Jean-Jacques Rousseau Questions and Answers

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According to Rousseau, when are citizens obliged to obey the law and when they are not?

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau was an advocate of direct democracy, the only political form he believed could provide clarity to the question of obligation. Rousseau maintained that humans are naturally free, but are corrupted by society. Before the advent of private property and the division of labor, humans were autonomous, i.e., they were the authors of their own actions rather than being influenced by outside forces. Rousseau tried to expose the contradictory logic behind the dominant philosophy of his age which defended an individualistic notion of the self. He instead argued in modern society, what we consider "the self" is actually constituted by others. What Rousseau is trying to say is that our desires and needs are constructed socially rather than individually. Nonetheless Rousseau thought that democratic governance could recover humanity's autonomy and give us a common political form that would solve the question of obligation.

According to Rousseau, citizens must only obey laws that...

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