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Jean- Jacques Rousseau is considered as one of the besieged genius who helped to inspire the French Revolution. Rousseau really loved freedom more than anything else. However, it is ironical to note that Rousseau's work exhibited some of the worst dictatorship in the history from the times of Napoleon to Hitler and Stalin. Rousseau's enmity against freedom was well known by the 20th century philosophers like Isaiah Berlin. The name Rousseau was in Berlin s words one of most sinful and most formidable enemies of freedom in whole history of modern thinking. This brings the ironical picture of Rousseau since he was s considered an advocate of freedom but again he was an enemy of freedom. The "nature is harmony" Rousseau's belief was, according to Berlin, the heart of paradox.
This belief was essentially common among the free-thinking philosophers of the universe during those days. There was a short step from this belief in harmony to the belief that what one truly wanted could not collide with what somebody else truly wanted. This could otherwise be interpreted as disagreements between two truly enlightened lucid people were impossible. According to Rousseau, if an individual was rational and enlightened at the same time, any case of disagreement with individual meant that you are simply irrational. Therefore, an individual was justified in forcing another person to do what he or she rally desired. This abnormal reasoning is what contradicted freedom greatly.
Rousseau was born in Geneva, by then a city-state and a protestant associate of Swiss Confederacy. Rousseau grew up in a middle class family and his family had voting rights in the city. Rousseau was born in a house number 40, place du Bourg-de-Four. Rousseau's father was by then a watchmaker. More so, he was well educated and lover of music. Rousseau mother Suzanne Bernard Rousseau, the daughter of a Calvinist preacher, died nine days after the birth of Rousseau. His father encouraged him to read always just to improve his reading habits. At the age of 10, Rousseau father exchanged with a wealthy landowner on the issue of trespassing his land. He later on forced to relocate to Nyon in the territory of Bern, taking Rousseau's aunt Suzanne with him. He remarried, and from that moment Jean-Jacques looked down upon his father's act. Jean-Jacques was left with his motherly uncle, who packed him, along with his own son, in a hamlet outside Geneva. Here the boys developed interest in mathematics and drawing. Rousseau, who was always interested with religious services, for a time thought of becoming a Protestant minister (Marks 2005).
Rousseau freedom views
Rousseau, in the social contract, presents his argument that we, as individuals who form the society, are citizens and subject, both the ruling and being ruled. Here, the whole paradox is exhibited when it comes to individual freedom. It is believed that in agreeing to give up our state of complete liberty in uncivilized nature, we must therefore put forward total power instead over all its members for us to join the civil society. By so doing, we are not merely slaves to the states with little freedom if there exist any. Rousseau attempted to resolve by suggesting that individuals gain more by being included in the society than when they could be isolated from the society by nature. Rousseau asserts that rights like equality, freedom and ownership of property are not personal rights. They are only civil rights, that is, ones bestowed upon us by the virtue of our membership in the society. Rousseau looked at the form of freedom that must be given or secured in order for political society to be justified. A government using its powers coercively, seeking to force all to obey its authority is a government that that denies its citizen personal rights and freedom (Marks 2005).
Rousseau considers a man's state of nature. He finds that all men are usually born free but still men can be seen to be in chains. So, Rousseau wonders how this might have come about and this change can be seen as lawful. The right that Rousseau treats in the highest regard is the social order. He alleges that this is a right that does not come from the nature but it is rather obtained on conventions. However, the identification of this convection is the difficult issue, and one significant force displayed by Rousseau as being the stimulant for the development of these conventions and for the agreement resulting in social order is the general will. Rousseau was seen to be less concerned in personal liberty and more so, in making government receptive to the general will. Furthermore, Rousseau put into consideration the formation and influence of groups within the community. Rousseau believed that social contract created an environment in which the general will of the citizens, a unifying force, would control people and their specific wills.
Rousseau agreed that man in nature, the so called the "noble salvage," was significantly good. However, he also sees that man in the society is not free. More so, he observes that man has not shielded himself from the tyrannical government. This at times resulted to failure of citizens to participate fully in their own governance. With this observation, he believes man in the society doesn't enjoy freedom (Melzer 1990).
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Additionally, Rousseau observed that there are some individuals desired something that is in contrast to what the social order of the society states .A citizen in a particular country doesn't know what is really good for him or society. Therefore, Rousseau alleges that when it comes to coercion, coercion is never truly coercion but only seems like it to the confused people in the society. This way, one might be tempted to conclude that Rousseau's argument for freedom, suggest that restriction of freedom is an overall increase of liberty. Furthermore, the belief that if a person's individual moral conviction violates the prevailing moral convictions of state or society, then individuals tends to be coerced or suppressed for the general good of the community.
Therefore, according to Rousseau views, there are no liberty morals or conscience without the society. Furthermore, Rousseau believed in the general will or the general good. According to him, making individuals agree with the state forces him or her to be truly free in the society. There is a problem in regard to liberty that this thinking creates. If the general will or general good is always right, who precisely determines the general will or the general good? In democracy the general will should be determined by the citizens of a particular government where they should participate in the creation of a government laws and also participate in the leadership of their government. Rousseau suggested that the majority of vote citizens will bring new laws passed by voters that will always coincide with the general will which is a will directed towards a common goal (Masters 1964).
According to Rousseau, the agreement by everybody to the general will is essential condition of each citizen's liberty. By agreeing with the general will, a person will be complying with what is necessary for him or her to be free (Masters 1964).
Additionally, human persons are dependant animals. They depend on nature and on other humans for the satisfactions of their needs. According to Rousseau, independence in nature is problem free. On the other hand, dependence on other human beings is different as in it threatens humans freedoms. It is clear that being dependent on other persons, one almost inevitably comes to subject to their will, and should one obey the will of another, then he is not free. Rousseau holds that the free individual is the one who obeys only his own will, or more explicitly or one who obeys no will other than his own. There exist three kinds of freedom according to Rousseau. One is free in case one obeys no will other than his own. Another kind is moral liberty which is the obedience to self- prescribed law. The third freedom is civil liberty which is in contrast to natural freedom. Civil freedom involves what is allowed by the laws of political society whereas natural liberty is what is permitted in a state of nature. According to Rousseau, natural freedom involves the absence of any binding custom that retains one's conduct. Therefore, one may do anything to anybody that one thinks will improve ones prospects of preserving oneself (Lange 2002).
It is according to Rousseau, everyone compliance with the general will is an essential means to one's liberty .Couldn't one be free if all others obey the general will and others do not? If one did that he or she would be excluded from the society effectively regulated the general will if an individual refused to comply. And so by being forced to obey the general will, against an individual's own will, it is like forcing an individual to be free (Lange 2002).
Rousseau believed that, the content of the laws in the general will was recognized to serve the common good of a citizen. Suppose the general will enacted a law that encouraged wars in certain situations, and forced citizens to participate against their will, in this case the general would be depriving the citizens their freedom. The general would seem to be inimical to an individual's personal dependence (Lange 2002).
On the first law of human nature, Rousseau believed that each individual had a complete autonomy and sovereignty over himself. According to him, sovereignty in the state of nature was undeniable, but could be altered so that it became sovereignty for the society rather than individual and weaker sovereignty in pre-social life. For that matter, social contract can be defined as an agreement where persons come together to form a society and place their collective, corporate sovereignty in persons or group of men who become the sovereignty as the servant or the political tool of the citizens. Rousseau felt that people were come together to create social order which characterizes the common life and a common will. This represents the general will and it always tends to preserve the existence and welfare of the whole. Given that the general will is a powerful thing, it becomes the motivating force of social values (Lange 2002).
According to Rousseau, freedom meant a situation where an individual had voice, and fully participated in the politics of state. It was not enough for an individual to be simply protected under the sovereignty; Rousseau believed that for one to get out of state of nature, human beings were to participate in the process of being sovereign which offered protection of individuals. Rousseau visualized a society in which all persons would contribute their individual powers in return to a new form of equality and new kind of power. If all members of the sovereign shared their powers equally and wholly, they eventually would reduce themselves to being equals amongst each other.
Due to this equality thing, no individual will be interested in making it burdensome for other individual's .According to Rousseau, human were natural social animals because of permanent shelters, advent grains, and tool-making. Immediately man realized a single man could have provision of two, the equality thing vanished, properties become in existence and labours become essential. One had to give reasons for an interaction to occur. Due to the division of labour as a result of tool-making, development of family settlement, there was an element of competition and human realized that they needed more than they wanted. According to Rousseau, all this led to inequality, thereby leading to loss of freedom.
Rousseau beliefs about freedom, suggested that he viewed freedom from different perspectives. One could conclude that he was not an enemy of freedom because of belief s about the moral liberty. With moral liberty, an individual makes himself a master to himself and this way he enjoys freedom to the highest level (Melzer 1990).
Rousseau observed that each individual could have a private will contrary the general will that he has a citizen. If an individual followed his own will, he would be considered to be totally free unlike when he follows the general will he will be forced to obey the rules by the entire body. This will make someone forced to be free. On the other hand, through social contract, man loses his natural liberty and the unlimited right to everything that he can acquire. Man only gains civil liberty and the propriety of ownership of what he possesses. This could be interpreted as while in the state of nature, one simply does what one wants without thought of right or morality. This way, freedom is denied to man because he is forced to act in favour of other peoples will and not according to his will (Pateman 1979).
According to Rousseau, if an individual was rational and enlightened at the same time, any case of disagreement with individual meant that you are simply irrational. Therefore, an individual was justified in forcing another person to do what he or she rally desired. This abnormal reasoning is what contradicted freedom greatly. Therefore, this notion depicted him as an enemy of freedom.