Discourse on Inequality

Although I found Rousseau to be a bit confusing and not entirely a clear read (since I did have to re-read some lines more than once), it was a good read. However, I’m not going to say that I fully agreed of even understood all the points that he raised. To be quite honest here, Rousseau’s views somewhat mind boggled me from time to time. I found that upon reading certain parts of his argument, it was hard for me to fully and entirely comprehend what he was trying to convey/ persuade us to believe. Though with that being said, I do still think he raised some very valid and thought provoking points and questions.

As I previously stated above, Rousseau’s argument did indeed confuse me here and there, but in the very beginning, he proposes the question: “How can we know the source of inequality among men if we do not first have knowledge of men themselves?” By clearly outlining the question that he is trying to answer, I think that Rousseau’s thoughts were better laid out for me to understand. This simple question was particularly thought provoking for me and intrigued me greatly.

A Discourse on Inequality clearly demonstrates Rousseau’s belief that the growth of a society corrupts man entirely. He believes that as society continues to further develop and evolve, us as human beings only suffer from this change. That man’s natural happiness and freedom are severed by artificial inequality. Rousseau essentially conveys throughout his claim, that the introduction of private property, is what catalyzed the decline in society as a whole. Rousseau brings up quite a valid point in my opinion, when he asks, “How many crimes, wars, murders; how much misery horror the human race would have been spared if someone had pulled up the stakes and filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Beware of listening to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to everyone and that the earth itself belongs to no one!”

Imagine a place where everything was shared and selfishness, or amour propre did not exist. A place without pride, or immense self-indulgence. Rousseau clearly comprehends throughout a Discourse on Inequality, his belief that society has taken a turn for the worse. That nascent society was the peak of civilization before modernity and artificial matters took over the simplicity and innocence of the state of nature.

Thus, with that being said, I think that Rousseau raised some great questions. Do I think that they are entirely true? To a certain extent, yes. But in spite of my opinion regarding the way he views civilization and society, Rousseau’s persuasive way of conveying his thoughts made this read quite enjoyable; more enjoyable than I expected really.

3 thoughts on “Discourse on Inequality

  1. Really nice write-up! I found the idea that, the first implementation of sectioning off private property lead to the downfall of society, in terms of social inequality really interesting. I think Rousseau’s thought that humans in the state of nature were very peaceful to be interesting but difficult to believe. Though I understand where he’s coming from, I find it hard to believe that laws would be implemented unless they were necessary, and they would only be necessary if people were behaving badly towards each other. But at the same time, laws and rules were likely created in order to protect the wealthy from the poor.

  2. I agree it was a little tricky at times, after I read it I thought I understood it pretty well, but at the lecture I realized I misunderstood a point or two. But I guess that’s a little unavoidable with texts from so long ago. His views about society are definitely quite different than any I’ve encountered before. Blaming society for all these bad qualities in people, who are really inherently good. Not sure I agree with him, but it’s certainly interesting. I’m pretty sure there are still hunter-gather societies (the Hadza) and i wonder what Rousseau would think of them. I think since Plato we all cringe a little at the potential circles we’ll be lead in with these philosophy texts =p. But I agree, this text was unexpectedly enjoyable.

  3. That was actually one of my favorite lines in the whole book because it makes so much sense and it’s kind of crazy to thing that the only reason a lot of bad stuff exists in the world today (according to Rousseau) because a bunch of people just let one man have his way and did nothing to hinder his taking of land which didn’t really belong to him to begin with! A lot of other stuff he say’s is like assumptions and stuff but I thought that this quote was one of the things which struck me most about his writing.

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