Friday, April 30, 2010

249: Rousseau (1712 - 1778)

Jean-Jaques Rousseau (1712 - 1178) is probably the best know philosopher among the 'Social Contract" philosophers. Even his typical way of thinking is still popular.

The Academy of Dijon posed the question, “Has the restoration of the sciences and arts tended to purify morals?” And Rousseau said : NO! in 1750.

And still we see the ambivalence around us. One group who is optimistic and believes that science will solve any problem and the other group who claims that all this science and technology alienates us from our true self.

It is remarkable that more than 250 years ago there were people who had the same ideas. Or should I say that we now experience the influence of Rousseau's philosophy here.

Like the sciences in those days analyzed physical reality in its smallest parts and laws of nature, in the same way philosophers tried to apply this methodology to political philosophy.

So we got the "state of nature" theories of man as formulated by Hobbes and Locke and now Rousseau too.

Hobbes contends that human beings are motivated purely by self-interest, and that the state of nature, which is the state of human beings without civil society, is the war of every person against every other.

Locke’s account of the state of nature is different in that it is an intellectual exercise to illustrate people’s obligations to one another. These obligations are articulated in terms of natural rights, including rights to life, liberty and property.

Rousseau’s picture of “man in his natural state,” is radically different. Rousseau describes natural man as isolated, timid, peaceful, mute, and without the foresight to worry about what the future will bring.

Rousseau acknowledges, that self-preservation is one principle of motivation for human actions. But there is a second principle: “an innate repugnance to see his fellow suffer.”, pity.

Human beings in the state of nature are amoral creatures, neither virtuous nor vicious, but naturally good. according to Rousseau. After humans leave the state of nature, they can enjoy a higher form of goodness, moral goodness, which Rousseau articulates most explicitly in the Social Contract.

Rousseau's philosophy is based on the idea that by nature, humans are essentially peaceful, content, and equal. It is the socialization process that has produced inequality, competition, and the egoistic mentality. But the social contract is the inevitable consequence of historical development.

While Hobbes and Locke had some utilitarian like ideas about a society based on a social contract, Rousseau chooses a completely different approach by introducing the concept of the "general will".

One can understand the general will in terms of an analogy. A political society is like a human body. A body is a unified entity though it has various parts that have particular functions.

And just as the body has a will that looks after the well-being of the whole, a political state also has a will which looks to its general well-being.

The major conflict in political philosophy occurs when the general will is at odds with one or more of the individual wills of its citizens.

Rousseau argues that there is an important distinction to be made between the general will and the collection of individual wills: “There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will.

The latter looks only to the common interest; the former considers private interest and is only a sum of private wills. But take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel each other out, and the remaining sum of the differences is the general will.”

And here I am lost with Rousseau. I have no idea where he has found this general will, nor do I know what generates its existence. We know the term "the common good", but now we have to follow "the general will"

An unpleasant political idea in my opinion. Who can claim to know what this general will wants. And if someone does, are we obliged to follow him? Not me…

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: so much on Rousseau
[13:18] herman Bergson: He started a debate that still rages on
[13:18] Gemma Cleanslate: that reminds me of the problem we had last week with the obligation to follow the majority
[13:18] Qwark Allen: indeed
[13:18] Bejiita Imako: aa yes like whats going on in Thailand for ex now
[13:19] herman Bergson: Well...the majority is not an abstraction....
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: who have right the yellows or red
[13:19] oola Neruda: i am bothered by the manipulation of facts and use of propaganda to influence general will
[13:19] Gemma Cleanslate: no but was still causing the same problem for the minority
[13:19] herman Bergson: These is a difference Bejita...
[13:19] Kiki Walpanheim: sorry i am was bad
[13:20] herman Bergson: In Thailand the rulers are tyrannies in the classic sense...not selected by democratic vote
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: very true
[13:20] herman Bergson: all Social Contract theorists agree on the right to overthrow despotism
[13:21] herman Bergson: and as I said...contrary to this General Will of rousseau.the majority is a realthing
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: hmm true that but general in politics do they think of the people or only themselves and is the later the so called general will
[13:21] herman Bergson: and it is a social agreement that we accept the vote of the majority
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:22] herman Bergson: that is an ever lasting problem with representation….do they represent us...
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: or themselves
[13:22] herman Bergson: The greek let all the citizens vote..but that was just a small group
[13:22] Alaya Kumaki: the general will look like if it is a survey s proportion of those who are forcing leaderships, as in an oligarchy
[13:24] Kiki Walpanheim: i dont understand why civilization is a degradation of morals
[13:24] Abraxas Nagy: look around you
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes...good question Kiki....
[13:24] oola Neruda: a lot depends upon the leader... in some places education is lacking and even denied, in other places it is required
[13:24] herman Bergson: it is what not exactly what Rousseau thought....but that is a matter of debate
[13:25] oola Neruda: who decides what is best for the whole
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:25] Abraxas Nagy: the majority
[13:25] herman Bergson: The question is why did they think it made sense to analyze human existence to arrive at some "natural state"?
[13:26] herman Bergson: Well one decides what is best....
[13:26] Alaya Kumaki: could they analyze from a natural state.. of were they studying humans in a society already?
[13:26] herman Bergson: there is a plethora of interests and a number of people who are selected to tip the balance one way or the other
[13:26] Alaya Kumaki: humans
[13:27] herman Bergson: this natural state is in fact a theoretical construct
[13:27] oola Neruda: but those people need to be honest and wise
[13:27] Alaya Kumaki: its seems so
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: the main problem is we all THINK
[13:27] herman Bergson: maybe related to the idea of us coming from paradise
[13:29] herman Bergson: What these COntract Theorists made clear at least was that the authority of a state was not derived form God or the like but created by man himself
[13:29] herman Bergson: That was their big contribution to our independence
[13:29] Alaya Kumaki: ah the previous state before the society ,what it is related to the religion that was at the time?
[13:29] Kiki Walpanheim: also...if society is unnatural..then why social contract...
[13:30] herman Bergson: christian faith still plaid an important role..
[13:30] herman Bergson: It was the metaphysical background of the philosophers of those days
[13:31] herman Bergson: but what they question is the authority of this religion in relation to the empirical reality
[13:31] Kiki Walpanheim: and yes this general will confuses me too
[13:31] Alaya Kumaki: well ,i my sense, if many persons dont what to follow the general will, they could make a social contract among themselves, and be into another groups.. , this is how i saw his social contract, but i find relate it to the general will, before today
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: i think rousseau also mentioned that the social contract cant be applied to a too large society
[13:32] herman Bergson: this GEneral will idea is a questionable issue in Rousseau's philosophy for me
[13:32] Kiki Walpanheim: nods to herman, the same with me
[13:32] herman Bergson: The English like Hobbes an Locke talked about the Common good....
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: so far i like Montesquieu better
[13:33] herman Bergson: in that they meant real security and welfare for the people..
[13:33] Alaya Kumaki: the general will might not be, a leadership, but the will, in general?
[13:33] Kiki Walpanheim: if ppl in this contract are all by free will, then i can understand...not sure...
[13:33] herman Bergson: YEs Alaya, but what wiill...and who knows what this General will wants...
[13:33] Kiki Walpanheim: which mean, ppl could choose to live without or within this contract, rather than coercively
[13:34] herman Bergson: It is a kind of a God idea
[13:34] Alaya Kumaki: hihi, that is the question
[13:34] Alaya Kumaki: but than comes the social contract
[13:34] herman Bergson: well...I dont think you should take the idea of a contract too literal
[13:35] Kiki Walpanheim: also i dont understand why a progressive society is no good.....
[13:35] Alaya Kumaki: oh
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: as in agreement
[13:35] herman Bergson: There never was signed a contract in history...
[13:35] Kiki Walpanheim: oh
[13:35] herman Bergson: Even this contract idea is a theoretical construct to explain reality
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:36] herman Bergson: I think one of the main drives was the believe in the human being himself,,,independent of any authority ...means religion
[13:36] Kiki Walpanheim: rousseau also mentioned that children better be educated by nature rather than books...while i cherish reading books....
[13:36] herman Bergson: that is what I meant in the beginning...
[13:37] herman Bergson: these days you still find people who believe in knowledge an science as a solution...
[13:37] Alaya Kumaki: i dotn see it as a signed paper, but a social, will, something they agree upon , like having basic needs, a a commons understanding, , some cooperative inclination
[13:37] Kiki Walpanheim: network was bad...missed the beginning;( but would check the blog later ;)
[13:37] herman Bergson: while others believe in 'nature'
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: we would have a new set of savages every few years
[13:37] herman Bergson: nature
[13:38] herman Bergson: YEs are right..and in that sense you are closer to Hobbes and Locke than to Rousseau
[13:39] herman Bergson: But this general will idea will play an important role later
[13:39] Kiki Walpanheim: tho nature is good, and ppl do have a side that they like to share....which i agree
[13:39] herman Bergson: Typical continental metaphysics
[13:39] Kiki Walpanheim: still, maybe part of nature is that we are gifted the ability to use tech. be cultivated
[13:40] Kiki Walpanheim: and ppl are selfish as well...tho ppl like to share
[13:40] Kiki Walpanheim tries to understand him rather than let my prejudice take over me
[13:41] herman Bergson: ]A natural state is a myth in my opinion...we never have been in such a state..not is it a desirable state
[13:41] Kiki Walpanheim: nods
[13:42] herman Bergson: Important is to see how normative Rousseau's philosophy is...he is rather a moralist telling us how it should be
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim: also he described the nice pic of primitives when there was no ownership...
[13:42] Kiki Walpanheim: nods
[13:43] herman Bergson: We'll see more of the influence of his ideas
[13:43] Kiki Walpanheim: maybe could read him as to see how to be good and moral
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:43] Kiki Walpanheim: like,,...kant?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well Virtue was his highest goal....and education to virtuous life
[13:44] herman Bergson: which means....close to (our) nature
[13:44] Kiki Walpanheim: yes, being virtuous and close to nature...but in my opinion, to neglect the facts that ppl are not like that, is
[13:44] Kiki Walpanheim: might not be quite realistic...i dunno
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well Rousseau had some weird ideas...
[13:45] Kiki Walpanheim: tho trying to be virtuous ourselves is good
[13:45] Alaya Kumaki: rousseau was very conservative and a tendency to , moralize yes
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: would never work in this society for sure anywhere
[13:45] herman Bergson: for instance that science was the result of pride and vanity....
[13:45] Kiki Walpanheim: if everybody has evolved to angels, then an ideal society would achieve....maybe..
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: hmm maybe then
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well..I think our present perspective is way different....
[13:46] Alaya Kumaki: some scientist are saing that for pride and vanity , , i can see that, but not all
[13:46] Alaya Kumaki: using
[13:46] herman Bergson: we are one step further than `ROusseau....we accept that we ar eevolved animals
[13:46] herman Bergson: and we reason from there
[13:47] Kiki Walpanheim: when not everybody is as virtuous as that, maybe taking advantage of ppl's self interst works better...
[13:47] herman Bergson: with the focus on the 'animal' features
[13:47] Kiki Walpanheim: oh
[13:47] herman Bergson: Hobbes , Locke and rousseau accepted the fact that we are social beings
[13:48] herman Bergson: we accept the fact that we are biological organisms with social behavior
[13:48] Alaya Kumaki: does he refer to the animal, as the body part, or more as the mind being gregarious,what were animals for him?
[13:48] herman Bergson: we interpret our situation from another scientific perspective than those men could
[13:49] herman Bergson: For Rousseau we were close to animals, but the big difference is our free will, which no animal posseses
[13:50] Kiki Walpanheim: rousseau thinks that renaissance made ppl lost the ancient virtues.....also
[13:50] Kiki Walpanheim: do ppl really have free will?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Well he is a classic Virtue moralist
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: good question
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: nods
[13:51] Qwark Allen: do animals don`t have free will?
[13:51] herman Bergson: that is a whole new chapter Kiki
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: ;-) yes.....
[13:51] herman Bergson: animals act on instinct
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: I'd say
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: they probably have but follow instinct more i think
[13:51] Blackwell Huet: My favorite subject.
[13:51] Abraxas Nagy: the holographic universe
[13:51] Qwark Allen: i think they have
[13:51] Qwark Allen: some
[13:51] Qwark Allen: we tend to be egocentric on that
[13:51] Kiki Walpanheim: maybe focus on rousseau this time ;-)
[13:52] Blackwell Huet: Animals have soul, but people have the ability to develop spirit.
[13:52] herman Bergson: What is your favorite subject Blackwell?
[13:52] herman Bergson: ~free wil?
[13:52] Blackwell Huet: Yes, sir.
[13:52] Alaya Kumaki: will to deviate from nature organisations, as far as i can see, we can eat and poison ourself for the sake of the pleasure of any type, interests of any projection of satisfactions, putting ourself in trouble? is it an advantage?
[13:52] Qwark Allen: spirit can be as subjective as the animals don`t have free will
[13:53] herman Bergson: it is a fact Ayala
[13:53] Kiki Walpanheim: my favorite is ethics and politics, not limited to that tho , anything on philosophy is interesting to me
[13:53] Alaya Kumaki: it might be usefull for something, more, than just loose track
[13:53] Alaya Kumaki: it might be a propultion motor, motive
[13:53] herman Bergson: I dont know Ayala... ㋡
[13:54] Alaya Kumaki: its needed, in trouble as for a fireman to save life , for example
[13:54] herman Bergson: Well…. Rousseau is a bit of a question mark to me .....not sure what to do with him
[13:54] Alaya Kumaki: tha tis the strong social cohesive glue , i guess
[13:55] Blackwell Huet: The strongest social cohesive glue is FEAR.
[13:55] herman Bergson: Next class will be our 250th Lecture...
[13:55] Qwark Allen: omg
[13:55] herman Bergson: Yes Qwark ㋡
[13:55] Qwark Allen: that is great
[13:55] Kiki Walpanheim: who is the guest next time
[13:55] Qwark Allen: got to celebrate it
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: nice
[13:55] Kiki Walpanheim: yes , 250 that is wonderful
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: anniversary
[13:56] herman Bergson: Well.. I am thinking..after all these liberals that Property could be our guest
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: goodness
[13:56] Kiki Walpanheim: oh...good
[13:56] herman Bergson: Before we continue into the 19th century...
[13:56] herman Bergson: we could dig into the concept of property....
[13:56] Alaya Kumaki: fear and free will?mmm i was relating it, to will that make us have a strong decisional social behavior, cutting into the self i centrifuge satisfaction
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: ty professor it was wonderful....always enjoy the lectures here!
[13:57] herman Bergson: For we are heading for a world of poor and rich....class struggle....
[13:57] herman Bergson: thank you kiki
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes thats true
[13:57] Alaya Kumaki: indeed and maybe more fascist too
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: yes we are
[13:57] herman Bergson: Property is a fascinating subject I can tell you...
[13:57] Blackwell Huet: I wholly agree.
[13:57] Kiki Walpanheim: yes, surely is
[13:57] herman Bergson: it is at the root of our political system
[13:58] Blackwell Huet: Agreed.
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: or at least rightwing is coming up
[13:58] Blackwell Huet: It is at the root of our system of laws.
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: in Holland that is
[13:58] herman Bergson: Well property isnt right or to distribute and share it is the debate for the future

[Hope63 Shephard was one the 'students' in the Philosophy Class since day one. On March 8, 2009, so after about two years of participation, he disappeared from Second Life. We tried to contact him without much effect. He was highly appreciated for his contributions in our discussions.
However, recently we got reports that he was spotted here and there. I also saw him for a split second. And today he appeared in class again, so you can imagine the reception he got….㋡]

[13:58] herman Bergson: HOPE!!
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: OMG!!!
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: omg
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: HOPE!!!!!
[13:59] herman Bergson whispers: WELCOME
[13:59] Qwark Allen: ㋡ ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Helloooooo! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:59] Qwark Allen: Hey! HOPPPPEEEEE
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: good heavens!!
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: hiii hope :-)
[13:59] Abraxas Nagy: ah but how to distribute it IS politcs
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: hi Hope
[13:59] Alaya Kumaki giggles
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: I am glad to see you are alive
[13:59] Blackwell Huet: Popular guy!
[13:59] herman Bergson: For those who dont Hope
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:59] herman Bergson: ♫♪♫♪ ♪♫♪♫ APPLAUSE ♪♫♪♫ ♫♪♫♪
[13:59] oola Neruda: HOPE!!!
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: :)
[13:59] Zinzi Serevi: hello Hope
[13:59] Zinzi's translator: hello Hope
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: relax.. lol.. how can you be sure its me..:)
[13:59] oola Neruda: welcome back!!!
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: just not seen in almost a year
[13:59] herman Bergson: One of our most loyal students and oldtimer
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: very old lol
[14:00] Qwark Allen: OMG THAT IS you! just cause of that
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: aa ok
[14:00] Qwark Allen: l ☺ ☻ ☺ l
[14:00] Qwark Allen: lol
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: ah i see
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: lol.. oldtimer might be the right
[14:00] herman Bergson: but still on a slow
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: older than me in class
[14:00] bergfrau Apfelbaum: lol
[14:00] Qwark Allen: ╔╗╔═╦╗
[14:00] Qwark Allen: ║╚╣║║╚╗
[14:00] Qwark Allen: ╚═╩═╩═╝
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: please continue professor..:)
[14:00] Zinzi Serevi: he is just in time for the 250
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: wow
[14:00] herman Bergson: Class is dismissed Hope
[14:00] Kiki Walpanheim: i see two characters on hope's shirt....smiles
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: herman
[14:00] Sartre Placebo: thx herman
[14:00] Abraxas Nagy: ty professor
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: see you thursday
[14:01] Qwark Allen: you got here one hour later HOPE
[14:01] Abraxas Nagy: it was a pleasure again
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: interesting
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: hope we see you thursday Hope
[14:01] Zinzi Serevi: thanks Herman
[14:01] Kiki Walpanheim: see you
[14:01] Qwark Allen: YES
[14:01] herman Bergson: Hope..Thursday 22:00 European time..Lecture 250
[14:01] Zinzi Serevi: bye all of you
[14:01] bergfrau Apfelbaum: it was interesting!! thanks herman: -) thanks class!
[14:01] Qwark Allen: ㋡ ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Helloooooo! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[14:01] Qwark Allen: Hey!
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: anything happening Q?
[14:02] Qwark Allen: I`M at europe ---> and it`s at 21 here
[14:02] Qwark Allen: l ☺ ☻ ☺ l
[14:02] Qwark Allen: lol
[14:02] Qwark Allen: no
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: no?
[14:02] herman Bergson: that is UK Qwark
[14:02] Qwark Allen: today going to bed soon
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: o A o!
[14:02] Qwark Allen: gemma going to rl work
[14:02] Qwark Allen: @_@
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: ah ok m8 have A good rest
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: ok
[14:02] Qwark Allen: tomorow we`ll make a partyy
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: w0oh0o!
[14:02] bergfrau Apfelbaum: see you thursday :-)
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: ah
[14:02] Qwark Allen: ok
[14:03] Qwark Allen: byesee you tomorow
[14:03] Abraxas Nagy: c ya bergFrau
[14:03] Qwark Allen: .-)))
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: cu then Q
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: :)
[14:03] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye abra:-)
[14:03] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: cu all
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