Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the 'Well-Ordered Society' by Maurizio Viroli

By Maurizio Viroli

This publication reviews a crucial yet hitherto ignored point of Rousseau's political idea: the concept that of social order and its implications for the right society which he envisages. The antithesis among order and illness is a primary subject in Rousseau's paintings, and the writer takes it because the foundation for this learn. against this with a largely held interpretation of Rousseau's philosophy, Professor Viroli argues that common and political order are on no account an analogous for Rousseau. He explores the diversities and interrelations among the different sorts of order which Rousseau describes, and exhibits how the thinker developed his ultimate doctrine of the simply society, that are dependent in basic terms on each citizen's voluntary and understanding reputation of the social agreement and at the promoting of advantage above ambition. the writer additionally exhibits the level of Rousseau's debt to the republican culture, and notably to Machiavelli, and revises just like Rousseau as a disciple of the natural-law university.

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They consist, rather, in the recognition of an order and a reality which already exist in things. In a similar way Rousseau's ethic, while adopting wholeheartedly the idea of free moral choice, does not for this reason argue for any reshaping of the moral order through human artifice, for it does not owe its existence to human conventions, but to God, and men cannot and should not change it. Rousseau's philosophy is therefore based on a metaphysic which is quite different, with regard to ethics and epistemology, from that of the other classical thinker within the contractualist tradition, Hobbes.

Nature, the Art whereby God hath made and governs the world, is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal. For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal part within; why may we not say, that all automata . . have an artificial life? . Art goes yet further, imitating the rational and most excellent work of nature, man. 28 Shaftesbury outlines a naturalistic solution to the problem of social order; this is based on the wisdom of nature which has ordered things in such a way that virtuous action contributes directly to the wellbeing of society.

The antithesis between 'natural' and 'artificial' corresponds, to a certain extent, to the one between 'public' and 'private' or the general and particular. The strongest and most dynamic impulse is, in harmony with the natural order, the will of the individual focussed on his own personal interest. The impulse to pursue the common good is weaker and less active, precisely because it is artificial. But the maintenance of a just social order demands that this state of affairs should be reversed and the general will should become more active.

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