The Implementation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Philosophy by Maximilien Robespierre and His Purposed Reaction Had He Lived to Witness It

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Perhaps one of the most influential figures during the French Revolution was a man by the name of Maximilien Robespierre. Instrumental especially at the onset of the Revolution, a period referred to as the Reign of Terror, Robespierre drew on the insights of many Enlightenment philosophers and was a strong advocate for the left wing bourgeoisie. However, despite his efficacious leadership and sentiment, much of what he encouraged to the masses is based off the writings and teachings of one Enlightenment thinker in particular: Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau would be the first “modern critic of the bourgeois society.”[1]More specifically, in his text, The Social Contract[2], in which he outlines what he believes to be the necessary…show more content…
However, this is but a small piece to the puzzle in the grand scheme of Roussillon philosophy as well as the works of Robespierre. The overall theme of Rousseau’s work tended circle around the idea of the state of nature and the general will. We see this idea of the state of nature in his other notable works such as Emile and Discourse on Inequality. In broader terms, it is the way in which man behaved before the creation of the State. “The general will is not a natural phenomenon. A morale order of that State is opposed to the natural order of the species of the universe. The civil order, Rousseau tells us at the beginning of Emile, must put an end to the primacy of natural feelings” (Crocker 91)[7]. As Crocker goes on, he states the Rousseau derided the “idealism” of his contemporaries in that, while he did believe that man could and would choose the general good, it is not without coercion. For example, in his Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau praised the lifestyle of the people of the Caribbean. “[T]he Caribbeans, who have as yet least of all deviated from the state of nature, being in the fact the most peaceable of people in their amours, and the least subject to jealousy, though they live in a hot climate which seems to always inflame the passions” (Rousseau Discourse 37)[8]. Thus, Rousseau believed that morality was not merely a “societal construct” but rather a creation of man’s that grew from his disinclination to avoid witnessing suffering, which

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