Leo Strauss: The Three Waves of Modernity

Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was one of the most important historians of political philosophy in the 20th century.  A Jewish emigre to America in the 1930s, Strauss made his name as an exegete of the classics (Plato, Aristotle, and Thucydides especially; Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Maimonides among Arab-Islamic and Jewish medieval philosophers, and Sts. Augustine and Thomas … Continue reading Leo Strauss: The Three Waves of Modernity

Rousseau: The Second Discourse on Inequality

Rousseau’s second discourse on inequality builds from his first.  The second discourse contains his famous depiction of the noble savage, how man loses his freedom and equality through the establishment of property and society, and his ruminations about how reason corrupts human living and how knowledge is used as a tool of oppression and violence.  … Continue reading Rousseau: The Second Discourse on Inequality

Rousseau: The First Discourse on Inequality

Rousseau begins his Discourses on Inequality by stating he is examining the question of man – quid sit homo – that eternal question that is at the bedrock of philosophy.  Chronologically, Rousseau wrote the Discourses before the Social Contract, but the two works complement one another and should be read together.  Within the Discourses Rousseau’s … Continue reading Rousseau: The First Discourse on Inequality

Rousseau: The Social Contract, IV

Moving into the final book of Rousseau’s Social Contract, we see the final touches to Rousseau’s politics of unanimity and legitimization.  This is the most important thing to recognize in Rousseau, and what separates him from Hobbes and Locke.  Rousseau is thoroughly “democratic,” he seeks all persons to set aside their differences and personal pursuits … Continue reading Rousseau: The Social Contract, IV

Rousseau: The Social Contract, III

The third book of Rousseau’s Social Contract is the most theoretical and philosophical.  On one hand it covers familiar ground: the forms of government (democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy), how any form of government can be a “republic” (in the traditional sense of pertaining or relating to the public thing), why there are no pure democracies, … Continue reading Rousseau: The Social Contract, III

Rousseau: On the Social Contract

One of the key aspects of Rousseau’s social contract theory is that, unlike with Hobbes and Locke, he really doesn’t explain why men embrace the social contract.  This is, again, because Rousseau takes the idealistic picture of humanity in the state of nature.  Man is born naturally good.  He is pure.  He is a moral … Continue reading Rousseau: On the Social Contract

Rousseau’s General Will

The topic of the general will is always a topic of Rousseauian studies.  It is central to his political theory.  It is the bedrock which unites the first two books of the Social Contract, conflating the social contract to be the general will itself.  So what is Rousseau’s general will? The general will is the … Continue reading Rousseau’s General Will