Rousseau's Views Reflected in "The Oath of the Horatii"

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The National Constituent Assembly on August 1789 first paragraph begin as `Men are born, and always continue, free and equal in respect of their rights' (Resource book 3, A4, p 14). It means that people have equal rights when they are born and continue to have equal rights till they perish. Rights tells us what we are sanctioned to do, or what others are allowed to do to us, both as individuals and as fellow members of the society. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher had a brilliant utopian visionary that attempted to offer this idea of a civil state. The first chapter of Rousseau's Social Contract claims that people were born free but were enslaved by the chains of society. If this claim of equal right was factual, the king had no right to rule, as he was just another person. According to Rousseau, a person has authority if they are able to command others to do things. But authority is only legitimate if the person possesses the right to command others. Rousseau, a republican believed that the authority the state has over the people must come from the people themselves, thus the people should be sovereign.

Rousseau believes its possible to have both complete freedom and yet also legitimate authority. The essential outline Rousseau paints an equal relation between freedom and the authority of state. He argues that we as naturally free people, if it doesn't detract from our freedom. `If one must obey because of force, one need not do so out of duty; and if one is no longer forced to obey one is no longer obliged' (Rousseau: Cress (ed.), 1987, bk1, ch.3, p.143). Therefore Rousseau has shown that superior power, naked force or power through tradition is not the source of any legitimate authority the state has over us. Rousseau's fundamental problem is to find a solution of structuring the state so that we can live in a state and yet remain as free as possible. Hence, by sacrificing our particular will on major social or national matters in favour of the general will we are ennobled and freed .
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