Thoughts on the Discourse on Inequality

I really enjoyed reading Rousseau’s thoughts on the origin of inequality, and the way that his ideas differed with those presented by Hobbes. Though I didn’t find the discourse particularly easy to read or even fully comprehend, Rousseau made it clear that he did not believe that political and social inequality was in human’s nature. He believed that physical inequality is natural, which eventually led to some people collecting more resources than those physically weaker than themselves. In order to protect their possessions, those with the most ‘stuff’ created laws to protect their resources from those who are not as well off, which marked the creation of political and social inequality. Until our minds began to grow and advance, social inequality was not in our nature. After social stratification began, humans tried to legitimize inequality by creating laws and sectioning off property.

Hobbes felt that in nature, humans were violent savages, whereas Rousseau believes that we became more savage as we progressed and grew as a race. I’d say that I was more compelled by Rousseau’s ideas. I thought it was interesting when he explained his feelings on laws. He was convinced that laws helped create certain evil passions, and that if humans in nature could be good without laws, then maybe it is laws themselves that make people bad.

Though I know that many people in the class have been arguing for books written by authors from more diverse areas or periods of time, or more books written by women, I’ve found all of our readings to be pretty interesting and mind-opening. After never really reading about philosophy, coming into this class and learning about people’s differing opinions on society has been a very interesting experience. I look forward to starting up class again and I am excited for the second semester to begin.

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