Friday, May 6, 2011

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay

Essay about Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that society was a corrupted establishment. It is ill advised for a government or a constitution to place sanctions on humanity and its natural freedom. But no matter how evil government is, it is a necessary one. Rousseau tried to find the harmony between the individual and society in The Social Contract, in which he stated that with the right kind of politics, the true freedom of people would shine through. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was indeed the kind of constitution that met Rousseau's requirements, although the introduction clearly disagrees with Rousseau's lifelong theory of humanity being corrupted by government.

Rousseau spent most of his life fighting for the freedom of man. In his novel The New Heloise he tells a story of a girl who gave up love to marry into the standards of society. In Emile, Rousseau tells of a young boy who was individually trained and taught to develop an "independent way of thinking." (Hunt, 694) Rousseau expanded the theme from Emile to The Social Contract, thereby calling for individuality, as long as it is within the confines of the general will. What the articles of The Declaration call for agree with the themes of Rousseau's The Social Contract. Article 1 sums up Rousseau and The Declaration: "Men are born and remain free of equal rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good." (Lualdi, 51) The rest of the articles expand on this very first point and go into greater detail. They set forth more implicit laws to be followed by society. Although Rousseau would have agreed with the articles, he would definitely have had a problem with the preamble to The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Rousseau spent his entire life believing that science, arts, and politics had corrupted human morals. (Hunt, 693) The preface of The Declaration definitely contradicts Rousseau's theory:

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of man"(Lauldi, 51)

Rousseau believed all his life that by placing a government with a constitution to police over society, humanity will be bound and eventually will lose its morality and freedom, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." (Hunt, 693) However, he believed that the right kind of order would be beneficial in ultimately seeking out the good of the people. The National Assembly believed the same thing. Society needed a set of guidelines to follow; otherwise it will crumble in complete chaos. However, the reasons they used to base this on differed drastically from those of Rousseau. In fact, they were completely opposite, stating that humanity corrupted government. The right rules to remind people of their place in society will set them straight and that will lead to a more morally conscious and righteous society.

Rousseau's greatest work about the role of individual in society, The Social Contract, debates whether or not man should be susceptible to a constitution that would corrupt him. The National Assembly believed that it is necessary for man to be governed or else he would corrupt society.

Either way, the articles of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen serves the purpose of returning man's innate freedoms while establishing them within the framework of a complex society. Although the causes were certainly different, they both resulted with the same effect, the benefit of the general will.

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