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Week 3:
Zeitlin chapter 3:
Rousseau (1712-1778)
→ Rousseau best known for his conception of the “State of Nature”, and for his social
contract → The perfectibility of man, his freedom and his happiness, and the increasing
mastery of his own fate all depend on a clear understanding of the laws of nature
→ believed that nature and society could depart from the requirements of its natural laws
→ Rousseau‟s main objective= to find a social order whose laws were in greatest
harmony with the fundamental laws of nature
The State of Nature
→ Natural Man- is simply man divested of what he has acquired in society
→ Rousseau argues, those who have imputed to natural man cruel and warlike
tendencies are wrong; they have attributed to natural man characteristics acquired in
society
→ believed we must arrive at “natural man” by putting aside all those elements that have
implanted in man as a result of his social existence
→ his method required that one subtract all the qualities of socio cultural origin until only
the “natural foundation” remained
→ proposed a methodological device by which one might lay bare the components of
man‟s basic psychological makeup
→ Man‟s basic psychological nature
-he desired and needs only what is to be found in the immediate physical environment -
he has only sensations, but no knowledge and no language
-needs= food, a mate, and rest (purely physical)
→ harmony is achieved between internal nature and external nature through satisfaction
of all needs
→ Rousseau‟s state of nature contrasts with that of Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
→ the state of nature is one in which force and fraud prevail
→ in this state there is no right or wrong, no just or unjust; as those are social, not
natural, qualities that men acquire only in society
→ believes in a state of nature and war
→ sees men as warlike in nature; it is only in Society that their fighting and disposition to
fight are restrained
→ war is natural and peace is social
Rousseau‟s Opposition to Hobbes
→ disagrees with the state of war; if man has what he needs, why should man attack
others? → men have no moral or sentimental bonds, no sense of duty or feeling of
sympathy; each man lives for himself and strives for self preservation
→ Rousseau agrees that the natural man is egoistic, solitary and perhaps even brutish,
but disagrees that this results in war
→ Rousseau argues that war is a social institution and men learn to make war only in
society Rousseau believes man has the ability to pace himself in the position of another
and to sense his feelings; he can empathize with others and to a certain degree feel their
sorrow
→ he believes that in the state of nature, men are like other animals; they are neither
good nor evil, neither quarrelsome nor domineering.... in that state, there is no
education, no progress, and no speech; generations follow one another, but sons are no
different from their fathers
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