The Biography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Francophone Genevan Philosopher

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Who Was Rousseau?

Because Rousseau grew up and into Calvin’s Geneva, and because Calvin is yet another individual who succeeded in having a group of followers due to his works and writings, such as Rousseau did as was described towards the end of the video, one can say that although Rousseau might not have agreed with Calvin’s ideas, he could’ve had respect for him due to his methods, and impact on society. Rousseau claims that private property created the need for society and government because it is private property that generated the necessity of someone who could take care and protect the private property. This necessary evil created an inevitable class division.

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It is due to the existence of private properties that governments had to ensure someone was protecting it, and during the process certain people sacrificed some of their rights in order for that government to be established and successful, with its private properties. According to Rousseau, it’s the people within society that generate the issues and turmoil that they later observe and experience within society. According to Sargent, Rousseau says while government is a problem, it is a necessary problem. Rousseau views society influence on “natural man” and natural goodness as a corrupt factor, where the meaning of a society is ruined due to factors such as private property, lacking education, or agreement with that of the general will.

The creation and existence of private properties within societies meant that there were going to be property owners and there were going to be property protectors, in other words, workers. When a government comes around to assign certain people as that property’s protector, that person ends up losing some of his or her rights. Thus, in order for the government to be successful in its methods, certain people had to lose some of their rights. As explained in his book Discourse on the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind, Rousseau states that although the government is a necessity, it’s nevertheless an evil necessity. One of the roles explained in this book of the government is that it’s a necessary way to control and regulate the behaviors and actions that particular people can engage in, that will be a danger to themselves, and possibly the society. Moreover, Rousseau believes the government should be considerate of the general will, as stated in the Social Contract.

The idea that Rousseau is famous for, which is of the primitive man, was generally termed the name “noble savage”. If one brings to light the idea of the noble savage, one can easily notice a repeating topic of the history of primitivism within Europe. What Rousseau was trying to explain was that there once was an era where humans were more in touch not only with nature, but with themselves; as Rousseau states, whether this be a religious self, political self, or a social self. The general will Rousseau actively emphasizes in his book, the Social Contract, is what goes on to lead the democratic communities we see today, such as the one seen within the American Constitution. Rousseau famously stated that man was born free, and everywhere is in chains. These symbolic chains Rousseau is referring to are the chains government and society has woven around themselves. It’s the government’s duty, in Rousseau’s opinion, to be considerate of the general will. Those that don’t agree with the general will should be compelled to be free by being compelled to follow the general will.

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