Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality

1185 WordsJul 8, 20185 Pages
The writers of the social contract characterize humans in the state of nature by observing the traits that people display in political society and making assumptions as to what would happen to these traits in the absence of political society, but Rousseau makes the point that this method ignores the possibility that the traits people display in society are due to living together with others and would not appear in a pre-social existence. To prove his points, Rousseau takes on the task of trying to imagine what human life would have been like in a pre-social form of existence. He questions what kind of lives people lived before they lived and interacted with each other. Writing in the eighteenth century, Rousseau supposes there is no way…show more content…
Nor do humans want to exhibit warlike aggression (53). In the state of nature the individual has natural freedom and will not subject to any other individual. Before the development of language and society, “it is impossible to imagine why, in that primitive state, one man would have a greater need for another man than a monkey, or wolf has for another of its respective species” (51). According to Rousseau the desires of the savage are dictated by two master passions, self-love and pity. Self-love in not reflective, it just the simple desire for our own well being. Pity involves a sense of identification with others, perceived like oneself, together with an innate disgust at seeing them suffer. Pity seems to involve a spark of self-consciousness. In pitying another individual, one identifies it as like oneself, and in this emotion there is awareness of oneself and he other. Even though the “savage” is not fully human yet, they are already a somewhat unnatural element in nature, according to Rousseau. Unlike other animals, the human has free will, the power of free choice. If there is a happy equilibrium between man and nature, what disturbs this equilibrium? What explains the transition from the state of nature to social existence and the rise of social inequality? According to Rousseau it is the increase of population (61). One might inference that population increase in a local area would put pressure on the inhabitants either to
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