Rousseau’s Theory on the Origins of Inequality among Men

The Nature of Gender Inequality in Rousseau s Second and Third The New Yorker

and title page of an edition of Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality ..

In the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality Rousseauimagines a multi-stage evolution of humanity from the most primitivecondition to something like a modern complex society. Rousseau denies that this is a reconstruction of history as it actually was, and Frederick Neuhouser (2014) has argued that the evolutionary story is merely a philosophical device designed to separate the natural and the artificial elements of our psychology. At each step ofthis imagined evolution human beings change their material and psychologicalrelations to one another and, correspondingly, their conception ofthemselves, or what Rousseau calls the “sentiment of theirexistence.” According to this narrative, humans live basicallysolitary lives in the original state of the human race, since they donot need one another to provide for their material needs. The humanrace barely subsists in this condition, chance meetings betweenproto-humans are the occasions for copulation and reproduction,child-care is minimal and brief in duration. If humans are naturallygood at this stage of human evolution, their goodness is merely anegative and amounts to the absence of evil. In this story, humanbeings are distinguished from the other creatures with which theyshare the primeval world only by two characteristics: freedom, andperfectibility. Freedom, in this context, is simply the ability not tobe governed solely by appetite; perfectibility is the capacity tolearn and thereby to find new and better means to satisfyneeds. Together, these characteristics give humans the potential toachieve self-consciousness, rationality, and morality. Nevertheless,it will turn out that such characteristics are more likely to condemnthem to a social world of deception, dissimulation, dependence,oppression, and domination.

Discourse On the Origin of Inequality Jean Jacques Rousseau Writing comparison and contrast essays

Rousseau's Amour Propre's Role in the Discourse on Inequality

Let us begin then by laying facts aside, as they do not affect the question. The investigations we may enter into, in treating this subject, must not be considered as historical truths, but only as mere conditional and hypothetical reasonings, rather calculated to explain the nature of things, than to ascertain their actual origin; just like the hypotheses which our physicists daily form respecting the formation of the world. Religion commands us to believe that, God Himself having taken men out of a state of nature immediately after the creation, they are unequal only because it is His will they should be so: but it does not forbid us to form conjectures based solely on the nature of man, and the beings around him, concerning what might have become of the human race, if it had been left to itself. This then is the question asked me, and that which I propose to discuss in the following discourse. As my subject interests mankind in general, I shall endeavour to make use of a style adapted to all nations, or rather, forgetting time and place, to attend only to men to whom I am speaking. I shall suppose myself in the Lyceum of Athens, repeating the lessons of my masters, with Plato and Xenocrates for judges, and the whole human race for audience.

Ferguson , Frances . “Reading Morals: Locke and Rousseau on Education and Inequality.” Representations 6 (1984): 66-84.

In The Social Contract, Rousseau sets out to answer what hetakes to be the fundamental question of politics, the reconciliation ofthe freedom of the individual with the authority of the state. Thisreconciliation is necessary because human society has evolved to apoint where individuals can no longer supply their needs through theirown unaided efforts, but rather must depend on the co-operationof others. The process whereby human needs expand and interdependencedeepens is set out in the Discourse on the Origins ofInequality. In that work, the final moment of Rousseau’sconjectural history involves the emergence of endemic conflict amongthe now-interdependent individuals and the argument that the Hobbesianinsecurity of this condition would lead all to consent to the establishmentof state authority and law. In the Second Discourse, thisestablishment amounts to the reinforcement of unequal and exploitativesocial relations that are now backed by law and state power. In an echoof Locke and an anticipation of Marx, Rousseau argues that this statewould, in effect, be a class state, guided by the common interest ofthe rich and propertied and imposing unfreedom and subordination on thepoor and weak. The propertyless consent to such an establishmentbecause their immediate fear of a Hobbesian state of war leads them tofail to attend to the ways in which the new state will systematicallydisadvantage them.

Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality is one of the strongest critics of modernity ever written


FREE Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality Essay

In 1749, while walking to Vincennes to visit the briefly-imprisonedDiderot, Rousseau came across a newspaper announcement of an essay competitionorganized by the Academy of Dijon. The Academy sought submissionson the theme of whether the development of the arts and sciences hadimproved or corrupted public morals. Rousseau later claimed that he then and there experienced an epiphany whichincluded the thought, central to his world view, that humankind is goodby nature but is corrupted by society. Rousseau entered hisDiscourse on the Sciences and Arts (conventionally known asthe First Discourse) for the competition and won first prizewith his contrarian thesis that social development, including of thearts and sciences, is corrosive of both civic virtue and individual moralcharacter. The Discourse was published in 1750 and is mainlyimportant because Rousseau used it to introduce themes thathe then developed further in his later work, especially the naturalvirtue of the ordinary person and the moral corruption fostered by theurge to distinction and excellence. The First Discourse madeRousseau famous and provoked a seriesof responses to which he in turn replied.

Jean Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, ..

At around the time of the publication of his famous very influential discourses on inequality and political economy in Encyclopedie (1755), Rousseau also began to fall out with Diderot and the Encyclopedists. The Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg offered him (and Thérèse) a house on their estate at Montmorency (to the north of Paris).