Questions for *On the Social Contract*, Book II

  • In Book II of Rousseau’s On the Social Contract, he discusses the role of the general will and its effects on society. In Chapter 3, Rousseau presents the question of whether the general will can err. Rousseau later answers this question saying that “the populace is never corrupted, but it is often tricked, and only then does it appear to want what is bad.” From this idea is where I have developed the following questions. Do you believe that general will is always directed towards the good of society as whole? If so then, is the general will always right?
  • In Chapter 7 Rousseau discusses the qualities that a legislator should have . Do you believe that all legislators today have those essential qualities that Rousseau suggests?
  • Rousseau writes, “Whoever wills the end also wills the means, and these means are inseparable for some risks even some losses…Whoever wishes to preserve his life at the expense of others should also give it up for them when necessary.” What are your thoughts on Rousseau’s writings on the death penalty and the right of life and death in Chapter 5?
  • Rousseau argues, “in every body politic there is a maximum force that it cannot exceed, and which has often fallen short by increasing its size.” What reasons does he give to prove his maxim correct? Are there any nation states in history or now which have exceeded their maximum?