Essay about Rousseau and the two main forms of civil freedom

Essay about Rousseau and the two main forms of civil freedom

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In his writing, Rousseau describes two main forms of freedom— the absolute liberty we enjoy in the state of nature and the freedom we preserve in civil society. The former freedom is fundamentally unattractive, and the latter can be achieved only with the concept of the general will. While this democracy is seemingly equitable, it ultimately suffers from numerous flaws that cause the freedom achieved in this state to be rather unappealing.
In the state of nature, freedom is described as the condition where mankind is allowed to do virtually anything. They are limited only by ability and their notion of pity, which inspires them to act in their own self-interest while doing as little harm to others as possible. While not subjugated to arbitrary rule in this state, men are also isolated. And as we see from mankind’s tendency to have families, form communities, and live in society, we would be unable to maintain this form of freedom.
But even if we could, there are several reasons why the absolute liberty of the state of nature is undesirable. First off, there is no uniform standard for how each person should pity another. While one person might refrain from kicking a man when he’s down, another, less agreeable individual might not do the pitiful man the same favor. Furthermore, this lack of standard mixed with the condition of absolute freedom can easily lead to a Hobbesian state of war. Life in such a state would truly be “nasty, brutish, and short;” society must be formed to prevent such a paltry condition. And finally, as Rousseau suggests, the savage man is devoid of thought. He has no appreciation for the arts, no strong emotions, and neither reason nor wisdom to guide his actions. Subsequently, freedom in the state of natu...


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... the corporate or government interest the same as the general will. But in this case, the government would be slow to act, and in times of emergency, the state would suffer as a result. A dictator would be needed, but by doing so, the state is once again liable to arbitrary rule and the people lose their freedom. By avoiding the problems of traditional governments, the general will faces a different set of problems.
The state ruled by the general will is clearly an imperfect and undesirable state. A society in which dissenting thoughts are stifled and scorned is not conducive to arguments and the process of creating good legislation. But Rousseau’s idea of freedom is the right for people to rule themselves by conforming to the general will. In the end, the general will is trapped in an awkward state that does not work and does not fulfill its fundamental purpose.

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