The Social Contract

Welcome to another post on philosophy-101 blog. Today we have an audio introduction to The worlds 100 greatest books. This audio package delivers an introduction to why these books are the greatest, the period the books were set in, the brief introductions about the author of the book and then the audio goes into some detail about the story. Some books in this package are not even novels; some of the books are non-fiction. Just like the one I hope to describe here in this blog.

There are such a vast array of books within the audio collection, that the package will not give you the whole story of each book word to word. That would take far too long, but you will get some idea about why such the books are so famous.

The audio package is released by intelliquest who also did the audio collection called “The world’s 100 greatest people“. The reason they released such a collection on books, is because life is so short and some books can take so long to read. One of the books called “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy would take months to read, maybe years, however it is a very easy book to read, but here the audio collection will give you a much shorter the breakdown, summary and idea behind the book along with some symbolism. Can you imagine trying to read and understand “Ulysses” by James Joyce? Unfortunately this collection does not cover James Joyces materials, but it does cover Shakespeare, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, Goethe and many more.

I recommend if you are really interested in the study of literature, please visit shmoop gamma. With that site you get an even more detailed analysis, summary and plenty of famous quotes. Shmoop offers breakdowns on tougher books including “Altas Shrugged” by Ayn rand, “Ulysses” by James Joyce and so much more literature. Perhaps you can use the Shmoop in conjunction with the audio collection.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Well lets delve into the book I hope to discuss on the blog today. The book is indeed quite famous or infamous depending who you are talking to. The book is called “The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This book is number 73 within the audio package and each section is usually 30 to 45 minutes. Rousseau did not have an easy upbringing, his mother died after his birth and his father left him when he was aged 10.

When Rousseau was in his teens, he left for Paris because he became bored and felt trapped in his home town. He was drawn to the bright lights of the city, working in many fields. He found his calling in literature and philosophy, although Rousseau was skilled in many fields. Rousseau won a competition which raised the question if the arts and sciences did society a disservice. Rousseau submitted a paper called “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences”, which argued why the arts and sciences were dangerous to society.

Rousseau took this step further by publishing his most famous book called “The social contract”, which this audio collection describes in some detail.

Interestingly Rousseau is nearly the opposite of what Thomas Hobbes (another philosophy from England) explained about the state of man’s nature in society. In Hobbe’s book called “leviathan”. Thomas felt that man without an established society was weak, living in fear, violent and dangerous. Hobbes argued for a social contract where all would give up their power to the absolute ruler and that contract would hopefully bind all men to live in safety.


Thomas hobbes

Rousseau disagreed and felt that complex societies actually made men more brutal, dangerous, and living in fear and stress. Rousseau felt that man who lived without the need society or possessions did better off, because they did not fear who would take things away from them. All man would need was a place to sleep, eat and not be corrupted by power or knowledge. Rousseau felt such men were “Noble savages”.

Rousseau’s ideas caused friction with those who were in power at the time and Rousseau was hounded by the government and monarchy. Rousseau was even jailed when he criticised those in power. The audio book discusses Rousseau’s life, the idea behind his book and its influences.

You will not be disappointed with this collection. That is unless you really want to read all the books on the list and there is no reason why, but to get through 100 books can take nearly a life time, and some books are not always a fun read.