Philosophical Review 102 (3):363-395 (1993)

Frederick Neuhouser
Columbia University
n his Lectures on the Histmy 0f Philosophy Hegel credits Rousseau with an cpoch-making innovation in the realm 0f practical philosophy, an innovation said to consist in thc fact that Rousseau is thc first thinker t0 recognize "the free will" as thc fundamental principle 0f political philosophy} Since Hcgcl’s 0wn practical philosophy is explicitly grounded in an account 0f thc will and its freedom, Hcgcl’s assertion is clearly intended as an acknowledgment 0f his deep indebtedness t0 R0usscau’s social and political thought. What is not s0 clear, however, is how this indebtedness is t0 bc understood: What precisely docs it mean t0 say that the political theories 0f Hegel and Rousseau share the same first principlc? In this paper I intend t0 follow up 0n this interpretive suggestion 0f Hcgcl’s by claborating, much more explicitly than he himself docs, thc sense in which R0usscau’s political thought is founded 011 thc principle 0f the "frcc wiil." While accomplishing this task will put us in a better position t0 clarify thc obscurc philosophical strategy behind Hcgcl’s 0wn social theory, my primary interest here is t0 illuminate thc foundations 0f R0usscau’s political thought, especially its account 0f the connection between freedom and the general will. I argue that it is necessary t0 distinguish two ways in which Rousseau takes the general will t0 secure, or realize, thc freedom of individual citizens, namely, by functioning as an embodiment as well as a precondition of such freedom. Understanding both 0f these points will lead us t0 scc: that R0usscau’s thought rests 0n two distinct, though not incompatible, accounts 0f how citizens whose actions are constrained by thc general will are in fact subject 0nly to their 0wn wills and therefore free in their 0bcdience to thc general will. As we shall scc, these two accounts arc implicitly based upon distinct conceptions 0f political freedom.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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DOI 10.2307/2185902
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