutes justice for instinct….and gives his actions a moral quality’ and describes the civil state as having ‘transformed him from a stupid, limited animal into an intelligent being and a man’ (Unit, p109). He believed that it is not right that you should obey someone just because of force and that for the state to be run properly the power it has must be legitimate. He say’s ‘authority is legitimate if the person (or institution) possesses the right to command others’ (Unit, p.97), in other words, authority cannot use naked force to command obedience. He also believed that ‘to be legitimate, the authority the state has over the people must come from the people themselves, and not from a single person such as the king.’ (Unit, P.97) In order to prove the point that might does not equal right, that is that ‘because you can force me to obey you, is it right that I should obey you?’ (Unit, p100), Rousseau uses the example of ‘The strongest is never strong enough to be master all the time, unless he transforms force into right and obedience into duty….Force is a physical power; I fail to see what morality can result from its effects.’ (Unit, p100), in other words, unless the authority is legitimate and the people feel obliged to obey, rather than forced to obey, when the authority is absent, the people ‘will not necessarily obey’ (Unit, p100). Rousseau defines the fundamental problem of the best way to run a state as how the people can live in the state and still remain free, and he goes on to suggest that the solution is to ‘find a form of association’, i.
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