Rousseau essay origin languages

The Social Contract , by contrast, is quite systematic and outlines how a government could exist in such a way that it protects the equality and character of its citizens. For the earlier works discuss the problems in civil society as well as the historical progression that has led to them. The Discourse on the Sciences and Arts claims that society has become such that no emphasis is put on the importance of virtue and morality.

The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality traces the history of human beings from the pure state of nature through the institution of a specious social contract that results in present day civil society. The Social Contract does not deny any of these criticisms.

IV, p. But unlike the first two Discourses , the Social Contract looks forward, and explores the potential for moving from the specious social contract to a legitimate one. The concept of the general will, first introduced in the Discourse on Political Economy , is further developed in the Social Contract although it remains ambiguous and difficult to interpret. The most pressing difficulty that arises is in the tension that seems to exist between liberalism and communitarianism.

On one hand, Rousseau argues that following the general will allows for individual diversity and freedom. But at the same time, the general will also encourages the well-being of the whole, and therefore can conflict with the particular interests of individuals. Despite these difficulties, however, there are some aspects of the general will that Rousseau clearly articulates.

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First, the general will is directly tied to Sovereignty: but not Sovereignty merely in the sense of whomever holds power. Simply having power, for Rousseau, is not sufficient for that power to be morally legitimate. True Sovereignty is directed always at the public good, and the general will, therefore, speaks always infallibly to the benefit of the people. Second, the object of the general will is always abstract, or for lack of a better term, general.

On the Origin of Language

It can set up rules, social classes, or even a monarchial government, but it can never specify the particular individuals who are subject to the rules, members of the classes, or the rulers in the government. This is in keeping with the idea that the general will speaks to the good of the society as a whole. It is not to be confused with the collection of individual wills which would put their own needs, or the needs of particular factions, above those of the general public. This leads to a related point. The latter looks only to the common interest; the former considers private interest and is only a sum of private wills.

But take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel each other out, and the remaining sum of the differences is the general will. This point can be understood in an almost Rawlsian sense, namely that if the citizens were ignorant of the groups to which they would belong, they would inevitably make decisions that would be to the advantage of the society as a whole, and thus be in accordance with the general will. But if the state is to protect individual freedom, how can this be reconciled with the notion of the general will, which looks always to the welfare of the whole and not to the will of the individual?

This criticism, although not unfounded, is also not devastating. To answer it, one must return to the concepts of Sovereignty and the general will. True Sovereignty, again, is not simply the will of those in power, but rather the general will. Sovereignty does have the proper authority override the particular will of an individual or even the collective will of a particular group of individuals.

However, as the general will is infallible, it can only do so when intervening will be to the benefit of the society. Proper intervention on the part of the Sovereign is therefore best understood as that which secures the freedom and equality of citizens rather than that which limits them. Ultimately, the delicate balance between the supreme authority of the state and the rights of individual citizens is based on a social compact that protects society against factions and gross differences in wealth and privilege among its members.

It was originally published just several months after the Social Contract. Like the Social Contract , the Emile was immediately banned by Paris authorities, which prompted Rousseau to flee France.

On the Origin of Language by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder - Book - Read Online

The major point of controversy in the Emile was not in his philosophy of education per se, however. Rather, it was the claims in one part of the book, the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar in which Rousseau argues against traditional views of religion that led to the banning of the book. The Emile is unique in one sense because it is written as part novel and part philosophical treatise. Rousseau would use this same form in some of his later works as well. The book is written in first person, with the narrator as the tutor, and describes his education of a pupil, Emile, from birth to adulthood.

The basic philosophy of education that Rousseau advocates in the Emile , much like his thought in the first two Discourses , is rooted in the notion that human beings are good by nature. Rousseau is very clear that a return the state of nature once human beings have become civilized is not possible. Therefore, we should not seek to be noble savages in the literal sense, with no language, no social ties, and an underdeveloped faculty of reason. Rather, Rousseau says, someone who has been properly educated will be engaged in society, but relate to his or her fellow citizens in a natural way.

At first glance, this may seem paradoxical: If human beings are not social by nature, how can one properly speak of more or less natural ways of socializing with others? The best answer to this question requires an explanation of what Rousseau calls the two forms of self-love: amour-propre and amour de soi. Amour de soi is a natural form of self-love in that it does not depend on others. Rousseau claims that by our nature, each of us has this natural feeling of love toward ourselves.

We naturally look after our own preservation and interests. By contrast, amour-propre is an unnatural self-love that is essentially relational.


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That is, it comes about in the ways in which human beings view themselves in comparison to other human beings. Without amour-propre , human beings would scarcely be able to move beyond the pure state of nature Rousseau describes in the Discourse on Inequality. Thus, amour-propre can contribute positively to human freedom and even virtue. Nevertheless, amour-propre is also extremely dangerous because it is so easily corruptible.

Rousseau often describes the dangers of what commentators sometimes refer to as 'inflamed' amour-propre. In its corrupted form, amour-propre is the source of vice and misery, and results in human beings basing their own self worth on their feeling of superiority over others.

Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Part One, Language and Thinking in the State of Nature

While not developed in the pure state of nature, amour-propre is still a fundamental part of human nature. Therefore goal of Emile's natural education is in large part to keep him from falling into the corrupted form of this type of self-love. This will allow the pupil to be virtuous even in the unnatural and imperfect society in which he lives.

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The character of Emile begins learning important moral lessons from his infancy, thorough childhood, and into early adulthood. The tutor must even manipulate the environment in order to teach sometimes difficult moral lessons about humility, chastity, and honesty. They depend on women only because they desire them. By contrast, women both need and desire men. Sophie is educated in such a way that she will fill what Rousseau takes to be her natural role as a wife. She is to be submissive to Emile.

And although Rousseau advocates these very specific gender roles, it would be a mistake to take the view that Rousseau regards men as simply superior to women. Women have particular talents that men do not; Rousseau says that women are cleverer than men, and that they excel more in matters of practical reason. These views are continually discussed among both feminist and Rousseau scholars.

In his discussion of how to properly educate a pupil about religious matters, the tutor recounts a tale of an Italian who thirty years before was exiled from his town. Disillusioned, the young man was aided by a priest who explained his own views of religion, nature, and science. The priest begins by explaining how, after a scandal in which he broke his vow of celibacy, he was arrested, suspended, and then dismissed.

enter site In his woeful state, the priest began to question all of his previously held ideas. Doubting everything, the priest attempts a Cartesian search for truth by doubting all things that he does not know with absolute certainty. But unlike Descartes, the Vicar is unable to come to any kind of clear and distinct ideas that could not be doubted. Among these truths, the Vicar finds that he exists as a free being with a free will which is distinct from his body that is not subject to physical, mechanical laws of motion.

The will is known to me in its action, not in its nature. The Profession of Faith also includes the controversial discussion of natural religion, which was in large part the reason why Emile was banned. The controversy of this doctrine is the fact that it is categorically opposed to orthodox Christian views, specifically the claim that Christianity is the one true religion.