Rousseau Amour Propre

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Daniel Davis Philosophy D 12/01/11 What is amour-propre? What role does it play, according to Rousseau, in the Discourse on Inequality? Tutor: Robert Cowan In May 1755, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality was published. The Discourse challenged contemporary philosophers in regards to the nature of man, and the fundamental principles of inequality. He highlighted that the inequality in current society developed due to the increase amour-propre has had on individuals. Examining amour-propre shows that it is fundamentally much more complex than simply being misconstrued as vanity; it could be described as a range of things such as pride, aggrandizement and prestige within society. It has…show more content…
As amour-propre is the main drive for distinction and self-importance, competition between humans becomes more violent and deceitful which creates a greater degree of inequality within society. Moreover, as the sentiment is an artificial and reflective trait, it could be described as morally unjustified. The artificial trait is highlighted by Rousseau when he writes ‘’amour-propre is a purely relative and factitious feeling which arises in the state of society’’ (Rousseau, f/n pg.73); it is due to the need for comparison with other human beings that it arises only in society and the coming together of human beings. It is this correlation that the trait has with society that leads it to having a significant role within the development of society. The development of amour-propre has played a pivotal role within society: Rousseau believes it is solely responsible for the ills, and inspires all evil in modern society. Civil society was founded when ‘’the first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine’, and found people simple enough to believe him’’ (Rousseau pg.84). The state of civil society could not have happened overnight, that leap would require great conceptual development in humans, but from the moment that men started staying in communities was the first real sign in the development of amour-propre;

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