Rousseaus's Ethical Views

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J.-J. Rousseau (1712-1778) – a man of the paradoxes (Soëtard, 1994), a French social and political thinker, writer and philosopher, who was one of the most prominent figures of the European Enlightenment. The peculiarities of his ethical views are determined by his social and political conception. Rousseau was against feudal society, capitalistic exploitation, and bourgeois egoism and connected with them vices.

Therefore Rousseau considers virtue to be the capability to make one’s will prevail over one’s desires. Society is the source of moral conscience and virtue, because the laws make people obey the interest of all members of this community that is reflected in the notion of common weal.

Moral principles that regulate the situation in the society cannot be taken directly from nature. They occur as a result of social compact that creates a collective organism – civil society, where the deeds of people have moral character and the notion of justice occupies the place of instinct. This idea is very up-to-date because a lot of states in the world have chosen this scenery and at least try to establish a civil society. Rousseau’s view is a little utopian, but it forms the perspective, the ultimate goal of people’s activity as wholeness in one community.

The virtues of equality, common weal result in the benefit of cosmopolitism, which Rousseau considered to be a high value. He perceived cosmopolitism to be a great spirit, which unites the whole human race in their benevolence (1754). It must be acknowledged that these ideas are urgent nowadays due to the globalization processes that crash the boarders and make the world community closer. But in modern society we can see a lot of negative consequences of these changes, which could not have been seen by Rousseau due to the absence of the practical reflection of this idea in reality.

Rousseau has noticed the role and significance of equality and freedom, which were the objects of intention of the Enlightenment. Even though Rousseau did not manage to solve the problem of the harmony of private and common interest, to overcome the contradiction of a “citizen” and a “person”, his ideas had a great influence on the development of the further democratic and moral thought.

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