Socrates and Jean-Jacque Rousseau's Views on the Place of Law and Role of Society

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The place of law and the role of society are complex issues with which philosophers have grappled with for hundreds of years. Two notable individuals who contributed to this ongoing discourse are Socrates and Jean-Jacque Rousseau. This paper will be broken up into sections to examine the views of these two men and to conclude which man has a better grasp of the material. First the views of Socrates will be commented upon, with reference to “Crito”. Afterwards, Rousseau’s arguments in his “Discourse on the Inequality of Men” will be explored. In the last section of the paper it will be established that Rousseau has a more accurate view of laws and society in general.

To being Socrates arguments will first be examined. Initially it shall be noted what Socrates believes that law is. His reasoning for why law should even exist will then be explored. To round out the examination of Socrates’ arguments his view on society as a benevolent force will be explored.

In “Crito” Socrates explains to his friend why he must face what many may have considered an unjust punishment for the sake of preserving the law of Athens. As he delves into his reasoning he exposes his views on what precisely law is. To assert his claims Socrates personifies the law and holds a conversation with it. During the course of this dialogue the law describes that it has, “given birth, nurtured you, educated you,” and so forth (54, Plato). Socrates, in regard to the law has, “ hosen us and agree to be a citizen under us… you agreed, not only in words but by you deeds to live in accordance with us,” ( 55, Plato). It is clear by this exchange and subsequent agreement that Socrates has entered into a sort of contract with the law. Both parties, Socrates and law, hav...

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...o enter into society with them they established laws of property that stated that one may not take from another by force ( 186, Rousseau). In this way the rich assured that they would not lose their possessions and manufactured titles so easily. Law existed and exist to protect the “right to property” a right that has no origin in the state of nature but is much more artificial. Rousseau finds it ridiculous to believe that any human should have the right to property over another because, “the fruits of the earth belong to everyone and the earth to no one,”( 173, Rousseau). He can feel confident in saying as much because in the state of nature all humans were essentially equal, baring natural inequality, none deserving more than another( 143, Rousseau), it is only by the establishment of these laws and artifices that one may claim superiority or the right to land.
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