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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24341

Title: Rousseau and Plato on the Legislator and the Limits of Law
Authors: Cusher, Brent
Advisor: Orwin, Clifford
Department: Political Science
Keywords: Rousseau
Positive Law
Civil Religion
Issue Date: 15-Apr-2010
Abstract: Both Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Plato offer doctrines of the great legislator, that highly virtuous figure who designs foundational laws for a political community, in order to shed light on the problem of legislation. This problem is that positive law is incapable of achieving the ends in political life that are expected of it, even though it is understood to be the chief tool at the disposal of the lawgiver. Close consideration of Rousseau’s and Plato’s political texts reveals that both philosophers are in agreement about the limited function of positive law, insofar as its exclusive purpose is to forestall the ills of human life. But they also agree that the effectiveness of legislation requires something more: the condition of effective laws is a comprehensive system of civic education, directed primarily at the passions, through which individual human beings are turned into good citizens. Taking into account the extreme difficulty of establishing such educational institutions, both Rousseau and Plato put forward doctrines of the legislator to indicate what sort of figure could possibly accomplish this task with success. The study finds that the two philosophers’ conceptions of the legislator are by and large similar, and finally, that they both express pessimism on the capacity of laws to promote the good life.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24341
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Political Science - Doctoral theses

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