Displacement of nature into society: Rousseau between Spinoza and Kant

Philosophical Writings 36 (3) (2007)

Vasiliki Grigoropoulou
University of Athens
This paper examines the sources of Rousseau’s anthropology. In his Discourse on Inequality, natural independence is grounded in the concept of ‘Love of oneself’ . The resources required to ground Rousseauean ‘Love of oneself’ can be found in Spinoza’s concept of ‘endeavour’ . It is argued that this concept is a revealing key for the interpretation of the immanent positivity of Rousseauean nature. However, in Rousseau’s concept of “general will” – anticipated in the Second Discourse, and developed in On the Social Contract – natural effort is out-manoeuvred by moral and political art. There emerges a new subject and a redefinition of the natural in moral and political terms. Rousseau’s conception of moral and political autonomy influenced Immanuel Kant, whose views are generally taken to be opposed fundamentally to those of Spinoza. Thus Rousseau can be said to have built a bridge from the naturalism of ‘Love of oneself’ which grounds natural independence in the Second Discourse to the moral and political autonomy that would become centrally important for Kant
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