Compare and Contrast Essay: Condorcet vs. Rousseau on Progress

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  985 Words
Date:  2022-04-12


Rousseau made a tremendous contribution to philosophy especially in regards to moral psychology and political philosophy. His major concern was on coming up with a way through which human beings can retain their freedom in a world where people depended on each as time goes. Thus, to fulfill their needs, they rely on each other. Individual liberty is a major focus of Rousseau on his publication called Social Contract in 1762. According to Riley (23), "human beings losses their freedom or civil liberty whenever a civil state is formed." He came up with two forms of liberty. Namely civil liberty and natural liberty. Civil liberty comes into being with the formation of a civil state. On the other hand, the natural liberty is the freedom that human beings have devoid of civil states. With civil state, there comes totalitarian rule which is inhibitive. Rousseau (8) argued that "the democratic and egalitarian society he envisions would serve as an alternative to the despotic systems of government." In order to restore the natural freedom to human beings, Rousseau envisioned that the formation of egalitarian and democratic societies would provide human beings a leeway from the government systems which are despotic in nature.

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According to Rousseau (8) "the passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct and giving his actions the morality that had formerly lacked." He points out that the formation of civil state changes man by substituting his instinct that acted as a guide to natural liberty with justice and morality. Duty becomes the major cause of direction for a man's action. Previously, a man in his natural liberty would be directed by physical impulses and innate desires. As a result, in a civil state, the human beings have to think and reason before acting.

Civil liberty has some advantages to a man even though he is deprived of his natural ability to reason as a human being. The state becomes a stimulus to man. It develops and extends a mans ability to think by uplifting his intelligence. The social contract lips of man's natural liberty in return for civil liberty. His natural strength binds natural liberty in a human being. However, civil liberty is bound by possession and the general will of a man.

Rousseau argues that civil liberty is repressive because it takes away the natural liberty of a human being. The satisfaction of a human being is subjected to the satisfaction of others due to the high level of interdependence. The opinion of other human beings carries much weight in the derivation of a human sense. According to Rousseau, such a case is retrogressive regarding human freedom-it destroys the authenticity of an individual.

To protect human freedom, Rousseau indicates that man has to achieve political freedom and develop children through education. "Education fosters independence and deters the development of selfish attitude in a man" (Starobinski 67). Even though Rousseau believed that human beings could live in freedom and equality, however, he was very pessimistic about it. He hardly fathomed case where human beings could free themselves from "oppression, alienation, and unfreedom" (Rousseau and Jason 32).

Marquis de Condorcet made a publication entitled the "Sketch for a Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind." According to Condorcet, the good of society, justice, and human progress is based on reason instead of religion. He argues that human being continuously progressed to perfection. The process started from a state of savage, and it has been advancing to a state of rationality, virtue, and happiness. They are ten stages towards the stage of being virtuous, enlightened, and happiness. Human beings have already passed the nine stages. The tenth stage is the ultimate destiny called the epoch of the future. The previous nine stages are called the epochs of history. The past would shape the future. The tenth stage which is the culmination of human development is characterized by human beings' improvement in respect to "morality, intellectual and physical development" (Kant 12). Equality between classes and nations is an additional characteristic of the tenth stage. Condorcet (2) argued that "inequality has no other source but the abuse of power and men have tried in vain to excuse it by sophisms." Condorcet deemed religion and monarchy as blocks to human achieving freedom and happiness. He abhorred them and indicated that they were retrogressive and against human development.

Just like Rousseau, Condorcet placed a great emphasis on education. He argued that "giving people the elementary knowledge can inspire them with a taste for more advanced study and give them the capacity for making progress in it..." (3). Education plays a significant role in the development of human welfare. He indicated that there is no absolute equality. However, this was in reference to equality in regards to rights and freedom. He also indicated that a "man's mind has a high capacity to acquire virtues and knowledge" (Rousseau and May 11). Religion encouraged ignorance and thwarted the power of reason.


Condorcet and Rousseau share similar sentiments in respect to the progress of humankind. The progress of human being is marked by "the abolition of inequality among humans and nations and civilization" (Rogers 3).

Works Cited

Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat. "Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind." (1955).

Kant, Immanuel. "Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans." Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959) 23 (1959).

Riley, Patrick. "Will and political legitimacy: A critical exposition of social contract theory in Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel." (1982).

Rogers, Perry M. Aspects of Western Civilization. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Gita May. The social contract: And, the first and second discourses. Yale University Press, 2002.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Neville Jason. Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality among Men. Naxos, 2015.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "1987) On the Social Contract." Basic Political Writings (Hackett, Indianapolis, IN) (1762).

Starobinski, Jean. "Jean-Jacques Rousseau, transparency and obstruction." (1988).

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