Article 17 of the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Article 17 of the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen states: “Since the right to Property is inviolable and sacred, no one may be deprived thereof, unless public necessity, legally ascertained, obviously requires it, and just and prior indemnity has been paid.” What would Rousseau and Marx say about this article? Explain how each would approach the right to property contained in Article 17, their respective arguments in support of that approach, and critically evaluate their respective claims and arguments. Whose position on Article 17 is most compelling, and why?
Whose philosophy is more democratic, Rousseau’s or Marx’s, and why?
Rousseau and Marx both put the value of freedom at the absolute center of their respective philosophies (‘liberty’ in our translation of Rousseau; ‘emancipation’ in our translation of Marx). Which philosopher has the more convincing theory of freedom and its supporting reasons, and why? To ‘reconstruct’ an argument is to clearly and explicitly lay out a logically connected chain of discrete reasons (‘premises’) that an author uses in support of a claim (the ‘conclusion’). You can think of it as organizing a number of premises into a series of steps leading to the conclusion. If readers follow the steps and find each premise true, they would have to be convinced of the truth of the conclusion. Some key pointers when reconstructing an argument are: • Make sure to clarify exactly what the claim means. • Clarification might require explaining any technical words, concepts or distinctions used. • Explicitly spell out each of the reasons in the chain that the author uses to support the conclusion. • Organize the reasons into a logically coherent order. • Supply any missing premises, that is, tell the reader of any reasons that the author would have to use in their argument, but which were not made explicit in the reading. (For example, this argument—’Socrates is a human; therefore, Socrates is mortal’–is missing a crucial premise: ‘All humans are mortal’). • Focus only on the claim posed in the question prompt (and not any other claims the author might make in the reading). To ‘critically evaluate’ an argument is to present an overall assessment of the argument based on the strongest reasons available. Metaphorically, one can think of the process as poking and prodding the premises and the reasoning supporting the conclusion with potential problems or objections, in order to see whether the argument will stand up to reasoned scrutiny. A critical assessment should attempt to convince the reader of the correctness of the paper’s position— your reasoned opinion—on the basis of some or all of the following: • Are the premises true? • Are the terms and concepts clear? • Is the reasoning connecting together the premises valid? • What are plausible objections to both the premises and the conclusions? • What are reasonable replies to those objections that the argument might have? • Which are stronger or more convincing, the objections or the replies? • Overall, should anybody, faced with this chain of reasons be compelled to accept the conclusion and why?
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