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Freedom and Rationality


  • Christophe Salvat

    () (GREQAM - Groupement de Recherche en Économie Quantitative d'Aix-Marseille - ECM - Ecole Centrale de Marseille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales)


This paper deals with Rousseau's idea of freedom in terms of rationality and deliberation. It gives support to Berlin's interpretation of the general will as a rational and objective will but dismisses the idea that Rousseau's theory necessarily leads to authoritarianism. The general will, publicly expressed by the law, may be defined as the rational and self-regarding will agents would have if put in an independent and objective state, i.e. the state of nature. The general and the particular will, henceforth considered from an individual point of view, theoretically constitute two alternative choices for an agent. A special focus will then be placed on the function of the law in the process of individual deliberation. By signalling the general will, the law urges individuals to deliberate and to question the autonomy of their preferences. I shall argue that citizenship denotes for Rousseau the tendency of individuals to favour the general will and to master their natural weakness of will. The achievement of citizenship, however, strongly relies upon man's identification with the community, i.e. patriotism, and upon the emotions stirred by the potential death of the body politic.

Suggested Citation

  • Christophe Salvat, 2008. "Freedom and Rationality," Working Papers halshs-00216204, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:halshs-00216204
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    Rousseau; Rationality; Freedom; Deliberation; Emotions;


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