A Critical Examination of Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Compiled by Lewis LoflinThe socialist mystic Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778) along with the anti-Semitic atheist Voltaire are in my opinion the two main influences on modern Humanist philosophy. Both are often credited for the humanist French Revolution. This secular revolution would sanction open state-sanctioned murder of "enemies of the people."
The modern Humanist movements in general are more a religion taking Voltaire's hostile atheism and elitism towards traditional values and Christianity, and combining this with Rousseau's "general will" and mystical socialist outlook of human nature. Here I'll concern myself with Rousseau. For Voltaire see The Religion of Voltaire.
According to www.infed.org on Rousseau,
His novel Émile was the most significant book on education after Plato's Republic, and his other work(s) had a profound impact on political theory and practice, romanticism...Why should those concerned with education study Rousseau? He had an unusual childhood with no formal education. He was a poor teacher. Apparently unable to bring up his own children, he committed them to orphanages soon after birth. At times he found living among people difficult, preferring the solitary life. What can such a man offer educators? ...his thinking has influenced subsequent generations of educational thinkers - and permeates the practice of informal educators. (Wokler 1995: 1).Yes his "thinking" led to the French Revolution and secular mass murder, to Communism, to the modern educational failure based on his idea that knowledge is worthless and "feelings" are everything. In education he would influence socialist John Dewey. Just how did a man that knew nothing about education come to dominate it today? Because his mystical views are more emotionally satisfying than reason alone.
"Rousseau's ideas about education have profoundly influenced modern educational theory. He minimizes the importance of book learning, and recommends that a child's emotions should be educated before his reason. He placed a special emphasis on learning by experience." Liberal racists believe minority children are incapable of learning book knowledge such as math, science, and English, so it's better to promote "self esteem" instead of allowing these children a real education. Many Enlightenment figures were also racists.
Quoting the Epoch Times February 22, 2010 article The Environmental Attack on Market Liberalism
The argument that liberal civilization is fundamentally flawed and necessarily brings about multiple evils is almost as old as liberalism itself. The first prominent advocate of this position was 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose musings have recently been revived by some in the environmental movement who see an opportunity, during the current "climate change" panic, to overturn centuries of progress toward liberalism and markets...Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland. His mother died shortly after his birth. When Rousseau was 10 his father fled from Geneva to avoid imprisonment for a minor offense, leaving young Jean-Jacques to be raised by an aunt and uncle. Rousseau left Geneva at 16, wandering from place to place, finally moving to Paris in 1742. He earned his living at an assortment of odd jobs.
Rousseau's distorted insight can be found in almost every facet of modern philosophy today. Called "complicated and ambiguous," Rousseau's general philosophy played on emotion, often at odds with the dry humanist reason of the rest of the French Enlightenment.
Rousseau contends that man is essentially good, modern civilization is evil, and primitivism (where man is a 'noble savage') is best for happiness. He believed "that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as 'artificial' and 'corrupt' and that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man." He was the forefather of the irrational New Age environmental movement today.
Rousseau's essay, "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences" (1750) made the irrational argument that the advancement science/art had a negative impact on mankind. That knowledge had made governments more powerful thus destroying individual liberty. (Be careful how he defines individual liberty.) He concluded "that material progress had actually undermined the possibility of sincere friendship, replacing it with jealousy, fear and suspicion." What this reflects was his own life in general.
Perhaps Rousseau's most important work is "The Social Contract" that describes the relationship of man with society. In the "state of nature, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men. Because he can be more successful facing threats by joining with other men, he has the impetus to do so. He joins together with his fellow men to form the collective human presence known as "society." "The Social Contract" is the 'compact' agreed to among men that sets the conditions for membership in society.
To quote, "One of the primary principles of Rousseau's political philosophy is that politics and morality should not be separated. When a state fails to act in a moral fashion, it ceases to function in the proper manner and ceases to exert genuine authority over the individual. The second important principle is freedom, which the state is created to preserve."
Discourse on Inequality (1754)
Rousseau was one of the first modern writers to seriously attack the institution of private property, and therefore is considered a father of modern socialism and Communism. Rousseau (at times) also questioned the assumption that the will of the majority is always correct. He argued that the goal of government should be to secure freedom (as he defines it), equality, and justice for all within the state, regardless of the will of the majority. (This would become an excuse to oppress the individual for the 'good' of society.)
In his "Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men," also commonly known as the "Second Discourse", Rousseau's main emphasis is moral inequality and differences in wealth are to blame. He operates on faith that man is "good", but now he finds a secular answer as to why the evidence proves him wrong.
Rousseau takes a negative view of civil society in general, where man has strayed from his mythical "natural state" of isolation and consequent freedom to satisfy his individual needs and desires. For Rousseau, civil society is "a trick perpetrated" by the rich and powerful to exploit the weak to protect their power and money. Advocating 'primitivism" this mythical "natural man" hasn't yet acquired language or abstract thought. He is a happy animal or 'noble savage' nonsense. (He didn't invent the term.)
"The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land," said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."
In one example Rousseau idolized American Indians and their primitivism as an "ideal man" despite the fact they slaughtered each other in big batches and played havoc on their ecological surroundings. This is the mystical view of the modern environmental movement as well. Rousseau had never been to America or met an American Indian. Like most of his philosophy it's based on emotional speculation and not reason or empirical proof.
Rousseau's 'natural man' is at odds with the atheistic Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). He is best known for the epic Leviathan (1651) that reveals his negative view of human nature. Hobbs believed people are so bad the only way to have a civilized society is through absolutist rule. To quote www.Sparknotes.com of Hobbs,
...that any group of men who ascend to positions of great power will be prone to abusing it, seeking more power than necessary for the stability of society. Thus, he reasons, a single absolute ruler is better than an oligarchy or democracy; because that ruler's wealth and power is largely equivalent to the wealth and power of the nation, he will seek to lead the nation on a stable and prosperous course.
On the polar opposite from Hobbs was John Locke (1632-1704). His essay "Concerning Human Understanding" (1690), in which Locke puts forth his optimistic idea that man's mind is a blank slate and that man can subsequently learn and improve through conscious effort. This has largely been disproved, but his ideas were more popular than Hobbs.
Rousseau contradicts Hobbs negative view of humans as "overly cynical" and agrees more with Locke. Rousseau's natural man is basically like any other animal, where "self-preservation being his chief and almost sole concern" and "the only goods he recognizes in the universe are food, a female, and sleep..." and, "few qualities that allow him to distinguish himself from the animals over a long period of time." Hobbes viewed man as "in constant state of fear and anxiety."
Rousseau's natural man possesses a few qualities that allow him to distinguish himself from the animals over a long period of time. Of importance is man's ability to choose, which Rousseau refers to as "free-agency". However Rousseau's proclamation of man's free will is undermined by his belief that man is "a being that always acts in accordance with certain and invariable principles", and indeed contradicts the basic premise of the Discourse itself: that we can logically infer what actions man must have taken over the course of his development. In addition, Rousseau argues that "another principle which has escaped Hobbes" is man's compassion. This quality of man also motivates him to interact.
A tragic belief of Rousseau is "perfectibility," one of the main underpinnings of the Humanist French Enlightenment and the French Revolution in general. This has led to endless efforts by later elites to "perfect" man and society and create endless failed utopias. Fascism, Marxism, and Nazism being among the worst extremes of this humanist philosophy.
More on The Social Contract
In The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762) Rousseau theorized about the best way to create a society to solve the problems he stated in his Discourse on Inequality (1754). His basic theme:
"The Social Contract was a progressive work that helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France. The Social Contract argued against the idea that monarchs were divinely empowered to legislate; as Rousseau asserts, only the people, in the form of the sovereign, have that all powerful right." He was for a pure democracy (often ending us as mob rule) and his vague view of "general will" that undermines individual liberty. What it comes down to is six wolves are voting with one sheep on what's for dinner.
The idea of the social contract simply stated: "Each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole..." Again the individual counts for nothing outside the collective whole and must subordinate themselves to it. I'm sure great humanists such as Stalin and Mao would agree. Lamb chops anyone?
Other ref. Some extracts from Wikipedia, text books, etc.
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