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Rousseau and HobbesNature, Free Will, and the Passions$
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Robin Douglass

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198724964

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724964.001.0001

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The State of Nature and the Nature of Man

The State of Nature and the Nature of Man

(p.61) 2 The State of Nature and the Nature of Man
Rousseau and Hobbes

Robin Douglass

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Rousseau’s engagement with Hobbesian ideas in the Discours sur l’inégalité, in which he sought to show that many of Hobbes’s critics were really no better than Hobbes. Against the natural law theorists, Rousseau collapsed the prevalent bifurcation between Pufendorfian sociability and Hobbesian Epicureanism. Against the doux commerce theorists, he argued that those who defended the role of commerce and luxury in civilizing modern societies actually rested their defences on Hobbesian premises regarding man’s nature. At the same time, the chapter shows how Rousseau explicated two of his key philosophical principles in opposition to Hobbes: man’s free will and natural goodness. The chapter concludes by arguing that Rousseau’s criticisms of Hobbes do not simply miss the mark, as is often thought.

Keywords:   Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, free will, state of nature, natural goodness, sociability, Epicureanism, natural law, Samuel Pufendorf, commerce

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