Analysis Of Jean-Jacques Rousseau Discourse On The Origin Of Inequality

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In this paper I am going to summarize Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality” in which Rousseau theorizes that inequality is not a natural event, but an unfortunate byproduct of modern life. I will then provide a criticism of Rousseau’s argument, focusing on his decision to not discuss the relationship between natural and moral inequality. This criticism will then be countered by a theorized response from Rousseau’s perspective. The general argument presented by Rousseau is that the establishment of civil society and the associated progress of humanity is the underlying cause for the inequality between men. His answer to questions regarding the inequality of men, and the necessary supporting information, is presented …show more content…
Rousseau’s “savage man” is essentially an animal in human form, living in nature among the wildlife and the elements, his body as his only tool, non-communicative with others, his instincts placing survival over interpersonal relationships, and pity serving as a surrogate for law. Mentally the savage man is very simple, knowing only food, sex, rest, and pain, and whether to desire or avoid these events. Rousseau further compares this version of humanity to the modern man, noting that “in becoming habituated to the ways of society and a slave, he becomes fearful, and servile; his soft and effeminate lifestyle completes the enervation of both his strength and his courage” and even contends that “the difference between the savage man and the domesticated man should still be greater than that between the savage animal and the domesticated animal” (pg. 23). Even the lack of a communicative language was a benefit to the savage man, keeping him free of civil societies, personal relationships, and a sense of duty to others. The savage man was free to follow his instincts and roam the land as he saw fit, only guided by the need for self-preservation and only limited by uncontrollable natural …show more content…
He writes so passionately about the simplicity of life as the savage man that it is difficult not to fall in line with his reasoning. There are definite issues with inequality in our societal constructs, many of which are so deeply imbedded in our way of life they seem near impossible to ever correct. This inequality is of course by the luxuries of modern living. Whether that is a fair trade is dependent on the individual person. Regardless of the ills of modern society or the freedom of early man, Rousseau’s writing serves as an important examination of inequality and the nature of human interaction. The easiest opinion to form is that humans need to treat each other

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