Great Books III Fall 2021

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

On the Social Contract

"Why, and Whom, Should I Obey?"

Reading/Discussion Schedule

October 5 - On the Social Contract, Books I-II

October 8 - On the Social Contract, Books III-IV


Reading/Discussion Prompts

October 5

  1. Why is man in chains?
  2. Where do you see Plato's fingerprints in Rousseau's writing?
  3. Construct an example of a law and one of a decree. Similarly, construct a good law and a bad one.
  4. Explicate the notion of "Sovereign".
  5. Where does liberty reside and what does it look like?

October 8

  1. Where does Rousseau's statement:  "It is better to have liberty fraught with danger than servitude in peace." apply? 
  2. Is Rousseau in favor of the U.S. Congress?
  3. What is Rousseau's view of each of the following: censorship, abortion, capital punishment, same sex marriage?
  4. In what way does the internet form a body politic?
  5. How does Rousseau reconcile separation of church and state?

Classic Rousseau:

"Man's first language, the most universal, the most energetic and the only language he needed before it was necessary to persuade men assembled together, is the cry of nature." (I)

"Such, in fact, is the true cause of all these differences; the savage lives in himself; the man accustomed to the ways of society is always outside himself and knows how to live only in the opinion of others." (II)