As with most things, I am of multiple mindsets when it comes to Rousseau.
Firstly, there is a simplicity to his argument that is pretty appealing, and a number of his one liners about society are the type of things someone might post on Facebook to sound compassionate (not me surely) and insightful. A sort of hippie-esque notion that things are better when they are basic, and you can free yourself from a “system” and live according to your instincts. In fact, I actually know someone who did a “back to the land” movement and lives in a Teepee. He is actually a big fan of Rousseau. Sort of ironic because he is reading literary works and thinking complex thoughts in a very un-savagelike way, but there you go. What I’m trying to say is that although Rousseau is definitely complex and is studied in detail everywhere, for me there is one underlying “give up possessions and vanity, live and love simply, everything belongs to the earth” notion that is fairly broad and basic. And to be honest, I really like that notion. Cheesy as it is, I do feel like as we have advanced as a society a lot of things about ourselves has regressed, in terms of both the individual and the community. HOWEVER…
However. Robs lecture did open my eyes to a few things, mainly the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF PRESUMPTIONS Rousseau makes about… well, everything! At times he includes a sort of “history of man” approach in his writing, where for a few pages he will sound scientific and educated. Even after reading his notes, I am now almost fully convinced that he largely made up the history and attributes of mankind to suit his argument. A lot of his assumptions I probably agree with. A lot of them I don’t. Sure, he didn’t know about evolution yet. But that still doesn’t justify the liberties he takes and writes of as though they are fact.
This is the first time i’ve written a blog after the lecture (bad I know) but it’s also useful because I have Robs thoughts in my brain as well. For example, a very interesting question that I still haven’t made my mind up about is this: when do we become human? A biological part of me wants to say that human is just a word for homo sapiens, which is the species we have always been since we moved on from Neanderthal. But Rob argues that Rousseaus argument is flawed because we only truly became human once we started doing all those things that sent us downhill. Consciousness of self in relation to others etc. It begs the bigger question are we as humans fated from the start to failure or was it just a few mistakes along the way the got the whole failure thing rolling.