Rousseau v. Burke

Rousseau v. Burke - Elaine Chung Rousseau v Burke...

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Elaine Chung Rousseau v. Burke February 28, 2012 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the primary political theorists of France, and Edmond Burke, the primary theorist of England, were near contemporaries who both believed in the im- portance of the fundamental elements of equality, property, and government that make up soci- ety. Both believed in significance of change, liberty, and the preservation of the natural state of human nature; however, their rationalizations for these facets of society could not have been more different. Both theorists outlined what they believed was the best and most efficient way to construct a successful society in their respective treatises, but their ideas and reasons for what they considered a successful society placed them at opposite poles in the political spectrum dur- ing the French and American Revolutions of the 18th century. Both Rousseau and Burke believed that people should remain in their natural state, but had very different ideas on what this “natural state” of human nature was. And thus their reason- ing behind their political stances lied in the very differences of their philosophy on humanity. Rousseau, outlined in his treatise Discourse on Inequality (1754), believed that people in their natural state are peaceful, self-sufficient, and independent of each other. He believed that natur- ally no one takes more than they need to survive because there are enough resources in nature to sustain everybody, for “the fruits of the earth belong to us all and the earth itself to nobody” (Rousseau). There are no inborn ideas about difference and status because everyone is capable for his own needs, and therefore there is no need for competition. Burke, however, had a more pessimistic view on human nature. He believed that there was a natural hierarchy: that some
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This note was uploaded on 04/04/2012 for the course CAS 2 taught by Professor Berenson during the Spring '12 term at NYU.

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Rousseau v. Burke - Elaine Chung Rousseau v Burke...

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