Now available in paperback, this final volume completes a masterful biography of one of the most important philosophers of all time. The Solitary Self traces the last tempestuous years of Rousseau's life.
Rousseau has the reputation of being a radical egalitarian. I shall suggest that a more careful reading of his work shows him to have been hardly more egalitarian than Plato. He was undoubtedly disturbed by existing inequalities, especially as he observed them in France. He had an original and interesting theory about how inequality among men came into being; he also set out what he considered to be the connections between equality and freedom. As a champion of a certain idea (...) of freedom, he wrote in favor of specific sorts of equality; even as Plato, as the champion of a certain idea of justice, wrote in favor of putting every man in his place. The great difference is that Plato believed that men were never equal, whereas Rousseau believed they had once been equal but no longer were. To the proposition that all men are born equal he could be said to subscribe only in the sense that “all men were originally equal”. Rousseau argued that equality prevailed in the state of nature; but he also said it would be wrong to expect, even to desire such equality in civil society. In the final footnote to his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality he wrote : “Distributive justice would still be opposed to that rigorous equality of the state of nature, even if it were practicable in civil society.” 1 Commentators eager to claim Rousseau as an egalitarian, or proto-Marx, ignore this footnote; as for the opinions expressed in the Dedication to the Second Discourse, opinions no less at variance with egalitarian ideology, they tend to be dismissed as empty hyperbole, designed to ingratiate the philosopher with the authorities of Geneva at a time when he wanted to recover his rights as a citizen and burgess. (shrink)
I believe we could learn more about freedom if we talked less about freedom. Because “freedom” is a word with singular prestige, various moral philosophers have embodied it in their teaching and claimed to set forth its true characteristics. Many words employed in philosophical controversy are ambiguous. “Freedom,” I think, is one of the most troublesome. I propose to attempt some disentanglement. To begin with, there is a sense in which the meaning of “freedom” seems to present no difficulties. This (...) sense occurs in such a remark as: “That animal was in captivity and now it is free.” I shall call this “simple freedom” and what it means is the absence of constraint. Thus applied there would probably be general agreement about the word. The difficulties arise when we come to consider freedom as pertaining to human persons. Here the distinction between simple freedom and the more philosophical definitions of the word will emerge. On the simple definition a man is free if constraint is absent, and that is all there is to it. But this will not do for most philosophers. It is pointed out that man is a special case in that he experiences conflicting desires. He wills a thing and he does not will it; or he wills something and at the same time he wills something else which is incompatible with it. Man, we are reminded, is a rational creature, but besides his rational will he is subject to the solicitations of impulses and desires which are not rational. Therefore, it is argued, the mere absence of constraint is not a sufficient condition of human freedom and hence not a sufficient definition of the word “freedom” as applied to human persons. (shrink)
The Editorial Board of Political Theory joins the intellectual community the world over in mourning the death of Michael Oakeshott. Professor Oakeshott was a member of the board of Political Theory from the inception of the journal. We shall miss his voice in our conversations. Three of those who knew him well offer the following comments and memories.
Introduction, by R. Peters and M. Cranston.--Hobbes: the problem of interpretation, by W. H. Greenleaf.--Warrender and his critics, by B. Barry.--Hobbes and the just man, by K. R. Minogue.--Hobbes on the knowledge of God, by R. W. Hepburn.--The context of Hobbes's theory of political obligation, by Q. Skinner.--The economic foundations of Hobbes' politics, by W. Letwin.--Hobbes & Hull: metaphysicians of behaviour, by R. Peters and H. Tajfel.--Hobbes on power, by S. I. Benn.--Liberty, by J. W. N. Watkins.--Man and society in (...) Hobbes and Rousseau, by P. Winch.--On the intention of Rousseau, by L. Strauss.--The social contract and Rousseau's revolt against society, by J. McManners.--On le forcera d'être libre, by J. Plamenatz.--Rousseau's images of authority, by J. N, Shklar.--The notion of time in Rousseau's political thought, by W. Pickles.--The structure of Rousseau's political thought, by R. D. Masters.--Rousseau and the problem of happiness, by R. Grimsley.--Individual identity and social consciousness in Rousseau's philosophy, by J. Charvet.--Rousseau's theory of the forms of government, by B. de Jouvenel.--Bibliography (p. -505). (shrink)
In the first volume of his trilogy, noted political philosopher Maurice Cranston draws from original manuscript sources to trace Rousseau's life from his birth in provincial obscurity in Geneva, through his youthful wanderings, to his ...
This volume discusses the ideas of six leading thinkers of the French Enlightenment: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Holbach, and Condorcet. A general introduction surveys the political theories of the Enlightenment, setting them in the context of the political realities of 18th-century France. The first book of its kind on the subject, Philosophers and Pamphleteers brings a welcome, new perspective to the study of French political thought during a fascinating historical era.