FREE WILL AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL: RECONCILING ROUSSEAU'S DIVIDED THOUGHT

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Abstract:

This article aims to resolve the apparent contradiction in Rousseau's oeuvre concerning the origin of man's evil. In the Second Discourse a naturalistic explanation for the development of evil is given, whereas in Emile the Savoyard Vicar propounds a deontological account. The two can be reconciled, however, through a precise understanding of the nature and bearing of Rousseau's conception of free will. The analysis challenges O'Hagan's interpretation and suggests that the irreducible tensions within Rousseau's thought can be resolved if the Kantian reading of self-mastery is abandoned. The article highlights Rousseau's metaphysical scepticism and concludes with some reflections on the relationship between faith and philosophy.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Politics, Amory Building, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon EX4 4RJ, Email: rad210@exeter.ac.uk

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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