The Political Philosophy of Rousseau

The Political Philosophy of Rousseau

ROGER D. MASTERS
Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 488
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0rbc
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Political Philosophy of Rousseau
    Book Description:

    This book is intended as an equivalent to or substitute for that "more reflective reading" which Rousseau considered essential to an understanding of his ideas. It is designed to complement perusal of the texts themselves, and the arrangement is such that chapters on each of Rousseau's major writings can be consulted separately or the commentary may be read through in sequence. The author's purpose is not to present a "key" to Rousseau's political philosophy, but rather to explore the works themselves in an effort to reveal Rousseau's "system," from which the reader may then draw his own conclusions.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6881-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. v-xviii)
    Roger D. Masters
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xix-xxiii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  5. PART I: THE LIMITS OF POLITICS
    • I THE NATURAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL (EMILE, BOOKS I-IV)
      (pp. 3-53)

      If we should begin a careful analysis of Rousseau’s thought, as he himself suggests, by rereading theÉmile,we must first determine what kind of a book it is. TheÉmilebears as its subtitle:or, of Education,and it is unquestionably one of the most influential works on pedagogy ever written. Yet Rousseau himself denied that the book was “a true treatise on education”; on the contrary:

      It is a rather philosophic work on the principle, advanced by the author in other writings,that man is naturally good.To reconcile this principle with that other no less certain truth...

    • II ROUSSEAU’S DETACHABLE METAPHYSICS AND THE GOOD LIFE (EMILE, BOOKS IV-V)
      (pp. 54-105)

      Of all the difficulties posed by the works of Rousseau, the status and meaning of the “Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar” is one of the most complex and least carefully analyzed. On the one hand, a number of commentators have used it as evidence that Rousseau was fundamentally a Christian philosopher, whose religious thought is sometimes said to derive from the Protestantism of his native Geneva, sometimes from sentiments akin to Pascal's, and sometimes from the Pelagian heresy (especially as put forth in the doctrine of Molina adopted by certain Jesuits).¹ At the other extreme, the “Profession of...

    • III THE STATE OF NATURE (SECOND DISCOURSE, PART 1)
      (pp. 106-157)

      Rousseau considered hisDiscourse on the Origins of Inequality Among Men(traditionally called theSecond Discourse) as the first writing in which he “completely developed” his philosophical principles.¹ Occasioned by the Academy of Dijon's essay contest for 1754, Rousseau subsequently described the composition of this “work of greatest importance” as follows:

      To meditate on this great subject I traveled to Saint-Germain for seven or eight days. . . . Deep in the forest, I sought and found the image of the first epochs, whose history I proudly traced; I revealed the little lies of men, I dared strip their nature...

    • IV THE EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN SPECIES (SECOND DISCOURSE, PART 2)
      (pp. 158-204)

      In the Preface to theSecond Discourse,Rousseau asserts that the “science” of natural right is surrounded by “uncertainty and obscurity” because the nature of man has hitherto not been studied properly (i.e., in a manner consistent with physical science); Rousseau’s account of the state of nature is the only method of discovering the “true definition of natural right.”¹ According to this account, man was originally an animal differing from other species only by virtue of the faculty of perfectibility; human behavior can therefore be most fully accounted for as the product of two “principles”—love of oneself (the desire...

    • V THE CONTRADICTION BETWEEN THE SCIENCES AND MORALS (FIRST DISCOURSE)
      (pp. 205-254)

      The title page of Rousseau’s first writing of philosophic importance reveals the occasion which brought him fame and directed his energies toward a comprehensive understanding of man and society.

      DISCOURS

      qui a remporté le prix

      à l’Academie de Dijon

      En l’année 1750

      Sur cette Question proposée par la même Académie:

      Si le rétablissement des Sciences et des Arts a

      contribué à épurer les moeurs

      Par un Citoyen de Genève¹

      Rousseau did not—as was the case for theSecond Discourse—select his own title, and indeed he published the work in its existent form solely because it received a prize.²...

  6. PART II: THE POSSIBILITIES OF POLITICS
    • VI THE NATURE OF POLITICAL RIGHT (GENEVA MS)
      (pp. 257-300)

      In Part I of this volume, what Rousseau called his “three principal writings” have been examined in order to show the coherence and complexity of his “system.” Although it may be unconventional to treat theSocial Contractas a development of a part of that system, rather than as Rousseau’s central work, we have seen that the problem of establishing a just regime is not, in fact, Rousseau’s primary concern. On the contrary, he called political right “that great and useless science”¹ because the possibility of establishing political justice is severely limited by historical conditions and accident, and because in...

    • VII THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL RIGHT (SOCIAL CONTRACT)
      (pp. 301-353)

      The previous chapter should make it possible to interpret Rousseau’s most famous political work without being forced to assume—as many have done—that it is riddled with “contradictions” and “confusion.”¹ The titleOf the Social Contractwas, as has been suggested, chosen by Rousseau because it reflects the conventional character of all civil society.²

      The social order is a sacred right which serves as the basis of all others. However, this right does not come from nature; it is therefore founded on conventions. It is a question of knowing what these conventions are.³

      Rousseau insists, from the very outset,...

    • VIII THE SCIENCE OF THE LEGISLATOR (SOCIAL CONTRACT, CONCLUDED)
      (pp. 354-417)

      It is no accident that the legislator or founder of the laws, whose function had been emphasized by Plato and other classical philosophers but is conspicuously absent in the works of Hobbes and Locke, has a central role in Rousseau’s teaching. Since laws are impotent and civic virtue impossible without sound customs and public opinions, Rousseau’s principles of political right must be put into practice by statesmen who take into account the unique traditions and situation of each society.

      The lawgiver represents the implementation of political right in its purest form because the laws that constitute civil society must be...

    • IX CONCLUSION: SOME CRITICAL REFLECTIONS
      (pp. 418-444)

      One of the greatest problems in studying a political philosopher is caused by a confusion of two different levels of analysis. The study of Rousseau’s philosophic works is merely a sterile exercise if their relevance to persisting human and social problems is not seen, but all too often it is hard to know where Rousseau is being analyzed and where the commentator is introducing his own attitudes and ideas. Although a desire to avoid this confusion has led me to discuss Rousseau’s “system” on its own terms, such a textual analysis would be incomplete without a few comments concerning the...

  7. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 445-458)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 459-464)