By Brent Edwin Cusher
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Additional resources for Rousseau and Plato on the Legislator and the Limits of Law
Still, the first effect of amourpropre is not such as to inspire sustained conflict among men. On the contrary, the era of the first families, “this period…maintaining a golden mean between the indolence of the primitive state and the petulant activity of our amour-propre, must have been the happiest and most durable epoch,” according to Rousseau. “The more one thinks about it, the more one finds this state was the least subject to revolutions [and] the best for men…”92 Be this as it may, the epoch of the first families is not devoid of violence.
82 Most important for our purposes, Rousseau teaches that the division of labor is the wellspring of the foundation of property. “[F]rom the moment one man needed the help of another, as soon as they observed that it was useful for a single person to 80 Rousseau, Second Discourse, p. 148 (III: 169). Rousseau‟s main discussion of the growth of nations is not in the Second Discourse, but rather in the Essay on the Origin of Languages. Cf. Paola Bora, “Langues et Nations dans l‟Essai sur l’origine des langues,” in Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Politique et Nation, Présentation générale de Robert Thiéry (Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2001), pp.
Both causes taken together confirm that Rousseau does indeed agree with the speech of his dramatic creation, the rich man, on the original reasons for law. 99 In the absence of civil law, violent conflict among men creates a situation in which the weak suffer oppression, the ambitious threaten the rest of society, and the possession of property is insecure, all in the ways that have been shown above. Civil law, according to Rousseau, is brought into being in order to address these problems characteristic of widespread violent conflict.
Rousseau and Plato on the Legislator and the Limits of Law by Brent Edwin Cusher