Rousseau's Influence On Abbe Sieyes

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Rousseau, one of the most leading philosophers during the Enlightenment, had indeed left many of legendries behind. Not only his writings had caused many of the reactions at that time, but also influenced many writers’ aspects of the French Revolution and the overall understanding of inequality and the General Will. As one of the chief political theorists during the French Revolution who was also influenced by Rousseau’s ideas, Abbe Sieyes, published the pamphlet, “What is the Third Estate?” in 1789. This pamphlet was one of the documents that changed the world and lit the flame toward the French Revolution, as characterized by Joe Janes, a University of Washington professor (Janes). It derived many of its ideas from Rousseau’s “The Social …show more content…

If examine this statement closer, one could find the core values of Rousseau’s utopian version of the General Will. The first core value of the General Will Rousseau had suggested was that it was a collective will from everyone. Indeed, Rousseau believed that “Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will” (Rousseau 8). In other words, the General Will Rousseau was advocating was the will that “both come from all and apply to all.” Correspondingly, Sieyes applied this idea and indicated that the law was at the center of the nation and the will of the Nation is the result of individual will (Lualdi 116), which both suggested that the General Will should come from all. The second value of the General Will in Rousseau’s belief was that everyone under it should gain the same rights (Rousseau 15). Similarly, in Sieyes’ excerpt, he argued that the citizens should stand in the equal distance from the General Will, and occupy equal places. This argument could be translated into the belief that “Legal rights are identical for every person, whether his property happens to be great or small” (Sieyes …show more content…

The first difference is who should the General Will be determined to. In Rousseau’ opinion, the social contract would not exclude anyone, and would “receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole” (Rousseau 8). However, in contrast to Rousseau’s “whole society,” Sieyes indicated that the Third Estate in France represented everything. The first reason why Sieyes stated so was that the First and the Second Estate were “like ravenous wolves,” who could not think of anything “but subduing and enslaving their neighbors” (Rousseau 107) while the Third Estate was the ones who carried out the work that sustained society (Lualdi 113). The second reason was that the nobles had all kinds of privileges and exemptions, “and even rights that are distinct from the rights of the great body of citizens” (Lualdi 115); therefore, they should be excluded from the common law. Moreover, Sieyes also claimed that the nobility was a foreigner “in our midst” because they were not defending the general interest, but a private one (Sieyes 3), which contradicted the core value of the General Will. Thence, unlike Rousseau, who would include everyone, Sieyes stated that the Third Estate should be everything. The second difference occurred when Sieyes suggested the “Extraordinary Representative Body.” Rousseau

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