[hist-analytic] Reciprocity: Rousseau vs. Rawls: Re: Hobbesian

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Mon Jan 11 19:13:23 EST 2010

First, I'd like to thank J. L. for his energetic examination of this issue. I regret 
not being able to discuss his positions at some length; but I am responding 
at places to issues he raises. Thanks to Roland Hall for his kind remarks; it 
is to Roland that I dedicate these wind eggs born of an idle mind. 

According to Rousseau, the social virtues arise from the natural virtue of pity. 
According to Hobbes, the social contract arises from a natural state of war. 
The contrast could not be more stark. Underlying those differences that 
provoke this reaction are certain, more or less, logical and linguistic facts about 
the role of reciprocity. 

Rawls's theory of justice depends on the notion of reciprocity; this is because 
his concept of justice is political and not based on moral conceptions that might 
qualify as comprehensive views of moral fact or value. There is a "methodological 
avoidance" of the very idea of a "comprehensive view" or moral fact. This is 
because Rawls seeks to defend a political concept of justice and not one which 
otherwise might be regarded as metaphysical. The basis of the political 
conception is reciprocity. I will compare Rousseau and Hobbes with respect to 
the most elementary components of their respective theories of the social 
contract. I will argue that Rousseau cannot provide us with a theory of government 
that is based on reciprocity, whereas Hobbes can. However, Hobbes is faced 
with something of a dilemma. 

Hobbes's theory depends on what I shall call "self love." I mean here that love of 
self brings about a desire to flee the state of nature for fear of loss of self, i.e., 
death. From self love no concept of reciprocity is derivable. Nor does reciprocity, 
alone, imply obligation. I would like to clarify a point in view of JL ( Speranza ) 's 
mention of my introducing the "amorous" relation entailed by being "in love." 
While being in love certainly carries this implication, this is not my reason for 
introducing it. Let me clarify this somewhat. 

John may love Mary and Mary may love John, even though they are not "in love." 
They are in this circumstance of reciprocity under no obligation to one another. 
But it appears to me to be the case that once they are "in love" they at once 
are subject to a mutual or reciprocal obligation; there is something they "owe" 
each other which they did not under those circumstances where the only thing 
that could be said was that John loves Mary and Mary loves John. So what is 
it that transforms this sort of reciprocity into a state of being in love. It is this, 
that the lover know that he is loved by the beloved. Once this is a fact, then there 
exists the reciprocity that characterizes being in love over and above the bare 
conjunctive reciprocity mentioned. My contention at this point is that obligation 
arises from reciprocity; and the sort of reciprocity is epistemic, viz. that one 
KNOW that the beloved indeed love me; so the beloved is known to love me 
and because I know I love the beloved, there is this reciprocity: x knows y loves 
x and x knows x loves y, so 'knows x loves y' and 'knows y loves x' entails that 
x knows they love *each other*. Thus the reciprocity is epistemic! But there is 
more to this epistemic relation than one might think. 

The obligation of the beloved to the beloved is reciprocal; that obligation arises 
from such a state as being in love. This reciprocity in turn is epistemic; and so 
I claim that the obligation arises ultimately from an epistemic relation, not a 
moral fact. I might go so far as to say that the "ought" is not to be derived from the 
"is" but from the "known to be." I think this might be a new slant on an old problem. 
If anyone who knows the literature better than I (and they are legion) let me know 
if anyone else has proposed it. But I am ahead of myself inasmuch as I am still 
developing my approach to Rawls . Let's return briefly to the difference between 
Rousseau and Hobbes; relate this to the notion of reciprocity; and then the 
social contract. 

Here is an illuminating passage from the Second Discourse (assume from now 
on I'm using Roger and Judith Masters's edition of St. Martins, 1964 - hereafter 
"Second Discourse"). As you read this quote keep in mind that when he says 
"it inspires all men" he is talking about pity, a "natural virtue." 

"Instead of that sublime maxim Do onto others as you would have them do 
onto you," it inspires all men with this other maxim of natural goodness, 
much less perfect but perhaps more useful than the preceding one: 
"Do what is good for you with the least possible harm to others." 
(Second Discourse p. 133). 

Let's extract the two principles at issue " 

A. "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you" 


B. "Do what is good for you with the least possible harm to others." 

A logical description of these two will reveal that only one involves 
a reciprocal, essentially. Here is my translation of (A): 

A' ) Each do onto the other as each would have the other do onto 

for (B) 

B' ) Each must do for himself with the least harm to the other 

Momentarily ignore the difference between ( B' ) and 

B'' ) Each must do for himself with the least harm to the others. 

The salient comparison is between ( A' ) and ( B' ). Let's look at them 
syntactically, but from an elementary point of view. Linguists have 
comment on the special relation between 'each' and 'other' in 
constructions like 

'each .... other__' 

and in such constructions as 

'each other___' 

This isn't quite right but think of it this way: 'each' from a remote position 
joins with 'other' to form 'each other' at another position, but the rule,say, 
"Move Alpha" (following Chomsky in the early nineties). Notice that 
this would allow us to "generate" ( A'' ) from ( A' ) 

A'' ) Do onto each other as each would have the other do onto himself 

Here we have a genuine reciprocal: 'each other' from Move Alpha, semantics 
and grammaticality intact. But now look at ( B''' ) 

B''' ) Each must do for himself with the least harm to other. 

Notice that no genuine reciprocal can be found at LF ("logical form") in the 
case of ( B''' ) but there is one in ( A'' ). Why is this? Syntactically, the reason 
is in the placement of 'himself' . Observe that 'himself' occurs in *between* 
'each' and 'other' in ( B''' ). It suggests a "barrier"; that barrier is related to what 
"we" used to call a "governing category." One technical point and then back 
to philosophy. 

'Himself' is a reflexive; 'each other' a reciprocal. On earlier theories of 
syntax the binding principles governing the relation of reflexives and 
reciprocals were treated as much alike (Both must be bound in their 
"governing category"). In ( B''' ) 'himself' needs binding in its category and 
it gets it from 'Each' . So 'Each' cannot "move" to 'other' without violating 
transivity of identity (forget the distinction for now between coreference 
and coindexation etc). Because there is this "barrier" namely 'himself' the 
reciprocal is impossible. Now back to the philosophy. What does this 

What this entails is that a social contract based on pity as Rousseau 
describes it is not suffient to entail reciprocity among those covered 
by the "contract." Moreover, pity is not a political virtue; it is a natural 
virtue. However, for Rawls a political conception of justice entails 
reciprocity: whence the clash between Rousseau and Rawls on reciprocity. 


Steve Bayne 

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