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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Men as They Are, Laws as They Can Be: Paradoxes and Rousseau's Political Philosophy
by Houck, Cosmo, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2020, 143; 28149748
Abstract (Summary)

In the rush to emphasize Rousseau’s ingenuity and extremism in arguing that the nature of men can change, we have lost sight of how much change is plausible, and have failed to adequately emphasize the real practical limits on transformation of character that Rousseau himself insists upon. Rousseau begins the Social Contract with a promise to address “men as they are, and laws as they can be.” It is my object to address those components, in turn: the psychology that defines Rousseau’s man qua potential citizen, and the laws, institutions, and figure necessitated by the constraints that follow from that psychology. That psychology for Rousseau is asocial: the interplay of self-love and pity cause self-identity to fracture when exposed to proliferating social ties, leading Rousseau to a deep pessimism about the practicality and durability of political solutions to the corruption that he finds in modern political communities. Instead, Rousseau’s work is most useful for describing an underlying logic to political authority, as a way to understand the alienation experienced when that authority is exercised, and as an indictment of the ways our institutional and technological sophistication nonetheless fail to cultivate harmonious psyches.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scott, John T.
Commitee: Satkunanandan, Shalini, Taylor, Robert S.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science, Philosophy, Social psychology
Keywords: History of Political Thought, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract Theory, Social logic
Publication Number: 28149748
ISBN: 9798582526490
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