Friday, December 5, 2008

A clarification on my (Rousseau's) opinion on the benefits of the arts and sciences (and censureship... as it's turned out)

I know that I was vague and unsure on my opinion of the arts and sciences and their role in the development of mankind. I believe that since neither the advancements in the arts nor in the sciences have improved the morality of mankind at all. In fact, I hold that they are responsible for a kind of moral decay among men (and women). This stems from my belief that men in the state of nature are the closest to being in the "natural order" than in any other state. I believe (unlike Hobbes) that immorality and vice are brought on by a corrupt or flawed social system, and that men were better off in a rustic and rudimentary existence than they are now (morally that is). The way I see it, science and art has caused idleness among men, and idleness leads to discontent, vice, and immorality. When man lives a rustic and simple life idleness is discouraged; so in that the simple life is a means to an end. Man has become detached from the natural goodness and morality that he has in a simple state of nature. He has become too concerned with things, like the development of art and science, that do not include moral improvement in their study and advancement. Arts and sciences have taken mans focus off the importance of morals and overly concerned him in the subject of knowledge. However I do not wish, nor do I consider it possible, to eradicate the arts and sciences from the world. Rather, since they are here to stay they offer a distraction to keep immoral people busy and out of trouble. Now, I understand that this view is quite contrary to the popular opinion of todays world. Yet, as I've said in my Discourse I am not out to impress or to please my contemporaries. Instead I am seeking to express my own opinion and criticism of today's society in the hopes that the open minded public will accept my views no matter how different they appear. However, I am assured that my hopes are unrealistic since my books have already burned and censured.

Alas, there's the same government that is so dependent on the absolute agreement of its people that it doesn't realize how enslaved it has become in its reliance. As you can see, man is a slave to his own desire for power and his "unnatural" ability to attain so much of it (like a child who gets whatever he wants from his parents) he has made such power one of his needs and must do immoral and unnecessary (as the same child throws a tantrum when his desires aren't met) things to maintain it. This is why I believe in a government in which the General Will of the people is the sovereign ruler of everyone- not just a small group of "representatives", as if one person could effectively represent the combined wills of hundreds. It is not the agreement between the people of the State and the people the state rules, but rather a social contract in which all people give up their own "natural liberty" of individual will, and opt to obey the general will to benefit themselves and the community as a whole. In this way a man continues to protect himself, but now gains the support and protection of the social contract law that allows him and his people to preserve themselves where without such law they would not be able to. All this is explained in my The Social Contract which explains my opinion on proper government.


SamStewart said...

Ah, excellent my fellow Rousseau. By the way, I would like to say that it was lovely conversing with you about our extroardinary life.

Hilary Kane said...

Your idealization of a “rustic and rudimentary system” is a step in the wrong direction. Science and exploration has not sidetracked man, rather, it has advanced him. Your writings make any person feel like crawling on all fours.