Assignment 2, Angelo Dean

2) that in every individual the general will is a pure act of understanding that reasons in the silence of the passions about what man can demand of his fellow man and about what his fellow man has the right to demand of him. Diderot 9.2

I selected this passage from Diderot because the wording seemed out of place or in the wrong order at first glance. To understand the passage, I had to read it multiple times and take the advice that he gave on the beginning of the chapter, which is to “meditate attentively on everything said in the preceding” (Diderot 9). With that I noticed that this paragraph was about the paragraphs before. I then backtracked to find the paragraph in which he describes general will, like the passage. Surprisingly, I found my answer in the preceding paragraph that describes where general will is and not what general will is. To that Diderot says “In the principles of written law of all the organized nations; in the social actions of savage and barbarous peoples; and even in indignation and resentment, those two passions that nature seems to have placed in all creatures including animals to make up for the shortcoming in social laws and in public vengeance”. What I took from this passage in relation to the chosen passage is that this thing that Diderot calls “general will” can be found within moments of coexistence; note the use of wording such as organized, social, and convention. These words cannot exist without coexistence especially in relation to what he is describing, even words such as indignation and resentment cannot be without a shred of coexistence. Basically, general will is found in places or times of coexistence. So, looking back on the chosen passage with the theme of coexistence in mind, it sounds like Diderot is saying that in order for coexistence there must be an understanding of the limits of what someone can ask of their neighbor and vice versa, independent of the situation.

This goes back to the question that I asked on Thursday, what is reasoning and how does that make man different from beast? Well, this is a way that reasoning differentiates us from beast. Within the bestial world, the only limit to demand is the physical limit to what one can either gather or eat in one sitting. However, general will gives us the understanding that there is, in fact, a limit to what one can demand and what can be demanded of them.

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