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J.-J. Rousseau on Freedom - Dictionary of Arguments


Höffe I 274
Freedom/Rousseau/Höffe: 1) The human "is" born free, freedom is therefore neither a mere idea nor an illusion, but a reality. Because this applies to "the" human being, it distinguishes the human being as a human being. Freedom is not just an epochal concept, characteristic of modernity. Rather, it belongs to the nature of humans, and thus has a greater anthropological rank.
2) Nevertheless, one (...) perceives the opposite everywhere. Although humans are free by birth, i.e. by "nature", one notices a fundamentally different reality: everywhere the human is in chains.
3) Here irritatingly [the thesis of an] equality of “un-freedom” [appears:]
Höffe I 275
If humans are nevertheless to remain free, reality has only the status of potentiality (...).
4) [This status must be] actualized (...). There are two areas of responsibility for this, which Rousseau deals with in two different works, but which he rightly publishes systematically in the same year: education (Émile)(2) is responsible for the actual freedom of the individual alone and the community is responsible for the actual freedom of the individual in the political sphere (from the social contract)(1).
État civil: With the conclusion of the social contract, people leave the state of nature and enter into the (civic) civil state (état civil). On the debit side [thereby] is the loss of natural freedom with its
Höffe I 276
unlimited right to everything to which the request is directed. In return, for the loss of independence, everyone receives the freedom of a citizen with the property of everything he owns.
The state of uncertainty is exchanged for a state of security. In place of the power to harm others, but also of the danger of being harmed by them, comes the law, which, thanks to the social contract, is characterized by an insurmountable power.


1. Rousseau, The Social Contract (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique), 1762
2. Rousseau, Emile, or On Education (Émile ou De l’éducation), 1762


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Rousseau I
J. J. Rousseau
Les Confessions, 1765-1770, publ. 1782-1789
German Edition:
The Confessions 1953

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-08-05
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