Rousseau Philosophy

The term "universal will," coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his work Social Contract: Essays, refers to "the total of the differences" that aids in the achievement of a common good in society (30). It relies on the existence of a moral stance in people to be an essential idea in the current world. The thinker distinguishes "the universal will" from "the local and often contradictory wills of individuals and groups" in this context (Wyckoff 51). This study demonstrates the significance of "the universal will" in society by demonstrating its practical implementation. Specifically, the analysis refers to the governmental design, the essence of this concept, the consequences for those who do not agree, and the general applicability of the philosopher’s views.

To start with, the government should be designed in a strategic manner to support “the general will.” In particular, the legitimate laws should be based on it to reflect the interests of the citizens. To support this argument, Rousseau claims that freedom and authority are not contradictory and “the laws [are] being nothing but authentic acts of the sovereign will” (91). In this situation, the philosopher argues that individual obeying the law complies with one’s own interest by being the member of a political community (Munro). Thus, it is evident supporting “the general will” is the only way to maintain sovereign authority that is legitimate in the society.

Secondly, Rousseau introduces “the general will” term through another important concept in his philosophy, “the social contract.” In the design of this agreement, the sovereign and the government together apply “the general will” as the guideline for decision making in a civil society. Although these actors have specific tasks, all their final decisions are determined by “the general will” as a part of a social contract. In other words, it is evident that Rousseau determines “the general will” as the natural prerequisite for the community and as a principle of signing the social contract.

Furthermore, the act of the general will demands everyone to collaborate in order to ensure that individual interests do not bias the laws. In this case, the executive branch of power plays a major role in guaranteeing that every individual adheres to the regulations put in place. In this situation, Rousseau believes that all people are indirectly under the authority of the general will, and whoever goes against it should be “forced to be free” (Schmid et al. 358). This indicates that the entire body controls the individuals to honor the social contract they agreed based on “the general will” with the government.

Finally, Rousseau believes that a good government should give freedom to all its citizens. By introducing the concept of “social contract,” the author shows the key role of the government in avoiding certain constraints inherent to a complex, modern, civil society. The philosopher claims that as long as the property and law exist, individuals will never be entirely free in the modern society as they are in the state of nature (Rousseau 21). In this rather idealistic view, Rousseau creates a social model with strict principles for the government. Even though it is hard to achieve this state in the contemporary world, the theory is generally applicable to a newly established state and can provide the members of the society with a freedom enjoyed in the state of nature.

In conclusion, Rousseau assumes that all individuals are capable of taking the moral responsibility to create the environment that includes the interests of everyone. By revealing the purpose of governmental design, the nature of the social contract, the importance of maintaining the social conditions, and the common good established in the nature of the general will, the author shows the worthiness of his theory and its general applicability in the modern world.

Works Cited

Munro, André. "General Will: Philosophy of Rousseau". Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Apr. 2013, Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right. Translated by Henry John Tozer, Ware: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1998.

Schmid, Rudolf, et al. "Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), an Early Student and Teacher of Botany (1763-78)". Taxon, vol. 49, no. 2 (2000), pp. 358-361.

Wyckoff, Jason. “Rousseau’s General Will and the Condorcet Jury Theorem”. History of Political Thought, no. 32 (2011), pp. 49-62.

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