• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What did Rousseau mean by 'liberty'?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What did Rousseau mean by 'liberty'? Liberty, by definition, is the 'immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority; political independence.'1 However Rousseau distinguishes two specific types of liberty, natural liberty and civil or moral liberty. Natural liberty, Rousseau states, is the freedom to pursue one's own desires whereas civil liberty is the freedom to pursue the general will. The general will is a key concept in Rousseau's The Social Contract; Rousseau defines the general will as the majority opinion of what is most beneficial to the common interest without any influence from private interest. Freedom and liberty for the individual were hugely popular topics during the time that Rousseau was writing. However where Rousseau stood apart from the other major political and philosophical thinkers of the time was in the manner that he laid out the problem of loss of liberty in society, and the way he went about trying to find the solution to retrieving it. In his first essay, The Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Rousseau contended that through the arts and sciences man has lost his morals, corrupting him, causing wants and creating inequalities which in turn has lead to dependency and hence a loss of liberty. ...read more.

Middle

The simplest way of explaining the various forms of liberty is by referring to the ways in which it can be denied. The most conventional form of denial is a restriction of actions and although this holds for Rousseau's contract, he never explicitly refers to physical liberty. He does, however, refer regularly to the liberty of man's will; the most straight-forward example of denial of this is to will something that is unattainable. I.e. the restrictions of society prevent man from obtaining his will through lack of resources or prevention. In a more abstract approach, it could be the wills themselves that are being restricted by society. In either case this is a loss of liberty in Rousseau's opinion. In Emile Rousseau links freedom to the relationship between will and power and the disparity between them. In referring to the upbringing of children he states that 'by teaching them from the first to confine their wishes within the limits of their powers they will scarcely feel the want of whatever is not within their power.'4 However it is in The Social Contract, Rousseau's most well-known piece that he lays down the format for a society that incorporates these parameters. ...read more.

Conclusion

by the whole of society, which means nothing more or less than that he will be forced to be free.'6 This paradox that an individual can be forced to be free seems problematic but on closer inspection is not that troublesome. If a free act was going to cause a state of unfreedom, then the restraint of such acts would be encouraging liberty and still fit the paradox of being 'forced to be free.' Liberty, along with equality, is the overriding aim of Rousseau political theories. He expands on the definition of liberty, linking it to the physical and the metaphysical, the natural and the civil. He argues against the loss of liberty in his two discourses and then designs a social contract to regain this lost liberty for society as a whole and the individual. But what does Rousseau mean by 'liberty'? In chapter VIII of The Social Contract he proposes a number of meanings for liberty but quickly adds in a statement at the end of the chapter that not one of these was designed to define 'liberty'. The most common answer to this question is that his 'liberty' is a theoretical absolute freedom where an individual only has to obey himself in the form of the general will, in accordance with his social contract. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. "Comparison of Rousseau's view of liberty with that of Mill's".

    the right to live and die, are in the hands of the sovereign. This sovereign for Rousseau is everyone who has agreed to the terms of the social contract. Therefore, if the sovereign asked him to cross the bridge, he would have no choice but to cross it.

  2. Evaluate Mill's liberty principle. What does Mill mean by liberty? What other principles are ...

    He doesn't want people to blindly follow custom.1 One of the sections of the LP is the harm principle (HP). This principle states that there are two kinds of acts that a person can do. The first kind are self-regarding acts, which only affect the individual who is doing the

  1. Homophobia: a Definition

    "It was disgusting!" she exclaimed. When I asked her to tell me what about this experience was disgusting to her, she answered, "Because it's revolting!" and when I inquired what revolted her about the couple, she replied "Because it's disgusting!" Our conversation came full circle without her having been able to explain the basis of here feelings.

  2. Jean Jacques Rousseau.

    He thought that it leads to degradation of society's morals, but if it remains true to nature, it could represent life in all its authentic beauty and can give a push to the resurrection of morality. In his analysis he opposed the moral hedonism of the "cultured" nations to the

  1. Fiction Paper - "Misery".

    At the end of the ride Iona collects the fare. The officer regrets to even say sorry to hear about your son. Iona's son has been dead almost a week and he had yet to speak to anyone about it.

  2. The Horror and Sci-fi genres: General Theoretical Approaches.

    This cyborg learns the human emotions and values which most of the other characters within the film have long forgotten. As a consequence, Sarah recognizes that 'in an insane world' such as the present, the terminator will make a better, more caring father for her son than any man she has known.

  1. Environmental Lessons From History.

    The T.V. programme 'Wild', broadcast on BBC2, Sunday, 26th. November 2000 explained how 91% of Madagascar's rain forest had been cut down, mainly over the last 100 years. In his book Rainforests of the World (1998) Ghillean T. Prance relates that only 6% of the important Brazilian Atlantic coastline forest still remains.

  2. Muriel Spark’s ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’

    Woolf was also interested in things of the natural world, such as rocks and plants, because of their solitude and self-sufficiency; we see that Miss Jean Brodie possesses both characteristics. They were known as a social clique. There were a few Cambridge graduates and they would assemble on a weeknight for drinks and conversation.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work