Liberty and Compulsory Civil Religion in Rousseau’s Social Contract

CHARLES L. GRISWOLD
JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 53.2 (2015): 271-300

Abstract: This essay examines Rousseau’s mandatory civil religion as it is set out in the Social Contract, with recent relevant philosophical work as a primary frame of reference. Section 1 discusses what exactly Rousseau is proposing. Section 2 reviews why he thinks this “civil profession of faith” is necessary, and considers the underlying anthropology and moral psychology. Section 3 explores whether Rousseau’s social contract theory coheres with the civil religion. That is a question of the internal consistency of the Social Contract, and I attempt to put forth a fresh perspective on that problem.