Rousseau, the great romantic, the great writer.
I don’t fully agree with his ideas about government, humanity, animals, archeology, or anything else. However I do think I can agree more with him than with Hobbes, who is too pessimistic and machiavelic.
Rousseau, romantic as he is, has a much more hopeful view of humanity. This might appear ridiculous to some and definitely anyone who has a basic knowledge in the evolution of the humans as a species. I don’t really think there was ever a noble savage quiet as Rousseau describes it. We were either animals or humans, primitive as we were or are. Once there is reason there is humanity that is clear. Our body as we know it didn’t coexist with the brain or the spirit of an animal.
We can’t blame Rousseau for this fallacy because, well, it wasn’t known at the time. But I do think that this raises an interesting point: humans are naturally good and made bad by society. I completely agree with this, I don’t think that in a state of nature we would be naturally inclined to steal and loot and murder and rape. Hobbes asserts this because he is assuming that the state of nature is a place of need and scarcity and danger, an apocalyptic situation. This might very well be true for New Orleans during hurricane Katrina but the original state of nature, assuming there is one which I don’t think there is, doesn’t have to be dangerous. In this scenario humans are naturally good. We feel empathy, pity and love. We do this and feel all this and love some people even in current state of decline and filth that we currently live in, that this is the state of society at that point is agreed by Rousseau and Hobbes.
I do think societies can change for the better and often governments have a lot to do with this but the ultimate transformation of societies happens when people do good for the sake of good and not because of fear. This happens in nowadays in some countries were people don’t need the training wheels of governments in the form of fines and imprisonment. This transformation can only happen from within or at most at a family level. If we assume that we were once good we now can strive to being naturally good again and harnessing some of that natural goodness. I do believe we can reach a world were governments aren’t so powerful and were people can do good for the sake of good. Of course there will be cases were people do bad for the sake of bad but these are exceptions: after all there are also some people who would want to commit suicide in a Hobbesian state.