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A 2 pages term paper on The Loss of liberty

     “Civilized man is born and dies a slave. The infant is wrapped up in swaddling clothes; the corpse is nailed down in his coffin. All his life, man is imprisoned by our institutions.” (Emile, London, 1911)

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     Rousseau's central preoccupation is depicted to be freedom and his greatest fear is dependency. Rousseau takes this to new heights by emphasizing the need to preserve and protects an "authentic self" in which each human is free of the socialization pressures of society. Rousseau shifts talk about freedom away from freedom to use one's body as one sees fit, into freedom of the will and freedom of one's ideas. He seeks to establish a society and a community that will not socialize us in destructive ways and that will allow our authentic self the freedom to grow and live. As he phrases it in the social contract he wishes.

     Rousseau fears the Lockian picture of the human mind and human adaptability in which Locke argued that we began life with a "blank slate." We then build up a picture of the world from sense perception without the help of "innate ideas." Even while Locke was a firm believer in God and Christianity, his theory of knowledge seem to sever our moral beliefs from a firm foundation in "innate Christian or moral values." There seem to be increasing evidence of considerable differences in values, mores, and traditions from culture to culture. There were no universal human traits. Human beings were blank slates that history and culture wrote differing messages upon.

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     Rousseau saw the seemingly infinitive plasticity of human beings as a chance for infinite degradation. If everything varies from culture to culture, “what values should we be socialized by?” “Is the choice of the values that we live by the function of whim and chance dependent on where we are born?” In one culture we are born to violent tendencies, and in another, with more pacific tendencies. If humans are as plastic and as sociolizable as Enlightenment thinkers imply then Rousseau feels that we are victims of our sensations and experiences. We are not taught to master them we merely reflect the values of our society a prisoner of a narrow world view. Rousseau offers us an alternative future and alternative picture of morality.

     Perhaps the preeminent value that we identify with the Enlightenment is a faith in human reason. The growing importance of reason has suppressed and distorted our natural responses of sympathy and pity. The consequences of reason for morality have been disastrous. The application of technology in warfare has undermined courage and personal bravery. The progress of medicine has undermined our capacity to face death.

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     “I do not know what the doctors cure us of, but I know this: they infect us with very deadly diseases, cowardice, timidity, credulity, and the fear of death. What matters if they make the dead walk, we have no need of corpses; they fail to give us men, and that is what we need. [Emile, p. 21]”

     Rousseau argues that inequality is a product of society. Unequal relations between men are not possible in the state of nature. Why not? Some men are stronger, or more intelligent, or craftier, why wouldn't this lead to inequality. It is hard he says to explain to the savage.

     "What servitude and dominations are? A man could lay hold of the fruit another has gathered, the game he has killed, and the cave that served as his shelter, but how well he ever succeeded in making himself obeyed? And what can be the chins of dependence among men who possess nothing? If someone chases me from one tree, I am free to go to another, if someone torments in one place, who will prevent me from going elsewhere? Is there a man with strength sufficiently superior to who is, moreover, sufficiently depraved, sufficiently lazy and sufficiently serious to force me to provide for subsistence while he remains idle and mine? He must resolve not to take his eyes off me for a single instant, to keep me carefully tied down while he sleeps, for fear that I may escape from that I would kill him. In other words, he is obliged to expose himself voluntarily to a much greater hardship than the one he wants to avoid and gives me. After all that, were his vigilance to relax for an instant, were an unforeseen noise to make him turn his head, I take twenty steps into the Forrest; my chains are broken, and he never sees me again for the rest of his life." [Wooton, p. 430]

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     We only become enslaved when we are put in a position where we are incapable of doing without another. Such a situation does not exist in the state of nature. Slavery for Rousseau is not bondage from an outside force. We enslave or bond our self to one another. Inequality is not possible in the state of nature.

Many philosophers up to date support the causes of this loss of freedom, liberty and equality. They are as critical to the well being and establishment of an ethically right society as the Marxist view on the division of society being caused by false consciousness and mass-hysteria in the people’s minds. The foundation of these principles and the incorporation of Rousseau’s views in modern day life is a hard task to do as more and more nations are changing the definitions of liberty and freedom as they evolve, yet it remains one of the most hardened argument against the former.


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