Essay Example on Jean Jacques Rousseau Is the father of modern Democracy

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Jean Jacques Rousseau Is the father of modern democracy Philosophy and democracy are two things that go hand in hand Authors like Hobbes Locke and Rousseau have given much thought to the legitimacy of power and political institutions in their different conceptions of the State of Nature Despite the variations in examination of human nature these three authors tend to agree and I might be vulgarizing this a bit that the Social Contract is a set of terms that the general population accepts ceding part of their individual freedom and power to a central body of governance While these politicians are democratically and legally put into power to uphold the interests of the people that put them there politicians tend to get a bad rep for pursuing personal agendas and seeking power or influence that eventually corrupts them leaving the people frustrated and unsatisfied I m not saying all politicians are morally corrupt but there are definitely more than a few bad apples in every system no matter where you go

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People have become disillusioned with politics and the most poignant example is the US For example in the recent US elections only an estimated 60 of the population voted This isn't necessarily a bad turn up but there is certainly room for improvement Let's not forget about all the people who only voted to put the lesser evil into office Rousseau's contributions to political philosophy are scattered among various works most notable of which are the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality the Discourse on Political Economy The Social Contract and Considerations on the Government of Poland However many of his other works both major and minor contain passages that amplify or illuminate the political ideas in those works His central doctrine in politics is that a state can be legitimate only if it is guided by the general will of its members This idea finds its most detailed treatment in The Social Contract Rousseau repeatedly claims that a single idea is at the centre of his world view namely that human beings are good by nature but are rendered corrupt by society Unfortunately despite the alleged centrality of this claim it is difficult to give it a clear and plausible interpretation One obvious problem is present from the start since society the alleged agent of corruption is composed entirely of naturally good human beings how can evil ever get a foothold It is also difficult to see what natural goodness might be In various places Rousseau clearly states that morality is not a natural feature of human life so in whatever sense it is that human beings are good by nature it is not the moral sense that the casual reader would ordinarily assume Rousseau's conception of morality are found in the Lettres Morales and in sections of the Confession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar a part of Emile

In the most primitive forms of human existence before the emergence of amour propre pitié balances or restrains self interest It is to that extent akin to a moral sentiment such as Humean sympathy But as something that is merely instinctual it lacks for Rousseau a genuinely moral quality Genuine morality on the other hand consists in the application of reason to human affairs and conduct Rousseau's account of the general will is marked by unclarities and ambiguities that have attracted the interest of commentators since its first publication The principal tension is between a democratic conception where the general will is simply what the citizens of the state have decided together in their sovereign assembly and an alternative interpretation where the general will is the transcendent incarnation of the citizens common interest that exists in abstraction from what any of them actually wants Bertram 2012 Both views find some support in Rousseau's texts and both have been influential Contemporary epistemic conceptions of democracy often make reference to Rousseau s discussion in Book 2 chapter 3 of of The Social Contract These accounts typically take Condorcet's jury theorem as a starting point where democratic procedures are conceived of as a method for discovering the truth about the public interest they then interpret the general will as a deliberative means of seeking outcomes that satisfy the preferences of individuals and render the authority of the state legitimate see for example Grofman and Feld 1988

The tension between the democratic and the transcendental conceptions can be reduced if we take Rousseau to be arguing for the view that under the right conditions and subject to the right procedures citizen legislators will be led to converge on on laws that correspond to their common interest however where those conditions and procedures are absent the state necessarily lacks legitimacy On such a reading Rousseau may be committed to something like an a posteriori philosophical anarchism Such a view holds that it is be possible in principle for a state to exercise legitimate authority over its citizens but all actual states and indeed all states that we are likely to see in the modern era will fail to meet the conditions for legitimacy

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