“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Book IV (1762)

Book IV

Chapter One: The General Will is Indestructible

When an assembly is gathered, all are convened only to consider one will, the common good, which is apparent and only good sense is need to perceive it. This peace, unity and equality are at odds with political subtleties. Honest and simple men are difficult to deceive because they are simple. If peasants can regulate their affairs of state, the complex methods of other nations do not looks so ingenious.

A state governed in this way need few laws and when a new need arises, it is universally seen and understood as to what needs to be done. There doesn’t need to be debate or political intrigue. It is wrong to assume that current states are any different to this because they always had complex constitutions and their citizens are just as likely to know what is just than in other states. Just because these are preexisting constitutions, doesn’t make it a more complex effort to define the common good.

When social bonds are relaxed, the state grows weak, particular interests make themselves felt and smaller societies dominate larger ones, common interests change and become opponents to each other. Opinion is no longer unanimous. The general will is no longer the will of all. Contradictory views and debates arise and the best course of action is not taken.

A state is about to crumble when then state maintains only a vain, illusory and formal existence. The social bond is broken and the worst interests claim the name of “public good”. The general will is silenced. All men become guided by secret motives. Iniquitous decrees are issued as “laws”.

In these cases, the general isn’t extinguish, exterminated or corrupted. It is constant, unadulterated and pure. It just becomes subordinated to individual wills. Each man looks after his particular interest even against the common interest. He eludes the general will but doesn’t change or kill it.

Chapter Two: Voting

As opinion approaches unanimous, the greater the power of the general will. The state is in decline when long debates, tumult and dissensions are led by particular interests. In Rome, the two orders, plebeians and patricians, disturbed the comitia. However, in this circumstance, there were two states and each body represented their respective order. When citizens fall into servitude, they lose their liberty and their will. Fear and flattery take over and public deliberation stops.

Much depends on how votes are counted, how easy the general will is to discover and how far the state is in decline. The only law needing to be of unanimous consent is that the social compact because civil association is the most voluntary act of a state. If there are opponents to the social compact, it doesn’t invalidate it but prevents the opponents from being included, since the social compact is between one man and the sovereign. This includes foreigners and citizens. When the state is “instituted”, one’s residence supposes consent to the social compact. Living in the state is submitting to the sovereign. The vote of the majority binds the rest.

How can a man be free and forced to conform to wills that aren’t of his own?

Rousseau: The question is badly put. The general will is the constant will of all the members of the state. Whether or not the majority of the votes or not is concerned, the vote is the best estimation of the general will itself. The assembly convened is not asked whether or not it accepts or rejects a proposed law but whether it is in conformity with the general will, their own. On the whole, this presumes that this will is not particular when it is not unanimous, it loses its “generality”. Once generality is lost, there are grades of inequality that are the result of particularity. Questions posed to the assembly must be general and not particular.

To regulate this, it is important to remember:

  • When more serious matters are only, unanimity is more likely.
  • When speed of decision is essential, a smaller majority is acceptable.

Chapter Three: Elections

Elections are complex because there are two possible methods: lot (random choosing of administrative assignments) and choice (specific choosing of administrative assignments).

Lots are natural to democracy because the administration is better in proportion because the number of acts is small. In “real” democracies, an office of magistracy is a burden placed on all individuals and yet it’s not possible for all to take part. In this case, one must be chosen at random to perform this task. Aristocracies are better suited to choice since the government, being distanced from the state, should be able to choose its own members. Lots are better for offices that only require good sense, justice and integrity. Choice is better suited to offices that require expertise.

Chapter Four: The Roman Comitia

The Roman Comitia was one way that the large city could maintain sovereignty over the Roman Republic’s rocky history. It was a popular assembly and had three forms for three types of representation of the people.

  1. Comitia curiata – represented the inhibitants of the city (only the city). Because it applied to anyone who lived in the city, it was suited to tyranny and evil designs. The wills represented in this body were exclusively particular and it descended into corruption and sedition and was used against the state. However, this body excluded all rural tribes.
  2. Comitia tributa – This was the council for the Roman people. They were convoked by Tribunes (elected officials of the tribes) and passed the Plebiscitum (referendum). Patricians and Senators has no rights in this body. It was most favorable to popular government (hence the referenda) and was the voice of the people.
  3. Comitia centuriata – designed for the aristocracy. Due to its smaller size, it tended to have the least amount of particular interest and least amount of corruption.

Toward the end of the Republic, the “expediency” of situations required bare minimum majorities and bad legislation passed through. On the other hand, in the early days, the Republic often fell into a dictatorship because the state wasn’t able to cope with a constitution without any teeth to it.

Chapter Five: The Tribunate

There is a link missing between the sovereign and the magistrate. This will be called the “tribunate” (A governmental body proposed by Rousseau), which is the preserver of the laws of the legislative body. Its function is to protect the sovereign from the government, to uphold the government from the people and to maintain the balance between the two.

It is not a constituent part of the city and holds no executive nor legislative power. It can do nothing actively but can stop things from being done. It is more important than either the prince or the sovereign. It is the strongest support for a good constitution. In order for it to work properly, its power must be balanced correctly. It becomes tyrannical when it usurps executive power and dispenses with the laws of the legislative power. It grows weak, along with the government, when it grows great in number of members. It should be restricted to periods of action to curb abuses within.

Chapter Six: The Dictatorship

The inflexibility of laws sometimes causes a national or state crisis and requires the suspension of legislative authority – but not its abolition because the prince or dictator cannot represent the sovereign but only execute its voice.

Often in Rome, the state did not have a firm basis to maintain itself through a constitution. At the time, there was no fear of abuse because so much power seemed burdensome. Its free use made it less formidable when needed to be so because it was often seen as an empty title. In the later years of the Roman Republic, magistrates were overcome by the citizens and became useless. A dictator might have had much more effect to defend the public liberty.

If a dictatorship proves to be necessary, its length should be rather short.

Chapter Seven: The Censorship

This is the declaration of public judgment. Public opinion (general will) is the form of law which the censor administers and applies in certain cases. It does not decide or interpret public opinion but only declares it. “Men always love what is good or what they find good; it is in judging what is good that they go wrong.”

Opinions are derived from a constitution. Law doesn’t regulate morality but legislation gives it birth. The censor regulates laws and when they fail, all is lost. Censorship upholds morality by stopping the corruption of opinion.

Chapter Eight: Civil Religion

Men began with gods as their leaders and theocracy as their governments. It took a while for men to accept fellow men as their political masters. If a god lorded over a people and there were multiple people, the national divisions essentially created polytheism – local gods at odds with each other just as the states were. But these gods were mostly the same. Due to this fact political war was theological. Because gods were attached to a state, it wasn’t possible to convert a conquered people. The Romans tried to replace local gods of the newly vanquished but this mostly resulted in a multitude of gods – all mostly the same but different in name.

Christianity established a spiritual system apart from political systems. Romans saw Christians as rebels because they rejected Roman state gods. Today, the Christian people have divided obligations – to the priest and to the prince. All attempts to unite the two have failed. Islam succeeded in uniting the two under Mohammed but ultimately became divided by barbarians.

England and Russia have tried to link their local denominations of Christianity to the state through the monarch. However, the government only seems to maintain the religions but doesn’t have the power to change them. Rousseau agrees with Hobbes that a nation cannot be rightly constituted without these two being linked within the state. However, Rousseau doesn’t think this is possible with Christianity. No country has been founded without a religious basis but Christianity is more harmful than good to the strength of the state.

Rousseau sees three types of religion:

  1. Religion of man – is for the internal cult of the supreme god and eternal obligations of morality. This is natural divine right or law. It sees all men as brothers and united at all points of life and even in death. The laws are the possession of a force unable to be changed by the religion. In this religion, each man would do his duty, rulers would be just, magistrates would be honest and incorruptible, soldiers would lay down arms and earthly temptations would cease to be. Unfortunately, there is little concern for earthly well-being and attention to affairs of the state. A “self-seeker” (“ambitieux”) or hypocrite could manipulate or swindle his compatriots. These tricksters could easily manipulate the pious citizens into doing his will by disguising it as god’s will. There will have to be a great amount of cleaning up to do once the people realize that they’ve been duped. Furthermore, war between states wouldn’t be very productive since soldiers wouldn’t care whether they win or lose, or live or die. Christians are taught to be servile and dependent and therefore they are ripe for tyranny and enslavement. Christian solders are said to be good but Rousseau sees them as working for priests and the Church and not for the real, natural god.
  2. Religion of the state – Each country has its own gods, tutelary patrons, dogmas, rites and external cult prescribed by law. Those who don’t follow it are seen as infidel, foreign and barbarous. Man’s duties and rights extend only as far as these religions’ altars. This is civil or positive divine right or law. This religion unites the divine cult with love of laws and the country becomes the object of the citizens’ adoration. It has no priest but is a theocracy that teaches service to the state is service to god and to die for it is martyrdom. But it is founded on lies and error. It makes men credulous and superstitious and puts them in an empty and ceremonious cult. It also makes men bloodthirsty and intolerant.
  3. Gives men two codes of legislation, two rulers, two countries and gives contradictory duties. This is altogether bad because it destroys social unity, and contradictory institutions are useless.

Rousseau feels that having a religion is important for a citizen because it gives him a sense of morality. As far as which religion he should have, it is not very important as long as it does not interfere with the public interest. Religion teaches citizens to love their duty to the state.

A citizen should be require to profess the following positive dogmas and one negative dogma:

  • Belief in the existence of a god
  • Belief in the afterlife
  • Belief in justice for all
  • Belief in the sanctity of laws
  • Belief in the sanctity of the social contract
  • To reject intolerance

Civil and ideological intolerance are inseparable because to reject justice in the civil sense, i.e. with respect to the state, would also be to reject justice in the natural sense,i.e. with respect to god. To be intolerant would favor either the priest or prince and reject the sovereign, or general will of the people, which is usually tolerant. There should be no exclusive national religion and tolerance should be extended to all tolerant religions as long as dogmas do not contradict the duties of citizenship.

Chapter Nine: Conclusion

The implications of this whole work need to be thought through regarding law, commerce, international politics, etc.

“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Book III (1762)

Book III

Chapter One: Government in General

Free action is based on two causes: Moral – the will that determines the act; and Physical – the power that executes the act. The legislative power is the moral cause based on the general will and is the sovereign. The executive power is the physical cause based entirely on “particular acts”. There must be a means of communication between the two powers and this is the government – often confused with the sovereign. The government is an intermediate body set up between the subjects and the sovereign to secure mutual correspondence, charged with the execution of laws and maintenance of civil and political liberty.

Those called kings, governors or princes are jobs, by way of the social contract the people put themselves under. There merely exercise in their own name the power that makes them depositaries. When they violate the will, there is an end of the association between the depositary and the sovereign.

Government is the supreme administration – the legitimate exercise of the executive power and those entrusted with that administration. If the sovereign wishes to govern, the magistrate begins to give laws, the subjects start to refuse to obey, or disorder occurs regularly – force and will no longer act together and the state is dissolved.

As the number of residents increases, the condition of each subject doesn’t change but the relative power of his single vote diminished. The larger the state, the less liberty there is. There is a shrinking relation between particular wills and the general will and then it is necessary for the government to use repressive force to enforce the general will. The government, to be a good one, must grow proportionately stronger as the number of people rises.

But as the government gives depositaries of public authority more power, there is a likelihood of increased abuse of that power and the government should be given more power to keep the abuse in check – not absolute force but relative force. In this case, smaller, less authoritative offices would increase power but keep abuse low by increasing the ratio of people to the general will smaller.

Depending on the nature of the state, what the general will is, types of authority available and organizational possibilities available and the ability to enforce laws and keep abuse down, the form of government will be decided as best suited to these variables.

Chapter Two: Constituent Principle in the Various forms of Government

We must distinguish  between the government and its principle. The number of magistrates must be larger than the government but the total force of the government is invariable. So, the more force it expends on its own members, the less it has to use on its own people. The more numerous the magistrates, the weaker the government.

In the “person” of the magistrate, there are three wills:

  1. The private will of the individual tending only to his personal advantage.
  2. The common will of the magistrates, which is relatively solely to the advantage of the “prince” or “corporate will” being general in relation to the government and particular in relation to the state of which the government forms part.
  3. The will of the people or sovereign will, which is general both in relation to the state regarded as the whole and to the government regarded as a part of the whole.

A perfect legislation would have no particular will in it – the general or sovereign should always predominate and be the sole guide for the rest. The wills become more active in proportion as they are concentrated. The general will is weakest; corporate will is second and individual/particular will is strongest. Under one man, the wills are united and at the highest intensity. With a legislative authority, general will becomes confounded with corporate will but at its lowest level of activity. As the state grows, its real force grows but its proportional force shrinks. When different magistrates are added, the proportional force grows as a result.

Chapter Three: The Division of Governments

There are 3 major types”

  1. Democracy – the sovereign commits the charge of the government to the whole or majority of the people so that more citizens are magistrates than merely private people.
  2. Aristocracy – the sovereign restricts the government to a small number of people so that there are more private citizens than magistrates.
  3. Monarchy – the whole government is in the hands of a single magistrate from whom all others all others hold their power.

Democracy and aristocracy are possible in many different forms, monarchy less so, but still several forms.

Chapter Four: Democracy

If the executive and legislative powers were to be united, it would be best in this form because they, being confounded, would have the least amount of damage together since private individuals and magistrates would be the same people. But the execution of the laws should not be done by the same man who writes them because there is nothing more dangerous than the influence of private affairs in public affairs.

A real democracy is not possible because there is a natural tendency for many to be governed and a few to govern. It would also be impractical. Perhaps this could function in tiny states where the people could easily be assembled. Equality and a lack of luxuries would also be necessary because the rich tend to corrupt the poor, so you shouldn’t have the relatively poor (the corruptible) and luxuries (instruments of corruption). Also for these sorts of republics to be successful, a virtuous population is needed to make wise decisions – not really possible.

This government is more subject to civil wars and “intestine agitations” because it demands more vigilance and courage for its maintenance against problems and that’s unlikely to happen. Democracy is more suited to gods than men.

Chapter Five: Aristocracy

There are two distinct moral persons: the government and the sovereign; and two general wills: one in relations to all the citizens and the other for members of the administration. Government may regulate internal policy as it pleases but it alone can speak to the people in the name of the sovereign.

The first societies were aristocratic where the heads of families took counsel together on public affairs, then in the form of priests, elders, a senate and gerontes. As artificial inequality (made by institutions) dominated natural inequality (made by riches and power), the aristocracy became elective. With transmission of the father’s power along with his goods, patrician families were created and government became hereditary.

There are three sorts of aristocracy:

  1. Natural – only for simple peoples
  2. Elective – the best kind of all governments
  3. Hereditary – the worst kind of all governments

The difference between the two powers (sovereign and magistrate – or legislative and executive – or general will and particular will) is that magistracy is confined to a few and only becomes so by election. Guarantees of wise government are: uprightness, understanding, experience and other claims to pre-eminence and public esteen. Assemblies are easily held, affairs are better discussed and carried out with more order.

The best and most natural arrangement is for the wisest to govern the many in order to assure that governing is for the profit of the many and not for the few. As the number of these wise elected legislators grows, they can a growing corporate interest and begin to direct public power less under the general will and more in their own interest.

This aristocracy requires fewer virtues of the public in comparison to democracy. It becomes slanted toward the rich but that slant should be shifted back toward those of with great merit.

Chapter Six: Monarchy

The monarch or king is where the moral and collective person is unified by force of laws and the depositary of executive power in the state. The will of the people, will of the prince, public force of the state and particular force of government are in the same hands. There is nothing to cancel out the actions – everything moves toward the same end – but not to that of public happiness – only to the prejudice of the force of administration.

Kings push for absolute power – there may even be some advantage to that. But the love of a king for his people is precious and conditional. Their first interest is for the people to be weak, wretched and unable to resist. Monarchy is suitable only to great states. There is a need for an intermediate power to preserve government strength – princes, etc. – to keep the bond between people and the king – but in a small state, this would lead to ruinous class differences.

The great state governed by a single man is much more difficultly done than by an aristocracy, which leads monarch to be inferior because in a republic, the wisest rise to prominence and in a monarchy, the most crooked and sycophantic rise to the top.

For a monarchy to do well, the population must be proportionate to the powers of the rule. Conquering a people is easier than ruling it. A kingdom should expand and contract with the reign but it doesn’t have the benefit of a senate allowing an easier rule at a distance.

When a kings dies, there is a dangerous internal between the death of the old king and the crowning of a new king. A hereditary line is establish instead of a system of election (which would ensure that good governance is passed) – risking the appointment of idiot children to the throne. A future king seems to be doomed from the start. They are usually not given good instruction as a child. They would be better off learning the art of obedience instead of command. Because times and conditions of the world changing are more influential on a monarchy, this causes the aims of the government to change often – unlike in a Republic where the goals don’t change very much. Plato said that the king by nature is such a rarity. It would take a great coincidence to have a man born to a royal family who was fit to rule. If a royal education spoils a future king, what can you expect from a man poised to be king?

Chapter Seven: Mixed Governments

Governments aren’t simple and rules require subordinate magistrates. The distribution of executive power has a gradation from greater to lesser power in individual magistrates. Simple government is better purely because it is simple. When the executive power doesn’t depend on the legislative power, the lack of proportion must be overcome by a division of government to make them less powerful individually. Intermediate magistrates must also be hindered in the same manner. When the government is too lax, tribunals may be set up to concentrate power. Division weakens a government too strong and tribunals strengthen a government too weak.

Chapter Eight: All Forms of Government Do No Suit All Countries

Liberty isn’t on the cards for everyone. Necessities of the public are supplied out of the superfluities of individuals (income and profit). If they are incapable of doing this, they will be doomed to be beggars. As the distance between the government and the people grows, the more burdensome tributes (taxes) become. The charge is smallest in a democracy, then an aristocracy. The weight of the monarchy is heaviest – only the richest countries can support them. Democracy uses everything for the public advantage. Despotism makes them wretched to rule them but must have something to take.

Places with poorer resources or less abilities to exploit them remain poor and live at subsistence levels – all polity becomes impossible. When a country has greater resources and abilities to exploit them, the more liberty becomes available, but also the more riches available for a despot to take and impoverish the people.

Location, climate and resources have an effect on the polity of a land. Furthermore, “sobriety” or cultural tendencies of a land have an effect as well

MY NOTE The rest of this chapter is pseudo-scientific talk about the types of food a people eat and the color of their skins – sort of a trend of the time to think scientifically about race and culture (which led to scientific racism). He says this affects a people’s moral character and propensity to inability to make money to provide themselves with good government. While I do think the tenets and structure culture and society can necessarily lead to a country being poor and run by thugs, I don’t think food and skin color are at all the factors behind this. So, subsequently, I’m not reading that as at all important to the overall idea of his work. I consider them bullshit and am ignoring them. END NOTE

Chapter Nine: The Marks of a Good Government

There is no best form of government. There are, however, signs of good and bad governments.

Different people will answer the question – What makes a good government? – differently. They may say:

  • Public tranquility
  • Individual liberty
  • Security of possessions
  • Severe governance
  • Mild governance
  • Punishment of crimes
  • Prevention of crimes
  • The country being feared by its neighbors
  • The country being ignored by its neighbors
  • Circulation of money
  • Provision of food to the people

It is impossible for all views to agree. Even if it were possible to agree, how would we measure it, when the moral qualities aren’t exactly measurable?

What is the point of political association? The preservation and prosperity of its members. What is the surest sign of that? Numbers and population. The government under which a people a people wanes and diminishes is the worst.

Chapter Ten: The Abuse of Government and its Tendency to Degenerate

As the particular will acts constantly against the general will, the government exerts itself against the sovereign. As this grows in force, the constitution changes so much to the point where there is no corporate will to resist the prince and the prince will try to break the sovereign and consequently break the social treaty.

There are two courses for a degenerated government:

  • Contraction – The government passes from the many to the the few – from democracy to aristocracy and from aristocracy to monarchy. Governments never change form unless their energy is exhausted and they have become too weak to keep what they have. The spring must be wound up again and tighten to keep the state together.
  • Dissolution No. 1 – The prince ceases to administer the state according to the laws and usurps sovereign power. Then the state – NOT the government – undergoes contraction. The society crumbles and the relationship between prince and people becomes like that of a master and his servants. The people, because the social compact is broken, revert to their natural rights and only obey out of force.
  • Dissolution No. 2 – Members of the government usurp power only meant to be exercised as a body. There are many princes and magistrates and the state becomes divided, and either perishes or changes form altogether

Chapter Eleven: The Death of the Body Politic

Even great states like Rome and Sparta can fall; so we shouldn’t even attempt permanence. The body begins to die as soon as it is born. The constitution of man is a work of nature and that of the state is a work of art. It is within the reach of man at least to prolong the life of the state.

Of the body, the legislative power is the heart of the state and the executive power is the brain. The brain can be paralyzed and the body can still live but when the heart stops, the body dies. The state subsists by legislative power, not laws. Yesterday’s laws aren’t valid today but silence is taken as tacit consent and the laws are not abrogated until the sovereign revokes its declarations.

Old laws continue because their own excellence preserves them. They continue because there has been no reason to do away with them. Their age gives them veneration if they strengthen. If they weaken, this is proof that there is no longer a legislative power and that the state is dead.

Chapter Twelve: How the Sovereign Authority Maintains Itself – Part One

Because the sovereign only has legislative power as its force, it can only act by means of laws, and can only act when its people is assembled. The people’s weaknesses, vices and prejudices are the narrowing bounds on a state. These vices inhibit a state’s justice and greatness. The judge of what can be done is what has already been done. It is likely that if a people acts in a certain manner, have a certain form of government and have certain results of theses, that theses will states of being for a people and its state will repeat themselves or continue.

Chapter Thirteen: How the Sovereign Authority Maintains Itself – Part Two

Setting up a constitution and a perpetual government is not enough. There must be fixed periodical assemblies that cannot be abrogated or prorogued. This is the only way to maintain the legitimacy of the general will. Frequency may very depending on the needs for updates. Stronger governments will need more frequent assemblies.

States made up of several cities will have disadvantages that lead to abuses and weaknesses in the government’s ability to govern. If the state can’t be reduced, the capital must be shifted around from town to town. The population must be evenly spread out so that the state remains strong and well-governed.

Chapter Fourteen: How the Sovereign Authority Maintains Itself – Part Three

When the people is assembled, the jurisdiction of the government lapses, executive power is suspended and the person of the citizen is as inviolable as the magistrate because there are no longer representatives. These periods of suspension when the prince or government must recognize a superior often cause great alarm and the assemblies of the people have been at times the horror of rulers who try to stop the citizens from having them. When citizens are greedy, petty and  cowardly, they do not resist the government’s efforts against them and the sovereign ends and is destroyed.

Chapter Fifteen: Deputies or Representatives

When citizens become lazy and wish to serve with their money, the state will soon fall. They pay soldiers to go to war for them. They get deputies to meet in council and they stay at home. They end up being enslaved and sold off.  Through arts, commerce, self-interest of profit and love of amenities, personal services are replaced by money payments. They give up part of their profit for their leisure. In a “truly free” country, citizens keep their money and do everything with their own efforts. Rousseau – “I hold enforced labor to be less opposed to liberty than taxes.”

The better the constitution is, the more public affairs encroach on private in the minds of the citizen. Private happiness is less important than that of the public because it is a single happiness as opposed to the aggregation of the people of the state. In good cities, citizens run to the assemblies and in bad cities, no one goes or cares. Good laws lead to better laws and bad laws lead to worse laws. When someone says, “What does it matter to me?”, the state is doomed.

The method of the selection and nature of national deputies depend on patriotism, activity of private interest, the vastness of the state, conquest and abuse of government.

Sovereignty cannot be represented because it lies in a state’s general will and representatives are just stewards and cannot carry out definitive acts. The people are only free during elections. Afterwards they become enslaved again. The people make up their minds in the assemblies and then become subject to the particular will of the government, subjugating the general will to that of the particular. Representation in new and comes from feudal government. Before, in republics and democracies, the people’s will was never represented as it is now but was “unknown” or its interpreters were considered above the temptation of usurping the general will.

It seems liberty is maintained by the help of slavery. Modern people get their liberty by making themselves slaves to the state. The sovereign is incapable of preserving the rights of the people unless it is a small state – but then, it is easily conquered.

Chapter Sixteen: The Institution of Government Is Not a Contract

Once the legislative power is established, the executive power follows. It operates only in particular acts – in opposition to the legislative. If it were possible for the sovereign to hold executive power, right and fact would be confounded and the downfall of the state would occur.

All citizens are equal and can prescribe what all can do and doesn’t have the right to demand of others what he doesn’t do himself.

The supreme authority cannot be modified any more than it can be alienated. It would contradict “supremacy” to have an entity with the ability to change it or alienate it. Furthermore, this association would be a particular act – naming an individual to be above the general will and it would be illegitimate. The only contract in the state is the act of association.

Chapter Seventeen: The Institution of Government

The establishment of law is when the sovereign decrees that there will be a government. The execution of the law is when the people chooses the leaders of the government. The body politic changes the sovereign and general will – by way of the government – into particular acts – going from legislation to execution of the law. In a democracy, this process is much simpler and purer than in other forms of government.

Chapter Eighteen: How to Check the Usurpations of Government

Government is not a contract but a law. The depositaries of executive power are not the people’s masters but officers. When a hereditary government is set up, this is merely a form of administration in a provisional form until the people chooses otherwise. These changes are often dangerous and must be done only when the government is incompatible with the public good. This is a policy decision when the sovereign wishes to change its rulers.

Periodical assemblies convene and the citizens ask two questions of themselves:

  1. Do we like the current form of government
  2. Do we like the people we’ve chosen to be in charge of it?

“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Book II (1762)

J-J Rousseau, proud owner of history’s greatest comb-over.

Book II

Chapter One: Sovereignty is inalienable

The conclusion of Book I was that only the general will can direct the state’s forces based on the reason behind its establishment: the common good. Clashing interests create the necessity for societies but common interests allow them to continue. Society must only be governed by common interests.

Sovereignty is the exercise of the general will and cannot alienate itself. Once the will becomes particular and partial, it can no longer be equal to all citizens. If the will is to be general and based on common interest, then it will be equal. Bodies politic posing as the sovereign and the general will are reverting to the right of the strongest in a natural state or a magistracy.

Chapter Two: Sovereignty is indivisible

Indivisible essentially means inalienable. If you can’t give away or sell away part of the sovereignty, then you cannot divide it into parts. Either a will refers to society as a general or individuals as particular and they never cross.

Our minds always analyze the sovereign by dividing the government into departments, ministries, and branches based on functions but the general will is not divisible like that. The sovereign is like a body as the parts of the body may serve different functions for the will of the body but the will cannot be divided up like that.

Chapter Three: Whether the general will is infallible

The general will is always right and will always tend toward the public advantage. But public deliberations are sometimes wrong. We know what we want in a roundabout way but we might not know exactly what that is. The will is never corrupted but can be deceived and then it will seem to want bad things.

There is a difference between the aggregate of particular wills and the general will. The general will is based on everyone’s common interest and the aggregate is the summation of private interests. What is left over from the cancelling out of pluses and minuses of individuals wills will be the general will.

When the public is sufficiently informed ad there is no communication between citizens, the result will be a good general will. When they divide into factions and associations, they form at the expense of the general will and to the benefit of the individuals in those factions. The differences in opinion change and the results will be different and even worse. There is no longer a general will but a prevailing particular will.

The general will must express itself so that there is no partial society within the state. If there must be partial society, there should be as many as possible to prevent inequality among them. This will help the general will to be enlightened and the people not to be deceived.

Chapter Four: Limits of sovereign power

The sovereign power functions as a person does in that it must preserve itself. In order to do that, it must have a universal and compelling force. As nature gives a man absolute power over himself, the social contract gives the body politic absolute power over its members, and under the general will, is the sovereign.

We must distinguish private people from the body, as well as the rights of the citizen and the sovereign – as duties and rights in nature and as subjects of the state. The social contract alienates from men their natural liberties and goods. The citizen owes whatever the state may ask but the state must not ask anything useless of its citizens – only what is necessary. The undertakings are obligatory only because they are mutual and we can’t work for others, that is, with respect to the general will, unless we work for ourselves. The general will must be general in object and in essence. That is, they must come from and apply to all and it ceases to be general when used for particular objects.

Sometimes issues will arise that have never been thought of or never have occurred before, and there is no general convention. An individual’s stance can’t be against the general will in this case. The general will will not be able to express a desire on the matter. What makes a general will general is not so much about the number of votes but the common interest uniting interests. In the system, each man submits to the conditions he imposes on others. The social compact binds us to all the same duties and gives us all the same rights. So the sovereign makes no distinctions between those that make it up.

An act of sovereignty is not between an inferior and superior but a convention between the body and each member. The connection is an expression of the general will and stable due to the guarantee of public force. As long as the acts go no further, citizens will have to boss other than themselves. Sovereign power cannot exceed the limits of the general will because if it does, it ceases to be an expression of the general will and becomes particular.

Once the social contract is determined, each man gives up the unstable and precarious nature of a natural state for a more stable life. People’s natural independence and their power to harm others are needed to get security for themselves in nature. Under the social contract, their strength is traded for social union. It isn’t an imposition to demand a man to defend the state because just as the state is being attacked and putting at risk his and all other citizens’ rights and goods, he would face the same attack with no one else to help him fight off that same attack. At least in the social union, he can rely on others’ help but he must also give his help when it is asked for.

Chapter Five: The right of life and death

Suicide may be a crime in many societies but it is not a crime to risk your life to try to preserve it. Giving the power of life and death to the state is not a transfer of rights you didn’t have in the first place. We don’t fault people for risking others’ lives to save their own. The state may see fit to put someone to death or risk its death in order to save itself. The state’s laws are clear: in order not to become the victim of a murder, we agree to be put to death if we become murderers ourselves. When we are assured protection our expectation of murder decreases.

When a malefactor attacks people’s rights, he forfeits his and becomes a rebel and a traitor to the country. He is making war against the state. The state’s self-preservation and his become in conflict with each other and one must win and one must lose. When he is caught and punished, he is no longer treated as a citizen but as an enemy. The trial and sentence against him are proof that he has broken the social contract and is no longer a member of the state. Depending on the crime, he’ll be exiled as a violator of the contract or killed as a public enemy. It is the sign of a weak state when the state punishes the same man again and again. He must be able to have some good in him. The state has no right to put anyone to death whom it can leave without danger.

Only the sovereign may pardon or exempt someone from the a penalty because only the sovereign is above the law. In a well-governed state, there aren’t many prisoners – not because there are few punishments (which there may be) but because there are few criminals. When crimes are committed with impunity, a state is in decay.

Chapter Six: The Law

Legislation gives the body politic movement and will. The union itself doesn’t actually doesn’t actually determine what must be done. Laws are there because we don’t receive justice directly from God. Justice is a result of society. In nature, having laws to follow does harm to the good and does good for the bad. If only good people follow laws toward everyone else, they can easily be taken advantage of. Laws of nature say nothing about laws of the state.

There is no general will over particular objects because to do so would involve particular parties and interests at odds with whole. This is paradoxical. But when the whole people decrees for itself, it is only referring to its own actions and that makes the decree general. When a decree is general, it is law.

Laws consider the people as a whole and actions in the abstract and never particular people and actions. Laws can decree there will be a privileged class but never can actually name anyone assigned to it. It can create social hierarchies but never specifically put anyone in them. It can set up a royal family but not nominate a specific one. That power doesn’t belong to the legislative power. The laws are the expressions of the general will and no one is above them. They aren’t unjust because in order to be unjust would be to unfair to a particular person and the would not be something particular (not general). That would be an act of magistracy, not a law.

Chapter Seven: The Legislator

He must be an intelligent source of wisdom without “participating” in normal society – not having the same needs and desires as normal citizens. He needs to be able to see needs beyond the present.

There is a difference between a prince and a legislator. The legislator is the engineer who invents the political machine and the prince is the mechanic to set it up and make it go. Montesquieu – “At the birth of societies, the rulers of republics establish institutions and afterwards the institutions mold the rulers.”

To change or make a society you must feel capable to change human nature or transform each individual or substituting moral and partial existence for physical and independent existence. He must create an environment for men to come together in society and abandon the state of nature through the creation of institutions.

A legislator should not have control over men and those who have control over men should not have control over legislation. Power over the other will inevitably corrupt the commander or legislator. Many older cities and modern republics would invite a foreigner to establish a government because he had no particular interests either way as to how it was set up and would be more likely to establish a good constitution.

Establishing the republic is a special job – it is not a magistracy or sovereignty. When Lycurgus gave his laws to Sparta, he began by abdicating his throne. Cities and states that have followed this example have flourished while those who haven’t – Rome – have seen the rebirth of all the crimes of tyranny and been brought to the verge of destruction because they have joined the heads of the legislative authority and sovereign power. The decemvirs never claimed the right to pass laws purely by their own authority. “Nothing we propose to you can become law without your consent. Romans, be yourselves the authors of the laws which will make you happy.”

One problem is that these wise men often aren’t understood by the common people. It is often impossible to translate their ideas into lower language because the ideas are too general or out of the range of understanding the average person.  The common man might not understand anything outside his own particular interest. A social spirit must be created by institutions to cultivate an appreciation and understanding of the new state. The legislator must have some recourse in this case – he must appeal to the people about divine intervention giving the legislator the wisdom to write the laws and the divine will that they be followed.

However, not all can access this divine inspiration or be believe to be able to. Anyone can make claims about being wise or having contact with the gods about right and wrong. They might also have bad plans in this case – either intentionally or not. If he is capable of fooling the people or  isn’t wise, he never will succeed in establishing an empire. Whatever he establishes will die out with him. Only wisdom can endure. It takes real wisdom and real laws for a government representing the people to last forever.

Chapter Eight: The People, Part One

A wise legislator must survey the people for whom he’ll be writing laws like an architect survey his building site to see how much weigh it will support. Plato refused to write laws for the Arcadians and the Cyrenaens because they were so wealthy that they wouldn’t tolerate equality. He could do so in Crete because Minos had already inflicted discipline on them.

A people is only docile in its youth. As it grows older, it becomes incorrigible. Once customs and prejudices are entrenched, they are difficult to change, even if it is for the best. Crises often cause a state or a people to be reborn since the past customs – however recent they may be – are often forgotten in these cases. If rebuilding and burning down of states happens too often, the people will start to lose civil impulses and become barbarous. “Freedom may be gained but it can never be recovered.”

A period of youth in a country is when they are not subject to laws and as it matures it should be given laws it can handle. If the state lingers too long in “lawlessness” or the people aren’t amenable to proper laws, they will remain barbarous. The time has to be right, the conditions must be right, the people must be ready and the laws must be appropriate.

Chapter Nine: The People, Part Two

There is a limit to how effective a government can be with respect to its size. If it is too large, it ceases to be a good government. If it is too small, it cannot maintain itself. Long distances make administration difficult and maintenance becomes more and more burdensome as the distances increase. The government goes from city to district to province and on and on, until the supreme government. All of these governments and their connections to each other drain the people of their resources and there may not be enough for them in case of emergencies.

Furthermore, the government becomes slower, less rigorous in observing laws, correcting abuses and preventing nuisances. People have less affection for their rules and fellow citizens who become more and more like strangers. The same laws won’t suit diverse provinces with diverse customs, diverse climates and become incapable of enduring a uniform government.

Talent is buried, virtue unknown and vice unpunished. People are never sure if they can even call their country their own since they become so detached from it. Central administration becomes a gathering of a multitude of men who don’t know each other, overwhelmed with the business of the state and the state itself becomes run by nothing but clerks. The measure taken to maintain the general authority – which authorities wish to escape from or impose upon the people – absorb all the energies of the public and there is nothing left to live for. There isn’t enough to defend the state when it is needed and the body politic becomes so large and overweight for its constitution that it collapses in on itself – the people.

The state must have a stable foundation to resist shocks and to maintain itself. People tend to act in a centrifugal force acting against one another to aggrandize themselves at their neighbor’s expense. The weak are swallowed up. It is impossible to preserve oneself except when in a state of equilibrium with others – where each man’s needs and desires press upon the others equally to check the others’ actions. There are reasons for expansion and contraction and the statesman’s job is to find the right balance. The reasons for expansion are external and relative and the reasons for contraction are internal and absolute. A strong and healthy constitution is most important.

Chapter Ten: The People, Part Three

A body politic can be measured by its land area or its population. Men make up the state and land sustains the men. A balanced must be established. On one hand it must be so that the land only has the maximum number of people it can sustain without fighting within the state or with neighboring lands, or even starvation. On the other hand, it is important not to have land so sparsely settled that there will not be territory wars between settlers. Land settled near the sea may have the coasts supply them with food but they are exposed to pirates. Establishing the right sort of order is important to get right and quickly because often usurpers pick the most chaotic times to strike and then make destructive laws that would never otherwise have been enacted.

The ideal people for legislation is one of common origin, interest or convention, without deeply ingrained customs or superstitions, independent, self-sufficient and this people unites the qualities of the consistency of an ancient people with the docility of a new one.

Chapter Eleven: Various Systems of Legislation

What should the goal of every legislative system be? Liberty and equality. Liberty because particular dependence means that force has been taken away from individuals. Equality because liberty cannot exist without it. Liberty was dealt with in Book I.

Equality doesn’t mean to be identical in degrees of power and riches but power is never great enough for violence and it is always exercised by virtue of rank and law. There should be a great moderation in goods and position, and a moderation in avarice and covetousness.

If abuse is inevitable, regulation concerning that abuse should be there. If circumstances destroy equality, force of legislation should maintain it. General objects should be specified in every country according to the local situations and customs. Land fertility or natural resources will drive the people into different industries. Countries tend to specialize in what is best and easiest for them.

Chapter Twelve: Division of the Laws

There are divisions in four parts:

1 – Action of the complete body upon itself. This is how the government is set up and how it goes about taking the general will and putting it into action.

2 – How individuals relate to each other and to the whole body. They will be independent from each other but dependent on the the body to secure their liberties. These are civil laws.

3 – The relationship between the individual and the law. Disobedience will be met with a penalty. These are criminal laws.

4 – Morality, custom, habit, public opinion. While they are not set in stone, they do define the laws and society depends greatly on them.

“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Book I (1762)

Kitty, you’ve been getting too many crunchies as it is.

Book I

Chapter One: Introduction

“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”

With respect to force, people will obey if they are forced to. Without the chains of obedience or slavery, life would definitely be better. The former master and former slave may continue a relationship based on superiority-inferiority but force is no longer what is binding – but a social convention.

Chapter Two: First Societies

The basic form of society is the family. The father owes his children protection and provision. The children owe their father obedience. Once the children are grown, the natural relationship dissolves. Any further link is voluntary and is a social convention.

Man’s first duty is to himself, his self-preservation, once he is old enough. He is his only source of judgment and his only master. Between a ruler and people there are obligations similar to that of the family. People obey the ruler for protection and the ruler gets obedience. Rather than the binding sense of love between a father and child, the ruler will get a sense of love of power, since he is incapable of loving an abstract idea such as his people.

Chapter Three: Right of the Strongest

Force can never oblige in any other way than through compliance based on self-preservation. It cannot impose duties or morals. If we are able to disobey with impunity, that is a legitimate behavior because we no longer have to obey out of force. Compliance due to force never implies a sense of duty. Once force disappears, duty doesn’t necessarily replace it. So, the word “right” can’t be used with “force”.

Because our duty to ourselves is self-preservation, we must obey force when we are unable to overcome it. Because power comes from “God”, as does illness, should we never call a doctor? If a robber demands our wallet even though we are able to keep it from him secretly, should we give it over to him out of “duty” to the force which comes from the gun?

Chapter Four: Slavery

Just because a man can exert force over another doesn’t make anything a “right”. Only conventions are the basis of legitimate authority over men.

Def’n: “alienation”: to give or sell oneself.

A slave doesn’t give himself to another but sells himself to another – at least for subsistence. Do people sell themselves to a king even if they don’t get any subsistence from him? They can get “civil tranquility”. But the consequences of the king’s greed might outweigh the benefits of civil tranquility. One can be quite safe and tranquil in a prison cell.

Giving oneself up to another, in a state of nature, is nonsense since a man gets nothing in return. Someone can do this but almost assuredly they are insane because they get absolutely nothing out of it – in fact, they lose everything.

The same goes for a people giving itself up to a king. Even if a man should sell himself, he doesn’t have the right to do that for his children. They are born free and are their own men. A father may stipulate the conditions of his children’s upbringing but he may not take actions that affect their children so irrevocably and unconditionally beyond the end of their “natural” relationship – when the child is grown. Nature’s laws or rules supersede those of the father. So for a government to be legitimate, each generation must be able to accept or reject it.

To give up one’s liberties is to renounce being a man and one’s rights, duties and morality. There is no possible recompense. Furthermore, it would remove all morality in his actions and liberty in his will, since the owner is responsible for all of the slave’s actions.

On the subject of slavery after war, often the victor swaps the vanquished’s life for his liberty. This “right” to kill doesn’t come from war. Men cannot be at war with each other, because this is only a state of relationship between two or more states. Individuals may engage in combats, duels and fights but these aren’t acts of states. Individuals are only enemies with each other in war by accident, and not as men but as soldiers and defenders of a state. States’ enemies may only be other states.

Declarations of war are as much warning to states as they are to individual men. A man who kills, steals or kidnaps without a declaration of war isn’t an enemy but an outlaw. In war, when a just country invades another, it must respect the rights of the newly conquered people as it does to its own. A state may kill its enemy’s defenders if they are armed but if they lay down their arms and surrender, they go back to being only men and the state can no longer have claim over their lives.

If war doesn’t give the right to kill the vanquished, then it doesn’t give the right to enslave. If we can’t kill the enemy once it has surrendered, we can’t make him a slave because we can’t make him choose between the two options, one of which we aren’t allowed to do to him. Furthermore, a slave would be under no obligation to obey his master except under threat of force. If you take what is the equal to his life, his liberty – since you are offering to swap them -, the victor isn’t really doing the vanquished a favor – he is only doing himself one. He gets a slave, instead of killing a man who has surrendered. Thus the war continues between the victor – imposing the right of the strongest – and the vanquished – fighting for his right to self-preservation. The relationship goes back to war because the slave is only a slave through force and not social convention.

So, the word “slave” and “right” are contradictory and shouldn’t be used together. The victor is essentially saying to a newly vanquished slave – in making a deal with with you, the vanquished, at your expense and my benefit, I will observe it if it pleases me and you will observe it if it pleases me.

Chapter Five: We must always go back to a first convention

Even if we put aside everything said about slavery not being “right” and legitimate, despotism is just as much nonsense. There’s a difference between conquering many people and ruling a society. Even if a man can enslave millions, the relationship between them and him is still that of master and slave. There is nothing at all related to society about it. There is no free association, body politic or public good. The master is just a man and his interests are his alone and not at all those of his slaves. If he dies, the collection of slaves is no more a society than before.

A people may give itself to a king because it is a people before this act. The act supposes that there is a public deliberation. There must also be a previous convention that the minority in this deliberation will abide by the decision of the majority before the king’s election. The law of the majority itself is a convention that supposes at one time in the past some unanimity.

Chapter Six: Social Compact

Man has reached a point where self-preservation in nature is no longer feasible, and a non-natural and indeed social convention is necessary. Men can only unite or aggregate forces to overcome aggression under a single motive, power and action. This is the union of many but the force and liberty of each man must remain his own. The goal is man will obey himself alone and remain as free as before, even in uniting in a common force for each man’s defense. This is the idea behind the Social Contract. The smallest modification of the Social Contract nullifies it, even though the contract was never formally stated, openly admitted or even recognized until it was violated. At this point each man regains his first right and natural liberty because the convention is nullified.

The clauses of the Social Contract mean in sum the “alienation” of each man to the whole community. He gives himself absolutely, as do all men and no man has the interest to make conditions more burdensome to others, as it will also be so to him. Alienation is without reserve and the union is as perfect as it possibly can be. Rights must be given to the whole so a man cannot place himself in the position of being the superior to another, which would make the other the inferior, so that the right of the strongest will not cause the convention to revert to a state of nature.

Every man gives himself to the all and acquires from the others exactly what he gave of himself. He gains the ability to preserve himself. The Social Contract becomes: giving up yourself, along with the others doing the same to the “general will” and the “corporate entity”, and each member becomes an indivisible part of the whole. This association creates a moral and collective body of members in a common identity, life and will.

New definitions are needed to be made to understand the parts of the Social Contract. These words need to be clarified as people often do not understand the nuances between them, and confuse them.

Under the Social Contract, the aggregation of the “city” becomes “republic” or “body politic”. Its members call it the “state” when it is in a passive form, “sovereign” when it is in its active form and “power” when compared to others. People within the Social Contract call themselves “citizens” when they are participants in the sovereign and “subjects” when they aren’t.

Chapter Seven: The Sovereign

A citizen is in a reciprocal arrangement with the state in a double capacity – an individual in a relationship with the sovereign, and a part of the sovereign in relationship with individual members. Public deliberation causes the state not to be bound by itself since it is both a social convention – which may change at any time – and merely an aggregation of citizens with their own natural rights surrendered to the sovereign in exchange for civil rights.

The state is in a sense a body in contract with itself. There can’t be a law it creates to bind itself that it has to force against itself. It may change the laws itself but the social contract maintains the general will of the people which cannot be bounded. The body may engage others as long as it doesn’t infringe its contract. It becomes like a single entity when acting with others.

Because the Social Contract is a sacred convention that creates a political body and authority, it cannot bind itself, even to an outsider, to anything that is derogatory to the original act, to alienate a part of itself or to submit to another sovereign. Any violation is an act of self-annihilation. Once there is a body, it may not harm itself or its members. Duty and interest oblige both parties – members and complete body – to help each other. The state doesn’t need to make guarantees to itself or its members because their interests are the same.

An individual may have interests contrary to those of the state. His own interests may cause him not to want to contribute to or abide by the common interest. His withdrawal of contribution and support are more harmful to himself than to the rest of the body. For the Social Contract to work, those who refuse the general will must be compelled to do so by the body. This alone legitimizes civil undertakings.

Chapter Eight: Civil State

The move from nature to the civil state produces a change: instinct and justice are swapped and morality is given to man’s actions. He is forced to act on different principles. He loses from what he had in nature but gains so much more from the Social Contract. He becomes civilized and above animals. He gains civil liberty and legal rights over property in exchange for his natural rights.

Chapter Nine: Real Property

Along with himself, man gives his property to the state in the Social Contract. Possession doesn’t change hands but is made stronger due to the increase in the force of the state. When the state relates to other states and outlaws, the property of members is considered that of the state on the basis of the right of first occupiers.

The right of first occupiers becomes more real than the right of the strongest in the Social Contract with secure property rights. In nature, a man has a right to secure what he needs and the act of acquiring makes him proprietor of it. The right of first occupier is weak in nature but is very strong in a civil society. We respect more so the idea of what is not ours than the idea of what belongs to others.

To authorize land to an occupier we need: the land to be vacant, the occupier to occupy what he needs and the land to be worked and cultivated , not just simply claimed. This is a good substitute for a legal title. But is this right unlimited? Is just being on the land enough? Is it enough to scare off others to make the claim? How can you own land and keep away everyone by simply claiming ownership? Spain claimed its American colonies but what happened to the rights of the natives who were there first? How did that claim stop other countries’ claims to that same land? Anyone can claim anything.

Possessors are made dependent, needing the formation of a sovereign to secure the right. Forces at their command used to guarantee property rights also guarantee fidelity. Older kings were called kings of the Persians, of the Scythians, of the Macedonians. They were rulers of men. Modern kings are called kings of France, Spain, England. These are rulers of a land and have the obedience of the inhabitants as a result. There has been a shift from the ruler essentially treating his people as those forced physically to swear allegiance to a ruler elected or tolerated by the people.

Alienation of people and goods isn’t plunder but allows them to enjoy property. Possessors are depositories of a public good and that public good is maintained against foreign countries, which is an advantageous cession that benefits the public. Individuals “retain” what they have “given up”. It is a paradox – the sovereign and proprietors have a claim over the same land.

It is entirely possible that men unite before owning anything, that just occupying land be enough for everyone, or that land is shared among members evenly or in a manner established by the sovereign. However it happens, each man’s right over his land is always subordinated to that of the community. Without that right, there is no social link or any real sovereign force.

The whole social system is based on: instead of destroying natural inequality, the fundamental compact substitutes a moral and legitimate equality for a physical equality that nature has established between men, and those being unequal in strength or intelligence become equal in convention and legal rights.

“Upon Some Verses of Virgil” by Michel de Montaigne (1580-1595)

Loosy, you got some 'splainin to do.

Loosy, you got some ‘splainin to do.

“Upon Some Verses of Virgil” by Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne is getting older and all he’s got left is to look back at life. He wants to live a comfortable life but wants to be temperate and moderate. This is difficult because comfort requires avoiding pain and that means going toward pleasure, the opposite of pain.

It’s strange that we are free to think whatever we want but we aren’t free to say whatever we want. He finds it sad that women can only really have his books around as a part of the furniture rather than something to be read. He enjoys female company and wants them to appreciate his work.

Why is it that we blush at the talk of sex but we are just fine with talking about robbery, betrayal and murder? When we strip ourselves of being able to talk about some topics, we stop ourselves from being able to talk about parts of life.

The idea of marriage is distant to our biological need for sex in pleasure and procreation. Marriage usually falls apart when sex is the sole focus instead of friendship, which is a much stronger foundation for a marriage. A good marriage should be based on friendship, much more so than sex and love. Love makes us weaker and less rational. Marriage is about duty and friendship rather than passion, which is something that causes us to resent one another in the end. It’s clear why few men make their mistresses their wives because they want the passion to remain and not have a shitty marriage. Marriage is still good but love is purely based on pleasure and that tends to be irrational and intemperate.

Women aren’t really to be blamed. Men and women are subject to the same desires and emotions but somehow society punishes them for acting on them. They are trained from a very young age to be simple in the ways of love, dress, language and knowledge when it comes to sex. We should relax our standards a bit because they have bad consequences.

Men are supposed to flaunt their virile physical traits while women are supposed to hide their femininity. A lot of images of woman are representations of temptation but not so for men. This is an idea that women are weaker than men morally. But even the greatest warriors, like Alexander and Caesar wouldn’t compare to a woman who successfully restrains herself from all that “tempts” her. It’s stupid to bridle in a woman what is completely natural.

Societies differ in roles of love, sex and marriage for men and women. Looking at those differences may make our culture seem a bit silly. But life is half serious and half silly. And ignoring the silliness of sex and love and solely focusing on the serious side of life in to ignore half of life. There are things to be serious about but not 100% of the time.

Laziness is bad but so is working constantly. You need to work but you also need to put your feet up. That is a part of moderation. We shouldn’t completely forget about physical pleasure but we shouldn’t completely submit to it either.

We should hold women to the same standard as men. Not higher, not lower. Men and women are cast in the same mold and the only real difference is education and the roles we play in society.

“That the Relish of Good and Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them” – Michel de Montaigne (1580-1595)


That the Relish of Good and Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them – Michel de Montaigne

People are often bothered by their views on things, not the things themselves. We choose to see them as good or bad. If that’s so, why not choose to see things as good? There is a wide range of opinions on good and bad, so it seems unlikely that there is any universal good or evil.

But there is a lot of people who see death as a bad thing, but… there are many examples of death being the more favorable outcome. In the case of suicide, people choose death over life. In some cases, life is so horrible that death is a welcome event. On the other hand, there are many examples of people choosing life over death. We are naturally averse to things that expose us to the risk of death. For most of us, death is something to be avoided.

Pyrrho pointed at a pig on his boat in the middle of the storm. The pig was so ignorant of the likelihood of death that he didn’t seem all that bothered. The rest of his crew panicked. He used the pig as an example, “The pig doesn’t seem to mind, so, why should we?” The pig was ignorant of the danger and it was that ignorance that served him well. We humans are more in tune to the dangers of death. Why can’t we use our intelligence to convince ourselves that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing?

People can tolerate all kinds of pain in different ways. Some will crack at the mere mention of pain or torture. Some people can just deal with the pain. Others see pain as some sort of punishment being served by the gods. And still others see the delay of death worse than death itself.

Courage and coward tend to play a large role in our happiness and unhappiness with respect to pain and fear. If you can put up with pain and fear, i.e. being courageous, the shittiness of death and pain will not be so harsh. Cowards have it worse because the idea of death and pain are painful themselves.

Virtues like valor, force, resolution, etc. help us because we can convince ourselves that it’s not so bad. Remember that death will alleviate us from our pains, so in some sense it can be a good thing.

Engaging in too much pleasure or pain may have bad effects on the soul and mind because our sense can cloud our thoughts and affect our actions. This can affect our reason and make ourselves slaves to seeking pleasure and avoiding pain when it is bad or irrational to do so.

It’s not poverty that makes us greedy, it’s being rich. Montaigne gives us examples of his life over three phases.

  1. When he was a young man, he didn’t really have much money. He was happy to receive any help he could get from others and give any that he could offer to others. He was poor but happy. He took whatever fortunes came his way and just had to deal with the shit life threw at him.

  2. He was able to get a bunch of money to the point where he was considered rich. But this really put money on his brain and it was all he could think of. He was constantly worried and anxious about making money, keeping money and not losing it. He was unhappy and a complete pain in the ass to deal with.

  3. Later, he was able to convince himself to live a fairly modest life. Money wasn’t on the front of his mind. He was able to see that money isn’t really what makes you happy. In fact, it makes you miserable. Happiness comes from other things.

Rich or poor, your appetites don’t really change. Fortune doesn’t really favor the rich or have it in for the poor. It plants a seed for us. How we treat that seed and view it as it grows is what makes us happy or unhappy. Being rich or poor is really independent of happiness.

“Of Cannibalism” by Michel de Montaigne (1580-1595)


Of Cannibals

I knew a guy who lived in Brazil for about 10 years or so. He was far to simple to be a liar and I had confidence that he wasn’t making anything up.

Most people would describe the people he was telling me about as barbarians or savages but I think of them as just closer to nature than us, with simpler minds that weren’t clouded with things like letters, numbers, jobs, family, property, clothes, traffic, agriculture, booze, greed, treachery or honor.

They fight between many tribes with bows and arrows and wooden swords. There was usually a lot of blood. Nobody ran away from a losing battle and men would often bring home heads as trophies. Those who survived the battle on the losing side were taken prisoner, healed and made to eat their fellow prisoners. It was more about revenge than food.

When you think about it, it’s not any worse than when our soldiers torture their prisoners for information, revenge or just fun. But we get sick to our stomachs at the thought of cannibalism. Yet, we don’t bat an eye at what our boys do. Their warfare is every bit as noble as ours, perhaps even more so. Our battles are over conquest and getting luxuries. Their battles are over resources and survival.