One of Rousseau’s statements that I take exception to in his Discourse on Inequality is his opinion of women and how they should behave in society. He claims that women in the commonwealth “[assure] the happiness of the other” sex (Rousseau 65). Here it seems that Rousseau is proposing that women exist in society to cater to men. I don’t think I need to explain how infuriated I was when reading this passage. Needless to say I had to take a few deep breaths before continuing on. But as I continued to read this passage, I found that Rousseau actually redeems himself somewhat by stating that “the destiny of [the female sex] will always be to govern [the male sex]” (Rousseau 65). Perhaps this is just Rousseau’s way of making women feel that their role as servants to men is important in society, however he only refers to a woman’s “chaste power, exerted solely within the marriage bond” (Rousseau 65). In a way, Rousseau is suggesting that women are more important than men in some instances, which still demonstrates his unequal attitude towards the relationship between men and women.
What is more, Rousseau makes it very clear that only a certain type of woman should exist in society, that is a woman who “through the persuasive sweetness of [her] lessons and the modest grace of [her] conversation” can uphold peace among men (Rousseau 65). Rousseau condemns “loose women” and states that they have no place in a civil society. And yet, Rousseau closes his discussion on women’s role in society by stating that they should “continue, therefore, always to be as [they] are” (Rousseau 65). What if, might I ask Rousseau, not all women are born to be the gentle and chaste women as described in your fantasy? Should those women still continue to be who they are?
Finally, a novel or discourse (not really sure what to call Leviathan as discussed in the first lecture) that I can really sink my teeth into. Although written in archaic language, Hobbes has written in a clean and precise way which I can comprehend and therefore appreciate on many levels. Hobbes, obsessed with defining every word so as not to confuse his readers or have his points mistaken with false meanings, has created a carefully detailed masterpiece. Perhaps I found Leviathan an enjoyable read because it is so clear in the way Hobbes’ opinions are put forth. In other words, his writing is not convoluted, but easily understood. In fact, he ridicules the aristocratic “schoolmen” who, although speak in complex prose and are considered the most intelligent of all men, abuse words and their meanings and, in the end, speak less smartly in a way than the simple-minded folk of the time.
As I read along, I found myself agreeing with the majority of Hobbes’ statements in his well thought out discourse. For example, I am in almost complete agreement with Hobbes’ perception and rationalization of the church’s role in society and how it and the state should remain separate. I also strongly agree with Hobbes’ idea that upper class men take advantage of the undereducated citizens and guide them into believing myths such as witchcraft, which Hobbes discretely uses as a representation of the beliefs which the church instills in the less intelligent people’s minds. However, what I am inclined to disagree with or at least to be sceptical of is how Hobbes states that the value or worth of an individual can only be given to him by the “commonwealth” or by the market, as Professor Crawford observed. This, I believe, is true in a world where humans are treated as commodities. I think, however, that this is morally wrong, and I think many would agree with me here that each individual should be valued equally.