In Rousseau’s book “A Discourse On Inequality”, he looks into the question of where the general inequality amongst men came from. Inequality exists economically, structurally, amongst different generations, genders, races, and in almost all other areas of society. However, Rousseau considers that there are really two categories of inequality. The first is called Natural/Physical, it occurs as an affect of nature. It includes inequalities of age,, health, bodily strength, and the qualities of the mind and soul. The second may be called Moral/Political inequality, this basically occurs through the consent of men. This consists of the privileges one group may have over another, such as the rich over the
One of the most important writers of the Enlightenment was the philosopher and novelist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). The work of Rousseau has influenced a generation and beyond and it is argued that the main ideals of the French and American revolutions arose from his works, for example The Discourse on Equality. The main concept of Rousseau's thought is that of 'liberty', and his belief that modern society forced humans to give up their independence, making everyday life corrupt and unfree. One of the central problems Rousseau confronted is best summed up in the first line of arguably his most important work, The Social Contract.
Rousseau’s assumptions and beliefs of his era are society and the growth of social interdependence. He was from 1700, (1712-78) it was very different compared to our beliefs.
Most importantly for Rousseau, however, is not necessarily how history lets him see how men might have been or how history lets him strike a balance between grasping the intricacy of human history and succeeding fluidly from one thought to another; it is how framing his work in such a way lets him give the greatest demonstrative proof of the point he makes. The first part of the work consists in a history of mankind until the institution of the social contract, and it reads easily and freely, just as man in Rousseau’s conception was in those days. The second part of the Second Discourse, which deals with the critique of the social contract itself, however, reads much more heavily, as if Rousseau were attempting to give the reader a taste of the gravity the social contract itself imposes upon man. The opening lines of the second half already launch his scathing attack on civil society by associating this notion with a man who takes advantage of his fellow men:
Rousseau, in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality of Men, discusses the beginning and development of inequality of individuals. Rousseau seeks to discern whether the unequal treatment of men is dictated by natural laws or if it is a man made creation. When Rousseau analyzes humans in the state of nature, he claims we are all animalistic by nature. Humans in the state of nature are motivated by self-preservation much like animals and also pity. The difference between man and animals according to Rousseau is man’s perfectibility. Because man has very minimal needs in the state of nature, no concept of morality and limited interaction with other individuals, he is generally happy. Because in the state of nature man embodies the quality of perfectibility, he is able to adapt with his environment. As nature drives men to leave certain areas it forces them to learn new skills as they come in to contact with one another more often. As man connects with more and more individuals around him he becomes aware that he has more needs. As men begin to live in societies with more people they start comparing themselves to those around them and self-preservation and pity are no longer their main goals. Now, they have to do more work in order to be happy such as raise to greater heights then their fellow humans. Moral inequality is created as division of labor and property rights are invented. Owning property allows the rich to take advantage of the poor, leading to unstable relations
This is demonstrated by when Rousseau writes, "…the life of an animal limited at first to mere sensations…” (Rousseau 84). This is when inequality began to become a pervasive force in society. This so-called “state of nature” that supposedly existed, according to Rousseau, was devoid of any economic or social inequality. However, eventually perfectibility came about, which encouraged people to excel and further themselves. Rousseau goes on to talk about how “It now became the interest of men to appear what they really were not” (Rousseau 95) This led to members of societies beginning to compete with one another to be better than their peers, leading to inequality of all sorts – including the economic and social varieties. Rousseau goes on to argue that with time, society has progressed such that modernity has made inequality worse and more corrupted. He describes how he believes that hierarchy in society and governmental
According to Rousseau 's “Discourse on Inequality”, there are four stages to the social evolution in humans; it 's natural state, family, nation, and civil society. There are two types of inequalities, natural (or physical) and moral. Natural inequality stems from differences in age, health, or other physical characteristics. Moral inequality is established by convention or consent of men. One of the first and most important questions Rousseau asks is "For how is it possible to know the source of the inequality among men, without knowing men themselves?” (Rousseau, Preface) To answer this question, man cannot be considered as he is now, deformed by society, but as he was in nature. The problem is that as knowledge increases man’s ignorance. This essay, using Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality” as a backbone will try and identify the origins of inequality within race, class, gender and sexuality, and establish how these inequalities were brought out and maintained.
Rousseau’s state of nature differs greatly from Locke’s. The human in Rousseau’s state of nature exists purely as an instinctual and solitary creature, not as a Lockean rational individual. Accordingly, Rousseau’s human has very few needs, and besides sex, is able to satisfy them all independently. This human does not contemplate appropriating property, and certainly does not deliberate rationally as to the best method for securing it. For Rousseau, this simplicity characterizes the human as perfectly free, and because it does not socialize with others, it does not have any notion of inequality; thus, all humans are perfectly equal in the state of nature. Nonetheless, Rousseau accounts for humanity’s contemporary condition in civil society speculating that a series of coincidences and discoveries, such as the development of the family and the advent of agriculture, gradually propelled the human away from a solitary, instinctual life towards a social and rationally contemplative
Rousseau believes that modern society must be judged by the virtue of its citizens. As he is trying to reverse the progressivism of the Enlightenment, Rousseau suggests that our social frenzy diverts and corrupts us. According to him, modern people cannot be trusted or loved, and are not capable of knowing, as they seek to be virtuous without actually becoming virtuous. On the other hand, Rousseau’s natural man can be defined as the primal identity of subject and object. Natural man is solitary, is distinguished from animals by his free will, has no concepts of morality, and gradually transitions from the state of nature to state of society. In order to emerge from the state of nature, one could benefit from two forms of self-love: amour de soi or amour-propre. Amour de soi is a natural form of self-love in that it does not depend on the love of others. Rousseau claims that by nature, people have a natural feeling of love toward ourselves and one another. We naturally look after our own preservation and interests. By contrast, amour-propre is an unnatural self-love that is essentially relational. Without amour-propre, human beings would not be able to move beyond the pure state of nature
To better understand Rousseau’s thesis and social contract he proposed, we must first understand why Rousseau felt compelled to write and his main criticism of society during the 18th century. In sum, Rousseau argued that states (specifically France, though never explicitly stated) have not protected man’s right to freedom or equality. Rousseau began The Social Contract in dramatic fashion. He wrote, “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” (1). This quote is still used today, and is a powerful description of Rousseau’s central issue with society. He believed that every man is “born” naturally free—he has full autonomy and can do what he chooses. However, Rousseau argued that man is bound to the injustices of society.
Man has no reason or conscience when in contact with others. Possessions begin to be claimed, but the inequality of skill lead to inequality of fortunes. The idea of claiming possessions excites men’s passions, which provoke conflict and leads to war. Rousseau believes men are not perfect in their original state, but have the ability to live in a more perfect society with guidance of
According to Rousseau man was born “naturally good”. However, when man began to acquire private property it created a society where the naturally good of individuals became corrupted. Modern institutions like private property are the driving force behind an immoral
Rousseau starts his discourse with the quote, “What is natural has to be investigated not in beings that are depraved, but in those that are good according to nature” (Aristotle. Politics. II). It is this idea that Rousseau uses to define his second discourse. Rousseau begins his story of human nature by “setting aside all the facts” (132). Rousseau believes the facts of the natural state of humanity are not necessary to determine the natural essence of human nature, and adding facts based on man’s condition in society does not show man’s natural condition. The facts don’t matter for Rousseau because to understand the essence of human nature requires looking to how man is in a completely natural state. Since man is no longer in this state,
The purpose which Rousseau ostensibly gives his social contract is to free man from the illegitimate chains to which existing governments have shackled him. If this is his aim, then it follows that he should be most concerned with the preservation of freedom in political society, initially so that savage man might be lured out of nature and into society in the first place, and afterwards so that Rousseau’s framework for this society will prevent the present tyranny from reasserting itself. Indeed, in his definition of purpose for man’s initial union into society, he claims that, despite his membership in an association to which he must necessarily have some sort of obligation if the
On the other hand, Rousseau is of the idea that human beings are good in nature but they are latter to be vitiated by the political societies which are not part of the man’s natural state. Men need to live in collaboration and help each other to face life challenges. However, with the establishment of political and social institutions, men begin to experience inequalities as a result of greed. Rousseau claims that, in man’s natural state, they only strive for the basic needs and once those needs are satisfied they are contented in that state (Hobbes & Malcolm, 2012). Additionally, Rousseau points out that after the inception of social and political institutions, humans began to be self-centered