general will

general will

▪ philosophy of Rousseau
      theory of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques), 18th-century French political philosopher, that in a democratic society the state represents the general will of the citizens, and that in obeying its laws each citizen is pursuing his own real interest. Rousseau distinguished the “general will” from particular wills. The general will is a moral will, a will that aims at the common good.

      Rousseau assumed that all people are capable of taking the moral standpoint of aiming at the common good, and that if they did so they would reach a unanimous decision. Thus, in an ideal state, laws express the general will. An individual who disagrees with a law must be failing to look at things from the moral standpoint. The general will expressed by the law is what that individual, no less than others, would share if he took the moral, the truly human, view.

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Universalium. 2010.

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