green numbers give full details.     |    back to list of philosophers     |     expand these ideas

Ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, by Text

[Swiss, 1712 - 1778, Born in Geneva. Died in Paris.]

1754 Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
Intro letter p.27 Revolutionaries usually confuse liberty with total freedom, and end up with heavier chains
Intro letter p.27 Plebiscites are bad, because they exclude the leaders from crucial decisions
Intro letter p.27 Like rich food, liberty can ruin people who are too weak to cope with it
Intro letter p.28 In a direct democracy, only the leaders should be able to propose new laws
Part I p.42 Most human ills are self-inflicted; the simple, solitary, regular natural life is good
Part I p.45 Humans are less distinguished from other animals by understanding, than by being free agents
Part I p.46 No one would bother to reason, and try to know things, without a desire for enjoyment
Part I p.49 Language may aid thinking, but powerful thought was needed to produce language
Part I p.50 General ideas are purely intellectual; imagining them is immediately particular
Part I p.50 Only words can introduce general ideas into the mind
Part I p.51 Is language a pre-requisite for society, or might it emerge afterwards?
Part I p.51 Men started with too few particular names, but later had too few natural kind names
Part I p.52 I doubt whether a savage person ever complains of life, or considers suicide
Part I p.53 Savages avoid evil because they are calm, and never think of it (not because they know goodness)
Part I p.54 The fact that we weep (e.g. in theatres) shows that we are naturally compassionate
Part I p.54 Reason leads to prudent selfishness, which overrules natural compassion
Part I p.55 Rational morality is OK for brainy people, but ordinary life can't rely on that
Part I p.55 The better Golden Rule is 'do good for yourself without harming others'
Part I p.55 Primitive people simply redressed the evil caused by violence, without thought of punishing
Part I p.56 Savage men quietly pursue desires, without the havoc of modern frenzied imagination
Part I p.58 A savage can steal fruit or a home, but there is no means of achieving obedience
Part I p.58 In a state of nature people are much more equal; it is society which increases inequalities
Part I p.58 Without love, what use is beauty?
Part I p.59 People must be made dependent before they can be enslaved
Part I p.59 Small uninterrupted causes can have big effects
Part II p.60 Persuading other people that some land was 'owned' was the beginning of society
Part II p.64 Primitive man was very gentle
Part II p.64 Leisure led to envy, inequality, vice and revenge, which we now see in savages
Part II p.65 We seem to have made individual progress since savagery, but actually the species has decayed
Part II p.66 What else could property arise from, but the labour people add to it?
Part II p.66 Land cultivation led to a general right of ownership, administered justly
Part II p.71 A state of war remains after a conquest, if the losers don't accept the winners
Part II p.72 Enslaved peoples often boast of their condition, calling it a state of 'peace'
Part II p.74 If the child of a slave woman is born a slave, then a man is not born a man
Part II p.76 Three stages of the state produce inequalities of wealth, power, and enslavement
Part II p.77 People accept the right to be commanded, because they themselves wish to command
Part II p.78 The pleasure of wealth and power is largely seeing others deprived of them
Part II p.81 It is against nature for children to rule old men, fools to rule the wise, and the rich to hog resources
Pref p.35 Our two starting principles are concern for self-interest, and compassion for others
Pref p.35 Writers just propose natural law as the likely useful agreements among people
Pref p.36 Both men and animals are sentient, which should give the latter the right not to be mistreated
Pref p.36 If we should not mistreat humans, it is mainly because of sentience, not rationality
Pref p.38 If we have a natural right to property, what exactly does 'belonging to' mean?
1762 Emile: treatise on education
Bk III p.166 We all owe labour in return for our keep, and every idle citizen is a thief
p.210 p.84 Feelings are prior to intelligence; we should be content to live with our simplest feelings
1762 The Social Contract (tr Cress)
p.62 Rousseau insists that popular sovereignty needs a means of expressing consent [Oksala]
p.83 Rousseau assumes that laws need a people united by custom and tradition [Wolff,J]
I.1 p.49 Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains
I.1 p.50 The social order is a sacred right, but based on covenants, not nature
I.3 p.143 Force can only dominate if it is seen as a right, and obedience as a duty
I.4 p.53 No man has any natural authority over his fellows
I.4 p.55 Without freedom of will actions lack moral significance
I.4 p.57 War gives no right to inflict more destruction than is necessary for victory
I.4 p.145 Natural mankind is too fragmented for states of peace, or of war and enmity
I.5 p.59 The act of becoming 'a people' is the real foundation of society
I.5 p.59 Minorities only accept majority-voting because of a prior unanimous agreement
I.6 p.61 The social pact is the total subjection of individuals to the general will
I.6 p.147 To overcome obstacles, people must unite their forces into a single unified power
I.6 p.148 We need a protective association which unites forces, but retains individual freedom
I.6 p.148 If we all give up all of our rights together to the community, we will always support one another
I.7 p.63 To foreign powers a state is seen as a simple individual
I.7 p.149 The act of association commits citizens to the state, and the state to its citizens
I.7 p.150 Individual citizens still retain a private will, which may be contrary to the general will
I.7 p.150 Citizens must ultimately for forced to accept the general will (so freedom is compulsory!)
I.8 p.65 In society man loses natural liberty, but gains a right to civil liberty and property
I.8 p.65 Appetite alone is slavery, and self-prescribed laws are freedom
I.9 p.152 Ancient monarchs were kings of peoples; modern monarchs more cleverly rule a land
I.9 p.153 Private property must always be subordinate to ownership by the whole community
I.9 p.153 The social compact imposes conventional equality of rights on people who may start unequally
II.01 p.70 Silence of the people implies their consent
II.01 p.153 Sovereignty is the exercise of the general will, which can never be delegated
II.03 p.72 The general will is common interest; the will of all is the sum of individual desires
II.03 p.155 The general will is always right, but the will of all can err, because it includes private interests
II.03 p.156 If the state contains associations there are fewer opinions, undermining the general will
II.03 p.156 If a large knowledgeable population votes in isolation, their many choices will have good results
II.04 p.156 Just as people control their limbs, the general-will state has total control of its members
II.04 p.157 The general will changes its nature when it focuses on particulars
II.04 p.157 Both nature and reason require that everything has a cause
II.04 p.157 We alienate to society only what society needs - but society judges that, not us
II.05 p.159 We accept the death penalty to prevent assassinations, so we must submit to it if necessary
II.05 p.159 A trial proves that a criminal has broken the social treaty, and is no longer a member of the state
II.05 p.160 Only people who are actually dangerous should be executed, even as an example
II.06 p.81 Natural justice, without sanctions, benefits the wicked, who exploit it
II.06 p.83 The general will is always good, but sometimes misunderstood
II.07 p.163 Human nature changes among a people, into a moral and partial existence
II.09 p.167 A state must be big enough to preserve itself, but small enough to be governable
II.10 p.168 Too much land is a struggle, producing defensive war; too little makes dependence, and offensive war
II.11 p.170 A state's purpose is liberty and equality - liberty for strength, and equality for liberty
II.11 p.170 The greatest social good comes down to freedom and equality
II.11 p.170 No citizen should be rich enough to buy another, and none so poor as forced to sell himself
II.12 p.172 The state ensures liberty, so civil law separates citizens, and binds them to the state
II.12 p.172 Political laws are fundamental, as they firmly organise the state - but they could still be changed
II.12 p.172 Citizens should be independent of each other, and very dependent on the state
III.01 p.173 The state has a legislature and an executive, just like the will and physical power in a person
III.01 p.174 I call the executive power the 'government', which is the 'prince' - a single person, or a group
III.01 p.174 If the state enlarges, the creators of the general will become less individually powerful
III.01 p.175 If the population is larger, the government needs to be more powerful
III.02 p.178 Large populations needs stronger control, which means power should be concentrated
III.03 p.178 If the sovereign entrusts government to at least half the citizens, that is 'democracy'
III.03 p.179 Democracy for small states, aristocracy for intermediate, monarchy for large
III.04 p.179 Law makers and law implementers should be separate
III.05 p.180 Democracy leads to internal strife, as people struggle to maintain or change ways of ruling
III.05 p.181 Natural aristocracy is primitive, and hereditary is dreadful, but elective aristocracy is best
III.05 p.181 Natural aristocracy is primitive, hereditary is bad, and elective aristocracy is the best
III.06 p.184 Large states need a nobility to fill the gap between a single prince and the people
III.06 p.184 The highest officers under a monarchy are normally useless; the public could choose much better
III.06 p.184 Democratic elections are dangerous intervals in government
III.06 p.185 When ministers change the state changes, because they always reverse policies
III.06 p.185 Attempts to train future kings don't usually work, and the best have been unprepared
III.06 p.185 Hereditary monarchy is easier, but can lead to dreadful monarchs
III.08 p.187 The amount of taxation doesn't matter, if it quickly circulates back to the citizens
III.09 p.190 If inhabitants are widely dispersed, organising a revolt is much more difficult
III.09 p.191 The measure of a successful state is increase in its population
III.09 n9 p.191 The flourishing of arts and letters is too much admired
III.12 p.195 Laws are authentic acts of the general will
III.13 p.196 A citizen is a subject who is also sovereign
III.15 p.198 The English are actually slaves in between elections
III.15 p.199 Sometimes full liberty is only possible at the expense of some complete enslavement
III.18 p.202 The state is not bound to leave civil authority to its leaders
III.18 p.202 The government is instituted by a law, not by a contract
III.18 p.203 Assemblies must always confirm the form of government, and the current administration
IV.2 p.205 The more unanimous the assembly, the stronger the general will becomes
IV.2 p.205 We can never assume that the son of a slave is a slave
IV.3 p.207 The sovereignty does not appoint the leaders
IV.8 p.220 In early theocracies the god was the king, and there were as many gods as nations
IV.8 p.221 By separating theological and political systems, Jesus caused divisions in the state
IV.8 p.223 Every society has a religion as its base
IV.8 p.225 A tyrant exploits Christians because they don't value this life, and are made to be slaves
IV.8 p.226 Civil religion needs one supreme god, an afterlife, justice, and the sanctity of the social contract
IV.8 p.227 All religions should be tolerated, if they tolerate each other, and support citizenship
p.249 p.79 Wars are between States, not people, and the individuals are enemies by accident
1770 The Confessions
9-1756 p.377 The nature of people is decided by the government and politics of their society