Jean-Jacque Rousseau and Edmund Burke, both were the most influential philosophers of politics during the 18th century. Despite the fact that both men lived during the same era but both men views on philosophy were totally different from each other. In fact, both philosophers were on the opposite sides sharing absolute opposite political views from each other. Burke was in the favor of traditions of France that is why he opposed the French revolution and on the other side Rousseau was strongly in the favor of revolution even was declared as the hero during the revolution who was in favor of liberty. The reason behind their contradict views can be seen during the French revolution and this can tell their struggle against each other. Burke believed that countries stays together due to traditions but Rousseau believed that people should be liberated and they don’t need any power to govern them. These two opposite views made them famous among those who shared the same views and that’s the reason both of them being famous and influential during same time period. Furthermore, the analysis in the discussion will be critically analyzed both the theories and the critique on the contradiction of philosophies during the perspective of that time.
The aspects presented by Rousseau which was his philosophy contradicts Burke were that people are free because he believed that it’s in their nature to be free. The second aspect which also completely opposite with the Burke philosophy was that it equality and have the liberty even we go back to stone age and see that there wasn’t any traditions and beliefs which people were holding. The life back then was on the hunting and food gathering and that was the base measuring the equality which eventually made them fee and equal with centralized system of no other societal stature. During those times, people were not accountable to anyone and they didn’t have to answer to higher authorities for their actions. Family was only the exception because of they belonged to each other. This liberty of not answering gave them the sense of free humans and this was criteria for measuring that they all were equal which made them free and individualistic in nature. Plato also was in the favor of quality among both men and women, he also emphasized on the same work will categorize the people as equal (Plato, 32). When no outside force which can harm the people that’s the reason they don’t have to make groups to protect each other. According to Rousseau, after the development of private property rights and reasons, the people are facing difficulties and inequality because these rights are being exploited by the dominating class. He wasn’t suggesting to go back to old times but the evil which was brought by all these development because rise in population requires the building of hierarchy to manage them. When the hierarchy came into place, thus the inequality took birth among people. He suggested to make the practical approach as people believe that reason is a positive thing so going back to equality and freedom through using the reason. All these views by Rousseau were against the French queen, Marie Antoinette because her acts where putting the people of France in misery, the poverty and her indifference towards people took away the liberty and there wasn’t equality left during those times (Rousseau, 53).
On the other side, Burke’s modern conservative ideology was based on the traditional values and he suggested that stability could be secured by societal norms and staying in groups as a community. As nature was the core in Rousseau’s philosophy, Burke also developed his political philosophy on the basis of nature. He explained nature by dividing into two parts, the first one refers to the stability which can be get from the family because of love and attachment. And the second part refers to the habits and custom which people follow in order to secure the position in society. His philosophy revolved around the traditions which people gets from the generation which have passed and he suggested to hold on to that tradition and passed on to generation. Those traditions and norms are the only source of stability according him which was against the idea of modernism. The other aspect of his philosophy which was also badly criticized and this aspect have no practicality. He suggested that abstract philosophy cannot be grounded in reality and rather he suggested people to come up with solution of current problem and try to fit into the solutions because those solutions fitted to time. Burke cruised the French revolution because he saw the revolution which will take the society back to scratch. He suggested to follow the leaders as they ask the people because they decide what is good for the people and for the present time. Burke’s view on new political system showed that he was against the change (Burke, 46). The new system will be by men but the traditional system which was given by the generation which were passed was strong because of the survival of that system. Aristotle presented the views which contradicts Burke, the philosophy was that a man should be sufficient to himself and if he is not he will be ruled by society (Aristotle, 22).
Rousseau strong views on the radical philosophy were entirely different from Burke’s views because they were purely emphasized on the traditions and values. Rousseau did not believe in the views of Burke and criticized them on the basis of how old they are and outdated which can’t be applied anymore because they are against the liberty of people and democracy. The equality which Rousseau wanted to give to people was what Burke thought would be unrealistic and will grow the revolution. Burke was in favor of queen and he defended her by emphasizing that her decisions were right and people should follow them (Herber, 12). Rousseau’s remarks which suggested that men were born free but society had put the chains which should be set free by implementing new political system of ideology. Burke’s views were old and carrying only the old system of politics in which there is no equality and freedom. Rousseau was in the view that religion is the worst institution because the religion never helped the people in fact he suggested that state only took benefit from the religion. These views by him suggested that he was against the religion system because he expressed his anger that God’s words are used by legislature to claim that the actions of the government is justified.
The interesting thing about Burke is that he wasn’t against the American Revolution but only against the French revolution which showed that his philosophy was only defending the Queen rather any good he wanted for the people. His own remarks were contradicting his political philosophy. Regarding French Revolution he was against that the nation cannot grow from the scratch but when it comes to American Revolution he emphasized that America should get freedom from colonists and start from the scratch. It was the French Revolution which Burke supported despite the fact that people became poor and all this is because of French queen, Marie Antoinette lavish life style (Chrisman-Campbell, 18).
In the end the conclusive remarks on both political philosophy from the most influential philosophers are that both of them contributed significant amount of knowledge and theories in the philosophy of politics which were supported and criticized as well. Both philosophers somehow lacked some points and flawed in their own way, one lacked that sometimes people needs guidance and other was lacing the freedom of people sometimes. The points presented by them were valid on running the country but Rousseau views about liberty, freedom and equality are strongest as compared to Burke’s philosophy on the French Revolution. He wasn’t against the American Revolution but only against the French revolution which showed that his philosophy was only defending the Queen rather any good he wanted for the people. His own remarks were contradicting his political philosophy. Rousseau’s views were not just the philosophy he presented but those views were supported by the history. Rousseau was in the view that religion is the worst institution because the religion never helped the people in fact he suggested that state only took benefit from the religion. According to Rousseau, after the development of private property rights and reasons, the people are facing difficulties and inequality because these rights are being exploited by the dominating class. He wasn’t suggesting to go back to old times but the evil which was brought by all these development because rise in population requires the building of hierarchy to manage them. History can give several of evidence of those nations with strong democracy always progressed but Burke’s view contradicted with rights of people to be free because people of any country should be decided what is best for them. Stability can be achieved through hard work whether from old system or new so the scratch which Rousseau suggested was in the favor of people of France against the rule of Queen.
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Chrisman-Campbell, Kimberly. Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Yale University Press, 2015.
Herber, Courtney. “Harris, Queenship and Revolution: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).” Royal Studies Journal 3.1 (2016).
Plato, , and Allan D. Bloom. The Republic of Plato: Transl. with Notes and an Interpretative Essay by Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books, 1991. Print.
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