Monday, 14 May 2012

Russeau and Origin of Inequality

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French political philosopher and educationalist Jean-Jacques Rousseau attempts to answer what is the origin of inequality among men in his “Discourse of the Origin of Inequality”. This document seeks to show how the growth of civilization corrupts mans natural happiness and freedom by creating artificial inequalities of wealth, power and social privilege. Rousseau states that primitive man is equal to his fellows because he can be independent of them, but as society becomes more sophisticated, the strongest and most intelligent members of the community gain an unnatural advantage over their the other, and the constitutions set up to rectify these imbalances through peace and justice in fact do nothing but enable them.

Rousseau frequently refers to man before the growth of civilization living in a Utopia where man lies at the foot of trees and lives according to nature. He realizes that this Utopia is an abstraction, and claims that natural inequality does not exist in nature, as Plato states in his description in his temperate city. Yet, this perfect and natural society is not a human city-it is the life of sows. Furthermore, where man is living according to nature, like in Rousseau’s temperate city, there is no injustice�therefore, there is no justice.

When speaking of enslavement and freedom, Rousseau claims that enslavement comes through the politi, or the city. From the politi comes an enslavement to pleasures which then leads to the enslavement of people. Rousseau also links freedom to self- control, for when one gives up freedom, he or she becomes enslaved. In other words, when we give into our desires, we are no longer free and we become enslaved to them. Yet, in every enslavement there lies beneath a misunderstanding of oneself, for according to Rousseau, man is free by nature.

For Rousseau, the problem of freedom is related to self-understanding, and he poses that by nature, man has no reason. Rousseau thinks that man should reason himself back to a natural state because he realizes the injustice and inequalities in society. However there is a flaw in this argument which lies in the fact that in a natural state, reason does not exist. In other words, if one uses reason to go back, one can’t go to a state where there is no reason. Here, Rousseau is creating an optical illusion where he is asking one to work back, but it is logically impossible.

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In his thoughts on heath and sickness, Rousseau claims at the end of sickness comes an implosion of the body. He also makes a correlation between the city and the body, which in his view, are very much alike. In nature, sick animals are not kept alive; rather, they just die. In the city however, sick people are kept alive through medicine, which causes people to not be fully alive and not fully dead�a jump from our natural state. Sickness exists only in the political realm, and it is important to note that when we keep alive the sick, we are also keeping alive the sickness. Rousseau also asserts that the way humans react to sickness is wrong, for we keep alive those who should be dead. Medicine can only aid in the process of heath and can never heal a person, for only nature can heal a wound.

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