How does Rousseau argue that obedience to the general will increases our moral liberty

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The answer will try to convey the evidence to support Rousseau claim that obedience to the general will increases our moral liberty. Through the idea of the general will Rousseau advocates a form of direct democracy whereby the masses make decisions by themselves for themselves, therefore eliminating the need for a ruling party.

Rousseau’s argument that obedience to the general will increases our moral liberty by freeing the individual from selfish desires and allowing society to be non-judgmental and equal in all aspects of life. It would make the individual more compassionate towards others therefore increasing our moral liberty as by obeying the law the individual is also obeying himself and this freedom is equal to the freedom enjoyed by everybody else.

The moral liberty is further increased as every individual is able to follow his or her own principles, which are also the same principles followed by everybody else. So every person’s integrity is intact as they are allowed to follow the principles which have been created and implemented by themselves. The general will allows for the freedom of the individual as he is only governed by the law he has given himself thereby freeing him from being dependant on the will of others.

By obeying the general will man is free of rash impulsive behaviour as every major decision would have to involve a thought process (this would apply to decisions whereby the outcome is likely to affect others, not every decision from what to wear or how to do ones hair), as the outcome is likely to affect many others and not just the individual, which makes the individual think outside of the box, rationalizing and weighing the different outcomes and their likely advantages and disadvantages for everyone as a whole.

This gives him/her a moral quality of compassion and regard for others above ones own immediate self which frees one from the constraints of ones own ego. On the contrary obeying the general will does not increase our freedom, as one is forced to comply with the standard rule. The general will is supposed to leave each person as free as they were before, but since each individuals pursuit of their own good is constrained by the desire to consider the good of all before one own personal desire, they are not free to choose what is best for their themselves, therefore restricting their freedom to choose.

By Rousseau claiming that general will increases our own freedom is somewhat flawed, as by voting for the benefit of the whole as opposed to voting for the benefit of the individual, the outcome may not have the same effect on the every individual, some maybe disadvantaged. But Rousseau flaw is that he does not see the minority, just the majority, and as long as the majority are exercising their freedom this is seen as beneficial for everyone. One example would be, a community has 100 residents, 95 are Christians and 5 are Buddhists.

It has been decided that a place of worship is to be erected. In Rousseau’s general will rule of the good for all scenario, a Church will be erected, but the minority Buddhists are left without a place to worship thereby hindering their freedom to pray in their chosen place of worship, therefore contradicting the general will increases our freedom theory. In completing the answer to part 2, this essay will be based on examining the social and political ideas David was wanting to explore as well as the features of the painting itself.

David sought to give a visual form to political ideas by way of expressing them through his art. His painting seemed to typify the sentiment of the time, of self sacrifice, honesty and duty. The painting sees the return of Brutus’s son’s bodies after having sentenced them to death himself, as he was a judge he was called upon to deliver the verdict for their crimes. They were tried and convicted for trying to restore the monarchy after Brutus himself was involved in bringing about the Roman Republic.

He one could argue therefore implemented the rule of general will championed by Rousseau, whereby the greater good was more paramount than the particular will. The story behind the picture makes it a deeply political one and corresponds with the political sentiments held by David. The subordination of colour to drawing allows David to develop his picture, allowing him to fully emphasise the content of the picture, thereby drawing us immediately to the scene being played rather than the colour palate which is very subdued.

By painting this scene in this way, David divides the painting into two, the left hand side is the more formal of the painting, whereby Brutus is solemn and composed and rather stoical to the events taking place behind him. The men carrying the bodies in are also subdued and very formal. En Contraire the right hand side of the painting is very emotional and one can almost feel the pain being endured by these females, presumably mother, sisters and wife of the deceased men.

Their emotions are in stark contrast to Brutus’s formality. The vanishing point of the painting immediately draws us to the females in the picture, making us more intimate with the subjects. The three dimensional effect of the painting enhances its pleasure as it seems to stand on its own, rather like a real life scene rather than a flat painting. There is also a broad tonal range in the painting as the painting in places is very dark and in others it is very bright and light.

David uses colour to draw our eye to particular aspects of the painting such as the red sandals on the dead mans feet along with the flesh tone, drawing us to the darker part of the painting Painting such a picture at the time David did only reinforces how strongly he must have felt about the politics of his time. The revolution had not yet happened so he was taking a great risk in painting such an evocative and politically rich painting. The story seems to be a pro-republic story reinforcing David’s political allegiance and a tongue in cheek way of expressing this.

I will now try to compare the outcomes of the above two parts of this essay to provide a conclusion outlining ideas of shared concern between the two articles, Rousseau’s The Social Contract and David’s Brutus. David by choosing the paint the story of Brutus and his sons is supporting the claim of Rousseau as the story of Brutus is one of self sacrifice for the greater good, whereby he sacrificed his own sons and had them killed for trying to restore the monarchy, whereas the general concensus was more in favour of the Roman Republic.

Rousseau also shared this sentiment as he argued that the general will freed man from his own selfish desires and therefore made him more moral and less egotistical. The general will also eradicated the inequality in society thus every man desired the same thing for himself and for everybody else. Both Rousseau and David were trying to convey the same message that the general will is better for all, and is above and beyond the will of the individual. Rousseau conveyed his message in a written form whereas David conveyed his message in visual form.

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