The Power and the Empowerment of Man: A Study of Human Nature in J.J. Rousseau’s Political Thought

Abstract

J.J. Rousseau is known for his ardent critique of the Enlightenment. Following the First Discourse, in which he gives an analysis of how society had become corrupted by man’s own doing, i.e. art and science, Rousseau offers a genealogy of human society in the Second Discourse. According to Rousseau, man in the age of reason and progress seems to have lost the goodness endowed to him by nature, thereby turned into a creature full of vices and degenerated morals. Contrasting with such a grim view of modern man, this paper will argue that in Rousseau’s thought there is an underlying idea of human power. By reexamining the nature of man in Rousseau’s writings, it will be shown that, unlike any other creatures, man is equipped with a unique set of natural capabilities which enable man to create, to overcome, and most importantly to corrupt. With the power of reason and perfectibilité, man proceeded from an isolated self to a social being, and shaping the society as he goes. The paper will dissect the nature and the significance of these capabilities to man’s existence both in a natural and socio-political context. Furthermore, the paper will attempt to draw a relation between Rousseau’s view of human nature to his view of the State as a political construct referring to the general will of the people.



Author Information
Phanomkorn Yothasorn, Thammasat University, Thailand

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2015
Stream: Humanities - Philosophy

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