Francois Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778): Science and Satire
1. It is a juncture between the French rationalist movement and the the English empirical-analytic movement.
2. French rational thought was based on Descartes' method of doubt.
a. Voltaire was to link Descartes method with the ideas of Newton and Locke.
b. This blending of British and French thinking is usually labeled as the French Enlightenment.
3. Although Voltaire died eleven years before the French Revolution, it was the effect of his ideas that helped to form the intellectual background of the events of 1789.
4. Three Year Exile in England: 1726-1729
a. Perhaps one of the most influential periods of his life which stimulated his interest in Newton's works and his philosophic background.
b. Voltaire was impressed by the fact that a man like Newton could enjoy such wide spread popularity and respect.
c. He was also taken by the status of the English middle class whose ascendancy could be seen in the Whig Party and Parliamentary Government.
5. Voltaire could appreciate the English social system with particular interest, since he himself was of middle class origins.
a. The reason for his exile in England was a characteristic quarrel with a French noble.
b. One night, at the Paris Opera, the Chevalier de Rohan had tried to insult Voltaire by drawing attention to his family name.
c. Voltaire's Response: "The name I bear is not a great one, but at least I know how to bring it honor."
1. The chevalier, a few nights later, had Voltaire attacked and beaten up by six men.
2. Voltaire responded by challenging the Chevalier to a duel which so outraged the Rohan family that they had Voltaire arrested.
3. Voltaire was only able to get out of the Bastille by agreeing to go to England. (ie. exile)
6. Voltaire's Philosophical Letters Concerning the English was received with extravagant praise in France.
a. The French government had it publicly burned as a "scandalous work, contrary to religion and morals and to the respect due to the established powers."
b. Voltaire became an important propagandist for the English attitude to French society and government.
The Anglicizing of French Thought
1. It was a method of analysis which consisted in combining rational deduction and empirical induction.
2. Voltaire advocated the application of this method of analysis to all knowledge -- he emphasized a concern with how things work and not with their "essence".
3. Voltaire helped to establish Locke as the guiding light of French thought with its emphasis on innate ideas.
a. The introduction of the ideas of Newton and Locke was to substantially change the direction of French thought.
b. The French wanted to deal with practical matters after Voltaire (such things as free will and the nature of grace seemed meaningless).
c. The desire to reform the Old Regime had been given a solid philosophical foundation.
The French Desire for Reform
1. It was a response to the absolutism of Louis XIV which had left France morally and physically weakened.
2. There were a few individuals, at the time, who were bold and brave enough to protest the abuse of absolutism.
a. Fenelon wrote his Examination of Conscience for a King in order to point out to Louis himself the abuses of his regime.
b. In a Letter to Louis XIV, Fenelon drew a harsh and even exaggerated view of France in 1691.
"Your people are dying of hunger. Agriculture is almost at a standstill, all the industries languish, all commerce is destroyed. France is a vast hospital. The magistrates are degraded and worn out. It is you who have caused all these troubles."
c. d' Argenson wrote his Considerations on the Past and Present Government of France (in 1737 but not published until 1764) -- it created and expressed public discontent.
3. Voltaire helped to provide the intellectual and metaphysical support behind the desire for economic and political reform considered by such men as d'Argenson (and the middle class in general).
4. The Encyclopedia was able to further develop the link between empiricism derived from England and the French desire for reform.
a. This venture was directly influenced (prompted) by an English example, Chamber's Cyclopaedia published in 1728.
b. When Diderot started the French Encyclopedia, it was done with the expressed intention of simply translating Chamber's volume.
c. However, the idea grew until it embraced not only the presentation of technological achievement, but the general state of contemporary culture.
d. Diderot: declared that the purpose of the Encyclopedia was not only to communicate a definite body of information but also to produce a change in the way of thinking.
e. Publication started in 1751 (it took almost twenty years)-- it was both alternately welcomed and suppressed with Diderot imprisoned on several occasions.
f. Philosophy, in England a rather speculative pastime for a few intellectuals, was a revolutionary force in France.
5. Although Voltaire was not a major contributor to the Encyclopedia, his influence was very essential.
a. It was the inspiration that he brought from England that was emphasized.
b. French intellectuals hoped that the real impetus to transform the French social system would be the type of free intellectual approach fostered by the Encyclopedia.
6. The Philosophers had a two-fold task:
7. In order to destroy an old set of beliefs, they changed the method of doubt into the method of satire.
a. Satire is a mode (means) of challenging accepted beliefs by making them seem ridiculous.
b. To hold something up to ridicule presupposes a certain respect for reason on both sides.
c. During the Age of Reason, everyone accepted the idea that conduct must be reasonable (a general prerequisite for satire).
8. Montesquieu and Voltaire: Travel showed that not other people's customs but our own are ridiculous.
The French Satirical Movement
1. 1721: Montesquieu published, anonymously and outside of France, the Persian Letters.
a. A travel book claimed to be written by two Persians, Rica and Uzbek, who were visiting France.
b. In letters' home - they depict all customs that seem quite natural to Frenchmen as extraordinary.
c. The Persian Letters were effective because it began by first attacking social convention and not the Church and king.
1. They ask why do people cut their hair and then wear wigs,and why is it so obvious to Europeans for men to wear trousers when they are only worn by women in Persia.
2. It is only after such questions (attacks) as these that more pertinent questions can be asked.
d. The Persian States: "There is another magician (The first one is the King of France, who "If he has only a million crowns in his treasury and needs two, has only to say that one crown equals two and they believe him"), who is called the Pope, who makes people believe that three are only one, that the bread one eats is not bread or that wine one drinks is not wine, and a thousand other things of the same sort."
1. In this way doctrinal issues of the Catholic Church are exposed to ridicule and questioning.
2. These would have been sure to make the unsympathetic reader close the book, if they had been on the first page.
3. Montesquieu's work was calculated to appeal to the polite, sophisticated members of French society.
2. At the same time the Persian Letters were published, other satires were also being published in England.
ie. Swift's - Gulliver's Travels in 1726.
3. Comparative travel literature led to the assertion of a natural religion of morality, which existed beyond the particular habits and customs of a particular faith.
a. The philosophers made the claim that the world of men and their ways could be subjected to Cartesian reason - and produce "laws" as clear as those of geometry.
b. These would be "natural laws", evident to all men of common sense.
Voltaire said: "Even though that which in one religion is called virtue, is precisely that which in another is called vice, even though most rules regarding good and bad are variable as the languages one speaks and the clothing one wears; nevertheless it seems to me certain that there are natural laws with respect to which human beings in all parts of the world must agree."
c. It was within this context of the existence of natural laws and thus natural rights that a revolutionary doctrine was able to be built.
4. Voltaire's intent was not political but religious.
a. He wanted to show that a natural religion and morality existed, common to all men everywhere.
b. Voltaire was taking a position of tolerance against a Church that he viewed as being intolerant and superstitious (ie. the Roman Catholic Church)
c. The Treatise on Toleration (1763)
1. Jean Calas, a Protestant, was executed in 1762 on the false charge of murdering his son to prevent his conversion to Catholicism.
2. After three years, Voltaire succeeded in having the decision in the Calas case reversed by the King's Court of Appeals.
5. Voltaire was a Deist (deism).
a. He believed in a personal God -- but one that did not interfere with the World of Man after the initial act of creation.
b. To Voltaire - the world created by God operated according to natural laws.
ie. Voltaire's conception made God a natural being rather than a supernatural being.
6. Candide: in this travel story Voltaire takes up the question, how do we explain the existence of evil in the world.
a. It was written in reaction to the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 when over 20,000 people were killed.
b. The hero, Candide, wanders from Westphalia, through Paraguay and El Dorado, and finally ending in Turkey -- he experiences disasters almost all the way.
c. In Candide - Voltaire maintains that the puzzle of God's purpose is unanswerable.
1. Candide asks, "But to what end was the world formed?" - the answer that is given, "To infuriate us."
2. When Candide finds the best society, El Dorado, he becomes bored with its equality and leaves for the outside world.
d. Voltaire says that the world is a mixture of good and evil.
1. There are three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.
2. Voltaire's Advice: the solution is "to cultivate our garden" that through work these evils can be controlled.
7. Voltaire rejected the belief that evil was a result of man's original sin.
a. Voltaire believed in progress -- scientific ideas had replaced religious ones.
b. Man no longer needed to atone for original sin on earth -instead, man should improve temporal existence by reforming institutions and society.
c. To Voltaire, the existing world was by no means the "best of all possible worlds", but it at least could be made better.
History and the Philosophy of History
Philosophy of History: theories concerning the development of man as a social being; underlying laws and motivation of man (ie. it may be called the metaphysics of history).
1. The fact that progress was possible and that a better society and world had emerged could be seen by a study of history.
2. Voltaire turned to history, not to examine the events of history, but the "spirit of the age" and the progress of man's reason.
3. Voltaire's third and most important historical work was the Essay on Customs.
a. It was begun in 1740 and published finally in 1756 concentrating on the cultural rather than the political achievements of man.
b. Its aim was to depict and explain the causes for the "extinction, revival, and progress of the human mind" from Charlemagne to Louis XIII.
c. Voltaire attempted to explain events in terms of man, not Providence.
ie. In terms of natural or secondary rather than divine or primary causes.
d. In the Essay on Customs, Voltaire also introduced the phrase "philosophy of History".
4. Voltaire did not try to show that "laws" existed in history.
a. The progress of the human mind did not rest on any law that could be perceived in human affairs.
b. Voltaire believed human progress was the result of a happy accident which was consistent with his view that God's purpose was inaccessible to man's knowledge.
5. Voltaire employed a secular, critical, and empirical approach to subject matter which he took to be man's total culture and civilization.
6. History to Voltaire showed that man was capable of becoming enlightened.
7. Question: What was to be the force behind this "progress of the human spirit"?
a. During the 17th Century, there had been a growing substitution of the ideal of the sage or of the bourgeois for the ideal of the warrior or the hero.
b. In a letter to Frederick the Great in 1742 Voltaire declared: I do not like heroes; they make too much noise in the world."
c. This was an announcement that the link between the intellectual and the prince, between the man of thought and the man of action had been broken.
d. This kind of separation was not fully recognized by the 18th Century Philosophers -- they had the belief that reform was possible under an Enlightened Despot (ie. even Voltaire with this denunciation of his).
8. Democracy in its modern sense based on the idea of egalitarianism was foreign to them and would have been opposed by them.
a. Voltaire in a letter to Frederick the Great declared:
"Your majesty will do the human race an eternal service in extracting this infamous superstition (Christianity), I do to say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among the well-bred, among those who wish to think."
b. Voltaire and the majority of his fellow philosophers were not democratic revolutionaries, but favored reform from above.
9. It became obvious that Enlightenment, as far as rulers were concerned, had turned into another "court masquerade".
ie. Turgot-Necker program of reform in France.
a. The philosophers had directed themselves toward the educated of society who were, on the whole, the aristocracy.
b. The high rate of illiteracy among the people which the 1788 Cahiers proved placed a limitation on them.
c. Voltaire is a contradiction in a sense: he denounces the hero, but extols the despot.
10. The impact of Voltaire was greater than he even realized.
a. The use of reason (satire) exposed the evils of the state, society, and religion to open publicity.
b. It created a mood of reasoned dissent from traditional authority.
c. Voltaire's intent may not have been revolutionary, but his combination of English empiricism with the French method of doubt was explosive.
ie. The basis (intellectual) for the French Revolution.
Charles De Secondat Montesquieu (1689-1755)
1. Montesquieu published the Persian Letters in 1721 at the age of 32 -- it went through eight editions in that one year.
2. One of the reasons for its success was that the Regency that had come to power after the death of Louis XIV had reacted against the absolutism of his reign.
3. The Letters reflect a recurrent theme in Montesquieu's work -- a concern with virtue and liberty.
a. The best life was the virtuous one, not the hedonistic existence of a libertine.
b. He stresses the moral that liberty and virtue are inherently tied together.
c. In the Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu insists that virtue is the dominating principle in a Republican form of government.
d. When virtue fails, freedom disappears into the hands of a monarch or despot.
4. Montesquieu's ideas were more formally presented into two major works:
ie. Considerations on the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans and the Spirit of the Laws.
a. To prepare for the writing of these works, Montesquieu acquainted himself with the political and social institutions of many European countries.
b. The greater part of his time was spent in England where his main interest was in the English political constitution.
c. Montesquieu was impressed more by the position of the English aristocracy than by the scientists and business men.
5. Montesquieu returned to France in 1731 and the Considerations was published in 1734.
a. The Considerations actually served the purpose of trying to awaken France to reform and recovery.
b. The method he employed was comparative history instead of comparative travels.
Considerations on the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans
1. Montesquieu was convinced of the mutability of all things.
a. He believed that the decay of institutions can be checked if we know the causes.
b. Montesquieu held the belief that the past can teach the present because men were the same then as they are now.
2. The Considerations is not, strictly speaking, a history of Rome but a series of comments on Roman history.
a. In the rise of Rome Montesquieu deals with the virtues that caused her political greatness, and then the causal vices in her decline.
b. The noble Roman was virtuous, war-like, generous, honorable, and patriotic.
c. The virtues of Roman institutions were far more important than the virtues of men.
ie. Institutions are what guide the actions of men.
3. The source of Rome's greatness was in their willingness to adopt other people's customs when they were better.
4. The decline of Rome occurred because its imperialism (expansion) led to the corruption of Roman virtues.
a. Montesquieu maintained that a republic of virtue could only exist in a small territory.
b. He emphatically denied that class warfare was the cause of Rome's decline (decadence).
"Historians speak only of the divisions that destroyed Rome; but they do not see that these divisions were necessary, that they had always existed and would necessarily always exist: The expansion of the republic was what envenomed the situation and converted popular tumults into civil wars... A general rule is that, always, in a state which calls itself republican, when absolute tranquility reigns, you can be assured that liberty does not exist there. What is called unity in a political body is a very ambiguous thing; true unity is a harmonious one, through which all the parts, opposed as they may appear to us, concur in the general good of the society; like dissonances in music, they concur in the total harmony."
c. Rome declined because it lost its warlike and other virtues.
1. It violated its geographical principle and overextended itself.
2. It allowed its money to be drained to the East (balance of trade/payments).
d. Rome degenerated into Epicureanism forgetting the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius.
The Spirit of Laws
1. Published in 1748, the Spirit of Laws had occupied Montesquieu for over twenty years.
2. Montesquieu set forth his method in the very first chapter of the Spirit of Laws.
"Laws are the necessary relations which derive from the nature of things; and in this sense, all beings have their laws; the divinity has its laws, the material world its laws...man has his laws. Those who have said that a blind fatality has produced all the effects that we see in the world have uttered a great absurdity; for what greater absurdity than a blind fatality which has produced intelligent beings. Therefore, there is an original reason; and laws are the relations which are found between it and different beings, and the relations of these beings among themselves."
a. Hobbes had considered laws as being of human institution, rather than deriving from the "nature of things", and had uttered the "great absurdity" about blind fatality in the course of developing his materialistic metaphysics.
b. From the "nature of things" Montesquieu attempted to derive the principles or laws which express necessary relations.
3. Montesquieu took legal and political institutions for his subject and focused on the "spirit" which animates them.
4. In his view, the major political institution is the government, and it is from the form of government that the "spirit of laws" derives.
5. Montesquieu singled out three forms of government: Republican, Monarchial, and Despotic.
a. The republican form is one in which the people, or a part of it, govern.
b. Where one man rules according to fixed, established laws, we have monarchy.
c. Where there is government by one man, without laws, we have despotism.
6. The form, or nature of government is its particular structure, its principle which makes it move.
a. The principle in democracy is virtue (* Montesquieu means political not individual virtue).
b. In aristocracy it is virtue to which is added moderation.
c. In monarchy, laws take the place of virtue, and honor is the moving principle.
d. In despotism, fear is the moving principle.
7. Montesquieu says that the principle of each of these three forms (aristocracy is actually a fourth) can be corrupted.
a. Democracy is corrupted by either the excess or loss of the spirit of equality and virtue.
b. Aristocracy is corrupted when nobles lose moderation and become arbitrary.
c. Monarchy is corrupted when the prerogatives and privileges of the people and cities are removed resulting in the despotism of all or one.
d. Despotism, itself, is corrupted in principle from the very beginning.
8. Montesquieu also presented a description and an analysis of the English Constitution.
a. The English Constitution was chosen as a case study because it has as its direct object political liberty (Montesquieu's view).
b. Liberty he defined as "the right to do that which the laws permit, and if a citizen can do that which they forbid, he would no longer have it, because the others also have this power."
c. Liberty can only be preserved, as it is in England, by the balance and separation of power.
9. Montesquieu divided power into the executive, legislative and judiciary power.
a. Liberty is lost when the same man, or same body of nobles or people exercise these three powers.
b. He also asserted that the joint exercise of executive and legislative powers by one man or body would destroy liberty.
10. Montesquieu's other division of power is into three social forces: the king, intermediaries, and the people.
a. The intermediary power is the aristocracy of the privileged.
1. Distinguished by their birth, riches or honors, they should have a role in accordance with their value.
2. The nobles should be hereditary and in a upper house, where they could check the actions of the people.
b. The lower house made up of the people, would also be able to check the actions of the nobles.
c. Montesquieu openly acknowledged the class rivalry between the two orders, and admitted that they had "separate views and interests".
d. This is exactly what, Montesquieu believed, gave the state a healthy harmony or balance of forces.
11. The Political Position of Montesquieu:
a. In his scheme of separation and balance of power, social and political change could only come about through the agreement of the three powers.
b. Montesquieu may be called a liberal conservative or a conservative liberal.
c. He argued in favor of a limited, balanced, constitutional government.
ie. a government on the English model.
12. In his preface to the Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu made it clear that he had no revolutionary purpose in mind.
a. He cautioned that if people were enlightened they would realize that faults and virtues are tied together and they would proceed moderately.
b. Montesquieu who appears to support the status quo depending on one's history or culture was actually a "dangerous" innovation.
ie. His support and praise of the English System.
c. His intention (like Voltaire) was to reform France not to help precipitate a revolution.
The Impact (Influence) of Montesquieu
1. His ideas had a great influence in both political revolutions of the 18th Century: the American and the French.
a. In framing the American Constitution, as well as in prerevolutionary propaganda, the theory of separation and balance of powers was consciously called upon.
b. The effect of the Spirit of Laws in France was to increase dissatisfaction with the Old Regime and to seek liberty on the English model.
2. Montesquieu put his faith in the aristocracy and backed the Parlements against the monarchy.
a. In 1787, the Parlements opposed the monarchy's efforts to effect needed reforms.
b. They insisted on the calling of an Estates General which they thought the aristocracy would control.
ie. The French Aristocracy started the first phase of the French Revolution.
c. When the Estates General met in 1789, it was the people, not the aristocracy, who came to power.
3. Montesquieu, along with Voltaire and other philosophers, helped to create an atmosphere of reasoned dissent.
4. However, it would be Rousseau who provided the philosophical justification for democracy which had been lacking in both Montesquieu and Voltaire.
5. Montesquieu achievement in history is far too often overlooked (ie. The Considerations).
a. He helped to introduce the historical method into modern thought.
b. His special understanding was that the growth and decay of institutions must be judged in reference to the period in which they existed.
c. Montesquieu attempted to understand the "spirit of the age" with which he was dealing and not to judge it on 18th Century standards.
6. The greatest criticism of Montesquieu is that he did not apply this historical method to the Spirit of Laws.
a. Montesquieu made a comparison of timeless "ideals".
b. Legal and political institutions were treated as static things (fixed, stable, not in the process of change) only affected by conditions of size and climate ( ie. geography).
c. He does emphasize the notion that when the principle of government is corrupted, decay follows.
7. By his betrayal of the historical method, Montesquieu helped to create another and newer field of study: Sociology.
a. He perceived that social facts were legitimate objects of science, and they were subject, like any other facts, to general laws.
b. He also saw that all social facts are related parts of a whole, and must be judged and evaluated only in their context.
c. Montesquieu laid down the correct method to be pursued in the new science.
ie. comparison and classification which is the notion of social types.
8. Montesquieu used "ideal types" because it permitted him to examine the essential structure of political organisms and the interplay of forces within a society.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
1. Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712 and lived to the age of 66 -- the main source for his life is his autobiography, Confessions.
2. He, himself, claimed to be unique, and on the first page of the Confessions, he wrote:
"I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent... I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world."
3. His mother died in child birth, and Rousseau was raised by his father and an aunt.
a. His father was an independent character who tried to be a dance master in Geneva where dancing was forbidden.
b. He had left his wife, shortly after marriage, to spend five years in Constantinople (it was a year after his return that Rousseau was born).
c. By profession his father was a watch-maker, and also a well read man.
4. Rousseau's father was forced to flee from Geneva after wounding a man in a quarrel.
a. Rousseau was then placed in the care of an uncle who then put him out as an apprentice to an engraver.
b. At 16 Rousseau abandoned his job and the city of Geneva.
5. Around 1742 he went to Paris to seek his fortune.
a. He was never really at home in the gay, sophisticated life of Paris.
ie. He even referred to himself as being clumsy and boorish.
b. He was also morally shocked at the lascivious life-style that he encountered in Paris.
c. Even Rousseau lived (in sin) with a barmaid with whom he had five children -- each was sent off to an orphanage (foundling hospital).
d. Rousseau felt that he was by nature a good man, and it was the unnatural character of modern life which had corrupted him and all French society.
6. The real crisis in his life and beliefs occurred on a hot October afternoon in 1749.
a. The Academy of Dijon had advertised that a prize would be given for an essay on the following subject: Has the progress of the arts and sciences tended to the purification or to the corruption of morality?
b. Rousseau read the advertisement when he was on his way to visit Diderot who was imprisoned at Vincennes for violating the censorship laws.
Rousseau says of it: "The instant I read it, I saw another universe and I became another man."
"If anything was ever like a sudden inspiration it was the impulse that surged up in me as I read that. Suddenly I felt my mind dazzled by a thousand lights; crowds of lively ideas presented themselves at once, with a force and confusion that threw me into an inexpressible trouble; I felt my head seized with a vertigo like that of intoxication. A violent palpitation oppressed me, made me gasp for breath, and being unable any longer to breathe as I walked, I let myself drop under one of the trees of the wayside, and there I spent half an hour in such a state of agitation that when I got up I perceived the whole front of my vest moistened with my own tears which I had shed unawares. Oh, Sir, if ever I could have written even the quarter of what I saw and felt under that tree, with what clarity should I have revealed all the contradictions of the social system, with what force would I have exposed all the abuses of our institutions, in what simple terms would I have demonstrated that man is naturally good, and that it is through these institutions alone that men become bad."
c. Rousseau attacked and indicted the arts and sciences for corrupting morality and all of life.
1. This was a response the Academy probably did not expect, but the prize was awarded to Rousseau.
2. To philosophers, like Voltaire and the Encyclopedist his ideas were thoroughly outrageous.
Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences: The Moralist
1. Rousseau's essay was the most important challenge to science since the Inquisition's sentence of Galileo in 1633.
2. Rousseau claimed: "It is not science, I said to myself, that I am attacking, it is virtue that I am defending, and that before virtuous men - goodness is dearer to the good than learning to the learned."
ie. He was really attacking science.
3. Rousseau maintained that everything is good as it comes from the hand of God, but everything becomes evil in the hands of man.
ie. Man is the author of evil.
4. By placing the cause of evil in society rather than in man's original sin or God, Rousseau secularizes the problem of evil.
5. Rousseau decided that he must act upon his convictions.
a. He decided to withdraw from society to find his true nature that was uncorrupted by bad institutions.
b. He went into retreat at various spots, giving away his fine clothing, sword, and watch dressing as a simple citizen.
6. Rousseau placed morality above knowledge and virtue above luxury and art.
7. Rousseau's contemporaries could agree, on this point, that increased knowledge ought to serve a moral purpose.
a. The disagreement came over Rousseau's rejection of the culture of his day as immoral, and his belief that it was the source of man's evil.
b. Rousseau's attitude attacked the basic rationalistic belief that improvement in the arts and sciences meant both moral and physical progress.
8. Rousseau suggested that the regeneration of man would come about only by man's rediscovery of himself.
9. Rousseau was from the lower middle class, almost working class, and his political and philosophical views reflect his background.
1. Treatise on education in which he attempts to advise how a boy should be educated.
2. The starting point of Emile was Rousseau's basic belief that man is naturally good but is corrupted by society.
ie. a good education will "follow nature".
3. It will be "negative" until the age of 10 or 12, in the sense that the child will be allowed to progress on his own without any positive instruction.
a. The child will learn by observation of facts -- instead of precepts, he will see only examples.
b. Only one book will be permitted - Defoe's Robinson Crusoe because its fictional isolation shows the true worth of things and not their social value.
4. Rousseau realized that the natural man stood in opposition to the civil man.
a. Rousseau said: "It is necessary to choose between making a man or a citizen: for one cannot make both at the same time."
b. Rousseau's Choice was to create a citizen -- then, all good social institutions including education must "denature" man, must change the "I" into the "common unity".
5. Rousseau's solution is very vague: Man can be changed by working with not against his natural bent (inclination).
6. The transition from child to adult, from natural man to social man (ie. the citizen) was one Rousseau even did not wish to make.
7. The "ideal" that Rousseau had in mind in Emile was the "noble savage" who while living in society was almost natural.
a. This concept or idea is a reflection from the age of Thomas More and New World Discoveries.
b. According to reports: savages of North America:
1. They despise gold and silver, and live freely in the forests in small groups.
2. They need no laws or social restraints, and order their lives by instincts and not by reason.
c. As interpreted by Rousseau, the "noble savage" had achieved for himself the simple and perfect life which civilization had already destroyed.
d. There are obvious flaws to this interpretation -- 18th Century Man was not aware of both the written and unwritten laws of primitive societies (there are many and complex).
8. Rousseau suggested that there were two ways by which Man could discover what is the natural life:
The Natural Life
1. Psychological Introspection: to ask what we are.
a. Rousseau's advice was to look inside of man not at man.
b. A solitary life contemplating the primitive traits which have disappeared could enable man to recover them.
2. Discourse on Inequality
a. Rousseau attempted to show that the savage man looked within himself while the social man constantly lives outside of himself.
b. The social man only knows how to live by the opinions of others, so that he seems to receive the consciousness of his own existence from judgments of others concerning him.
3. "Other-Directed" Man: a moral judgment made by Rousseau.
4. The second way of discovering our true nature is to interrogate external nature.
a. Rousseau urged man to retire to the woods and to consult nature in order to discover himself.
b. He asked man to turn from books, from written authority, and to consult the facts.
c. In the case of human nature, Rousseau believed, these facts were to be found either within our own hearts or in the "impulse" of nature itself (the vernal woods).
d. Rousseau was rejecting the society of man as it existed.
1. Man's existence was based on the wrong facts and thus on a distortion of man's real nature.
2. Romantic Empiricism implies that with its insight that man's nature is not what it is, but what it is potentially.
Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
1. Rousseau posed the question of how can one remove himself from society and see man in a state of nature.
"It is by no means a light undertaking to distinguish properly between what is original and what is artificial in the actual nature of man, or to form a true idea of a state which no longer exists, perhaps never did exist, and probably never will exist; and of which it is, nevertheless, necessary to have true ideas, in order to form a proper judgment of our present state. It requires, indeed, more philosophy than can be imagined to enable any one to determine exactly what precautions he ought to take in order to make solid observations on this subject; and it appears to me that a good solution of the following problem would not be unworthy of the Aristotles and Plinys of the present age. What experiments would have to be made, to discover the natural man? And how are these experiments to be made in a state of society?"
2. To discover man in the pure state of nature, Rousseau, mentally, stripped him of all the attributes of society.
3. Then, he reconstructed the evolution of man "experimentally", in his mind.
4. Rousseau was conscious of his method: "I confess that, as the events I am going to describe might have happened in various ways, I have nothing to determine my choice but conjectures: but such conjectures become reasons, when they are the most probable that can be drawn from the nature of things, and the only means of discovering the truth."
5. Rousseau is introducing a new and difficult tool of social science: ie. the "thought-experiment"
a. He was suggesting that the only true idea of man's nature could be reached by means of definition.
b. All others in ages of man's nature were particular one's, formed by, and reflecting, particular societies.
c. Rousseau was saying that the state of nature has never really existed, but it is a pure "idea of reason".
d. It is only by an imaginary construction of a state of nature that we can discover man's real nature.
e. To Rousseau, "nature" actually meant the full development of man's capacity.
The Social Contract
1. It is preoccupied with one central question: What is the basis of society if it is not the consent of its members, past or present?
2. Starting with man in a state of nature - which in Hobbes is a state of war, in Locke a state of peace, and in Rousseau a state of isolation - we bring man into society by his own consent.
ie. a social contract.
3. The uniqueness in Rousseau is that people, who entered into the contract, remained sovereign through out the development of their society (ie. they have to exercise their own rule).
4. Rousseau did not believe that laws of society were God-Given, nor arbitrarily imposed by a tyrant (as in Hobbes), nor natural which simply had to be discovered (as in Locke).
a. Rousseau claimed that laws can and do operate only by the consent of the whole population.
b. Laws are a reflection of the way of life which that society has adopted for itself.
5. The General Will (ie. of the people)
a. Rousseau believed that the general will can always be identified with the welfare of the whole.
b. The general will is the standard of morality.
c. Rousseau contended that before man's entrance into the social contract, (and the rise of collective consciousness), morality did not exist.
d. Rousseau makes a distinction between the general will and the will of all.
1. The general will is an "ideal" construction representing what is best for the state.
2. The will of all (or the will of the majority) is not necessarily what is best for the state.
6. Rousseau was then faced with the problem or the question of how can the general will be found:
a. If the general will is the source of knowledge of what is "just and unjust", it is a moral quality and cannot be determined mathematically.
b. Yet, Rousseau himself seems to stress the mathematical nature of the general will as being a reflection of the way of life of the people.
Rousseau says: "The constant will of all the members of the State is the general will; by virtue of it they are citizens and free. When in the popular assembly a law is proposed, what the people is asked is not exactly whether it approves or rejects the proposal, but whether it is in conformity with the general will, which is their will. Each man, in giving his vote, states his opinion on that point (Rousseau should have added, "ideally"); and the general will is found by counting votes. When therefore the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less than that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will; and it is in that case that I should not have been free."
1. This may sound like double talk - both being the same.
2. If the general will is determined by the counting of votes, we have a democratic interpretation.
3. If it exists as a Platonic ideal, independent of the will of all, it is only accessible to the philosopher-king.
ie. it is a totalitarian interpretation.
The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right (1762)
1. Rousseau's major interest was in the problem of political obligation, and how to provide a rational sanction for society.
2. Historically, man had entered society by accident or by necessity but not out of a moral inclination.
3. Rousseau, by returning to the original state of nature, reconstructs the state by choosing his form of society freely and rationally.
Rousseau declares: "The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before. This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution."
4. Man will have to reform his old society in order to enjoy the new model society, and in this sense, Rousseau was revolutionary.
a. Unlike Locke, Rousseau's basic problem was not to justify revolution, but to justify restraint of the individual by the state.
b. Then - what form of society will do away with the right to revolt by restraining men with the perfect justice?
5. Rousseau's Answer:
a. It can only be that society in which sovereignty emanates from the people and is inalienable from them.
b. "The voice of the people", Rousseau said, "is, in fact, the voice of God."
6. This is an abstraction -- Rousseau did believe in the "people" and was not afraid to remove all barriers to their rule.
a. Rousseau foresaw the inevitable excesses of the French Revolution.
"He declared that he would not wish to live in a republic of recent institution, for People once accustomed to masters are not in a condition to do without them. If they manage to shake off the yoke they still more estrange themselves from freedom, as, by mistaking for it an unbridled license to which it is diametrically opposed, they nearly always manage, by their revolutions, to hand themselves over to the seducers, who only make their claims heavier than before."
b. Rousseau (d. 1778) not only foresaw 1789 but also the democratic movement deteriorating into the governments of both Robespierre and Napoleon.
ie. Both men went forward just as the democrats using his doctrines as justification.
7. A basis for totalitarianism can be more clearly seen by a closer analysis of the general will.
a. In order to reach the general will there would be no particular societies, representing particular wills.
b. Rousseau was maintaining that there should be no intermediary barrier between the citizen and the force of the state.
c. The idea of "freely associated" groups such as political parties and religious sects would be totally prohibited.
8. Rousseau arrived at this one-party view because he believed sovereignty (which lies in the people) is inalienable.
a. There can be no representative government (considered by Rousseau as a feudal survival), and the people's sovereignty must be exercised directly.
b. For this exercise of authority to be effective, there must be no particular societies preventing the direct -expression of the general will.
c. Rousseau firmly believed the general will to involve unanimity.
9. The individual is further isolated by Rousseau's refusal to allow separate loyalties to Church and State.
a. In his last chapter of the Social Contract, Rousseau called for a "civil religion" whose dogmas would be provided by the state.
b. Belief is compulsory, and the citizen who refuses is to be banished from the state (ie. not for impiety, but for antisocial behavior).
c. When belief in this "civil religion" was accepted, the penalty for renouncing its dogmas would be death.
10. This is a Doctrine of Extreme Nationalism:
a. By civil religion, Rousseau meant patriotism; by a profession of faith, he meant an oath of allegiance, and by the death penalty, he meant death for treason to the state (not to religion).
b. The state is all-powerful and must be given total allegiance -- it is not the individual who has inalienable natural rights, but the sovereignty of the people which is inalienable.
c. By sovereignty, Rousseau means the general will -- then, all rights belong to the state which embodies thegeneral will.
11. The totalitarian implication of this view is mitigated only if the general will is arrived at by counting votes.
a. That would then result in the "tyranny of the majority".
b. If the general will is simply an abstract idea of justice, then totalitarianism and a Robespierre-like "reign of virtue" could present itself.
12. Discourse on Political Economy
a. Rousseau asks the question: "In order to determine the general will, must the whole nation be assembled together at every unforeseen event?"
b. Rousseau's answer is no -- since it is not certain that its decision would be a reflection of the general will.
c. Rulers always know that the general will is always what is most favorable to the public interest.
ie. To act in an equitable and just way is to be certain of following the general will.
d. Virtue is established by the conformity of particular wills with the general will.
13. This can be viewed as a message of totalitarianism that is hardly distinguishable from despotism.