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How Rousseau Differs

November 4, 2010

Reading Rousseau after both Locke and Hobbs, I have realized there’s a major difference between them. Rousseau clerly points out the difference between society and nature. According to Rousseau, people enter into civil soceity by contract. Without the agreement of following the rules of the soceity, one is in nature. When Rousseau revealed his views on nature, he brought up the argument that when there’s no language for people to communicate in, then there is no reason. There is only instinct. One cannot think without language. And in the natrual enviroment, people are similar to animals. Their only needs are food, shelter and production. Society’s main concern, property, is not considered as a need in nature. Rousseau argues that when man developed language, the inheirent inequality is also revealed. Once thoughts were developed through language, man aquire statuses, and this enhances the development of inferior and superior social standings. This is different from Hobbs because he mainly focuse on the subject of obeying the sovereign. In Hobbs’s texts, he portrays that there’s one absolute soveriegn that controls all people. This diminishes conflicts and arguments. Locke, on the other hand, mainly describes the set ups of the goverenment. He focuses on the balance and functions of and executive and legislative. However, in Discourse on Equality, Rousseau distinguishes the difference between nature, where people merely follow their instincts without thinking, and civil soceity, where people give up on the rights of doing whatever they please and follow certain guidelines set up by the government. This is the only way a government can function. Furthermore, Rousseau exposes that the key distinction betwen animals and human is that human want to perfect ourselves. Without thoughts and language, animals cannot think about competition with one another, while this is always on the human’s concious. We tend to think about financial survival and social standing everyday through out lives while animals do not. This is all due to the development of the human conciousness. After reading Rousseau, I realized he brought up a topic that was not discussed by others, and this topic has shaped our way of interpreting previous readings.

One Comment
  1. arjunindianhongkongkid permalink
    November 9, 2010 12:39 AM

    I agree with your main argument that Rousseau differs, but I feel you have the notion a tad too simplistic. Locke is a toleration, believing that we have to perform actions for the “preservation of mankind” while Hobbes offers the soverign as a solution to the state of war where “every man becomes an enemy to every other man” to arrive us to peace which is just what the soverign offers through protection.
    How Rousseau differs is, he takes us back to the very beginning of society and identifies the inequality that exists among us from the roots, and accepts these inequalities and puts forward a notion of the general will, a very democratic view of “public deliberation” and places people in power who are in pursuit of the general will. To put Rousseau view is complicated, as it pertains Hobbes’ absolutism and Locke Liberalism.

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