Jean-Jacques with current progress in historical understanding

Jean-Jacques Rousseau,an 18th century writer whose expansion into political and self-discovery literature became a portal for expressing his standpoint on human inequality, arguably set ablaze the beginning of the French Revolution. Rousseau promptly divides inequality into 2 extraneous categories in his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality among Mankind: natural and moral. Natural (also physical) inequality deals with the differences between men that are solely under the control of nature, such as weight, height, gender, appearance, strength, race, etc. Au contraire, moral inequality stems from differences spawned from greed and instinctual human behaviour, with causes and consequences such as unjust law systems, corrupt government structure, gender inequality, racism, etc. The philosopher believes that one must dig deep into the characteristics of ‘natural man’ and their behaviour in order to successfully undermine modern inequality, understanding what traits and behaviours are artificial and ‘unnatural’. His idea of a natural state entails the lack of qualities one would believe to be the centre to human existence, such as language and reason. Rousseau disposes of structures of law, property, government, and human communication in his argument over what is natural and what is not.  Another difficult-to-grasp concept which Rousseau sheds some personal light on is the idea that isolation and lack of human communication are major components of the ‘natural man’. This is quite controversial, especially when taking into account that Jean-Jacques’ predicaments take place prior to Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution, which may have subtly placed the late Rousseau in an uncomfortable position given that is partially disproves his theory.Rousseau leans his focus towards property as the leading cause of inequality, stating that the establishment of the concept of ownership gave way to inadequate human instincts. Traits such as greed and hunger for power arose, with people fighting to the death over ludicrous matters, whether land, money, women, resources, etc. Another central idea Rousseau brought forth was “modern people exist within an ever-increasing system of needs in which the opinion of others is vitally important, is hugely influential” (Rousseau, 16). Describing the desire of acceptance as one that is only possessed by modern people is slightly incorrect, as with current progress in historical understanding of evolution, it is known that man, whether developed or not, consistently seeks contact and communication with others. This is purely a natural instinct, and not a trait manifested by ill-swayed modern people.Rousseau depicts corruption as another dangerous factor of inequality, and the responsibility of modern humankind to reach its total obliteration to eliminate inequality. He argues that man’s corruption is visible as one becomes acquainted with evolving systems of needs, as they pay excessive attention to the opinions of others, lose basic pity for others and becomes overcome with general dissatisfaction with life. Rousseau touches upon the driving force behind every society: needs. With the maturation and increasing complexity of society, one’s needs turn from those of natural thought (food, sex, health), to unnecessary needs that gradually become necessities. This happens as people are granted with more leisure time as the world evolves, and become accustomed to easier ways of life. They become progressively more reliant on others, and when one is reliant on another for needs, others can easily find paths to dominate them. Thus, unnecessary needs are one of the major driving factors behind modern inequality.In his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality among Mankind, Jean-Jacques Rousseau establishes a plethora of assumed basis for modern inequality, and the sorrowful straying of the natural man from a blissful time, lacking of inequality. It is believed by many who pity Rousseau’s amateur beliefs that he had destroyed man’s pride in self-mastery, terminating the desire for drive towards innovation and modernization. Promoting mass individualism not only in his Discourse, but other notable works, Rousseau’s praises of self-realization and human potential movements have potentially shredded our social fabric in the name of ‘sensibilité’ and the connotation that anything may be justified given a strong support of enough emotional vehemence.


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