Being a hermit?

Oh Rousseau, so poetic but almost to a fault. Throughout reading his discourse my opinion on his ideas changed between agreement and confusion at his claims. His statements on evolution morph between questions to statements that are incredulous to me. He says “how can scarcity drive men to cultivate the land unless the land is divided among them; that is to say, until the state of nature has been abolished?”  However, if man during his state of nature lived among wild animals (such as packs of wolves, or coyotes, or bears), in theory he would have had to learn about territory and division of land before interacting with other “humans”. As other animals mark and protect their territory, I assume it would have become apparent after sometime that the animals have their own space they don’t want taken away or trespassed upon. Man’s understanding of a division of land would have started with his instinct and understanding of how to survive amongst wild creatures and therefore would have developed an understanding of the importance of dividing the land.

I realize that there are faults in these thoughts, but I just can’t agree with his theory that the state of nature was as peaceful and calm as Rousseau depicts it because of the wildness of nature. He claims every other creature is exactly the same over the course of thousands of years and never changes, but how can mankind be just as much of a warm-blooded creature as the rest, and be the only animal to have evolved? Yes, humans have made huge leaps in evolution that make all the difference between us and wild animals, but contradictory to what Rousseau claims, an animal/species will change and evolve over the course of a thousand years (although minimally).

Rousseau has interesting thoughts to read, and I have enjoyed reading them but also have difficulty with taking him seriously after certain statements/claims he makes. Kevin, although I challenged you on your own blog post, after writing my own I understand what you were aiming for by deconstructing Hobbes and Rousseau’s theories of “laws”. Rousseau’s understanding of evolution has made me wonder if science has really changed so much of our understanding of the world today, then it did all those years ago.

After finishing Rousseau, I’m still not sure if I enjoyed reading his discourse. The poetic moments were a nice break, but don’t make up for some of his statements.

1 thought on “Being a hermit?

  1. I don’t think Rousseau was advocating that the state of nature was at peace in the sense you described… I took it as more as in he acknowledges that man needs not to worry as much with not as many dependencies. In our day and age, people worry about foreclosure, losing/gaining weight, education, when none of these concerns are possible in a state of nature. Less stress = more peace? Hakuna matata.

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