Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences
Here are some questions to consider in regard to Rousseau’s Discourses. As usual, these are meant to be pretty open-ended and to spur further discussion among you.
Do you think Rousseau is right to link advancement in the sciences and arts to a decline in moral and civic virtue? Is he right to say that we become more slavish as the luxuries in our lives increase? Are we better or worse people than we were in earlier ages?
Do you see examples of the sort of thing Rousseau is critiquing in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences today, in contemporary American society? Do you see them among your peer group?
Do you think Rousseau is right that politics should be about virtue and excellence rather than wealth and economics? Why or why not? Do you think a government that does not actively promote virtue will be able to produce excellent citizens?
How strong is his critique of natural law theories? Does it rightly apply to Hobbes? To Locke? To St. Thomas?