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Rousseau Knew Intuition Rules Reason; Sought to Bend Intuition to the Idealized “General Will” via Education, Like Today’s campus Protesters

Rousseau understood as Hume did that the passions (i.e., intuitive feelings) rule reason. The goal of education, therefore, Rousseau believed, should be to cultivate the right sorts passions and suppress the wrong ones.  He called the collection of the right passions was The General Will; an idealized Platonic vision of the good society and the new man with which all right thinking people agreed and collectively sought to create via top-down social engineering through the coercive power of the state.

Rousseau would undoubtedly be thrilled to see what has become of the education system in America; a tribal moral community of thinkers like him.  He’d probably be an avid proponent of the current campus protests and the thinking behind them.

Cognitive Style seem to be universal and timeless. The Platonic Rousseauian Idealistic Cognitive style and the Arostetialian Burkean Empiricist Cognitive style seem to be “evolved psychological mechanisms” of morality, separate and distinct from moral foundations, that are as essential to defining the size and shape of moral matrices as are they, if not more so.

These two quotes are from The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization

The Enlightenment rested its entire worldview on Locke’s updating of Abelard’s dictum (ultimately derived from Aristotle) that we must understand in order to believe. Rousseau told eighteenth-century Europe that it had its priorities backward. It is not our reason or our understanding that allows us to change the world, but our passions, our emotional commitment to an idea or cause. Building for the future therefore must be about cultivating the passions and the feelings, not the mind, so that we can embrace the life of virtue (literally) body and soul. (Page xxx).

Like John Locke, Rousseau saw the social contract as a mandate for overthrowing any tyranny that violates its terms. However, its character could not be more different. Instead of securing individual rights, Rousseau’s contract creates a community bound to a collective will and destiny, which he termed the General Will. Under its shelter each citizen receives his share of personal liberty, but also public obligations. Because we are human beings, the conflict between our individual will and the General Will becomes inevitable. In Rousseau’s case, however, it is the individual, not the community, who must give way. He must learn that this General Will is actually his true, better self. This in turn requires a compulsory training, so that obeying the General Will becomes the leading passion in our lives. (Page yyy).


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