On Desire and the Good
This book would be indispensable to courses (both undergraduate and graduate) in philosophy, religious studies, and the history of ideas – in interdisciplinary courses in the humanities, generally – that focus on the values that are central, both historically and ontologically, to modernity.
6 Politics: What Do I Will? In Beginning with Relationship as the Freedom and Equality of All
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“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” So Rousseau dramatically opens Chapter 1 of Book 1 of his Social Contract, which was published in 1762. He forthwith poses two questions. First: How did this change come about? He answers: I do not know. Second: What can make this change legitimate? He answers: That I shall proceed to show in this my present work. All of the issues that are fundamental to my study are comprehended—not altogether self-consciously by Rousseau, as we shall see—in the stunning declaration with which he initiates his presentation of the social contract. He appears, from the beginning, to presuppose two beginnings for human beings. They are born free; yet they are not free, for everywhere, it is apparent, they are in chains. Still, these chains are the very bonds by which human beings legitimate, make lawful, justify, render just their relationships as constituting the social contract.
I initiate this chapter on politics—in response to the question: What do I will?—with Rousseau because, as the last of our four great contract theorists (following Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke), he like them never deviates, in principle, from demonstrating that, in order for human freedom to be grasped as truly individual, it must be understood to be, from the beginning, in the beginning, social, not natural. We begin with the chains that constitute the bonds of relationship ← 175 | 176 → as the freedom and equality of...
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