Philosophy Study 2 (9) (2012)

Dimitria Gatzia
University of Akron
Several of Rousseau’s critics begin with the presupposition that his writings are inconsistent or incoherent and proceed to locate the “essence” of his philosophy in some of his writings while excluding others. Ernst Cassirer is among the few philosophers who have attempted to defend Rousseau’s claim to consistency. Despite its broad influence, Cassirer’s interpretation has remained largely unchallenged. The aim of this paper is twofold. Firstly, it aims to show that Cassirer’s interpretation undermines (a) the important role Rousseau assigns to pity in both the state of nature and civil society and (b) the significant role the general will plays in his political theory. Secondly, it proposes an alternative interpretation that succeeds in uniting Rousseau’s opus.
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