Feb 6 : Rousseau—Amour de soi vs. Amour-propre
(Multiple) self created by society, conflicts between multiple society-
produced selfs, conflicts between products of society and our actual self
Rousseau: Each has an individualistic part of us, but also as the result of
society, we require an artificial self. Natural, individualistic self should be
identified rather the social self.
Rousseau’s Conception of the Natural Self
Definition of Natural Self: Before having to enter into society.
- All humans are in society, all human are civilized, in culture—so he
thinks that to see the true nature of the soul, all the properties of the
soul that it has in virtue of having being civilized
“history” in what sense?
- Has to present his account in a narrative that starts before the
present, and the narrative will carry us to the present. He refers to the
state of nature, the state in which men has not yet entered into
society. The narrative will describe how men evolve from the past
state to the present civilized state.
- not intended to be read as a historical account, or making claims to
historical truth, in this sense, it is hypothetical.
What is it giving us if it’s not giving us a history account? What claims and on what
ground is he making then? He is offering us a thought experiment: what would men
be like in theory if he never went into society.
The Natural Soul
Men at this stage would be solitary, no social ties—no tribes, no family.
Amour de soi (self-love) Preserving himself, his own wellbeing
Pity Aversion to seeing other beings of the same kind to suffer
Free Will Ability to resist impulses
Perfectibility Capable of learning, acquiring new habits/skills. Flexible
Only 2 passions: desire & The psychology, very few passions.
fear - Driven by basic urges, natural men will have a desire
for food, sex, drink, sleep; he will fear being hungry, hurt. (what Plato calls appetite—natural men are all
based on appetite.)
- Rousseau thinks he is all satisfied, his desires are all
- Humans have no preferences in natural state—they
feel lust—they get together and get satisfied
In the moment no foresight—does no look into the future, thinks one
day at a time, no memory. Consciousness is in the
“Dull and stupid” no language, no reason. They are not needed. In the state
of nature, men’s desire are satisfied, he does not have to
reason for this purpose. Even if the knowledge he
acquires is of no use, he does not communicate with
others . What the use of language if you are not in contact
with people, no need to communicate?
- No tools, no clothes, no shelters. Everything they have is within them. They
are free from disease (most diseases only come about when society starts.)
Natural men would be largely healthy; death to natural men would be
peaceful. Everything he needs is readily available, so why work?
- Natural men are neither good or bad, he is just amoral. He is also completely
free (not in the sense that he has will), there’s no slavery, no pressure—total
freedom in the political moral sense as well.
“that man in a state of nature, wandering up and down the forests, without industry, without
speech, and without home, an equal stranger to war and to all ties, neither standing in need of
his fellow-creatures nor having any desire to hurt them, and perhaps even not distinguishing
them one from another; let us conclude that, being self-sufficient and subject to so few
passions, he could have no feelings or knowledge but such as befitted his situation; that he felt
only his actual necessities, and disregarded everything he did not think himself immediately
concerned to notice, and that his understanding made no greater progress than his vanity. If
by accident he made any discovery, he was the less able to communicate it to others, as he did
not know even his own children. Every art would necessarily perish with its inventor, where
there was no kind of education among men, and generations succeeded generations without
the least advance; when, all setting out from the same point, centuries must have elapsed in
the barbarism of the first ages; when the race was already old, and man remained a child.”
- You subtract away all the capability in virtue of entering into society, this is
what the men would be like
Question: Is natural man, as Rousseau describes him, theoretically possible? Stages of Man’s decline
1. “First Revolution”
o Men is free, perfectible. He can choose to resist his own impulses. He
has the potential to change. Combine with foreign contingences; by
accidents then changes start to occur.
- Population growth. Resources will dwindle; some men have to move
to other areas, colder climate. They have to be more resourceful—
invent basic tools. Cold climate wear clothes, build houses for
shelter. Emergence of very basic form of properties: tools, clothing,
house that we don’t see in the state of nature.
- Slight acquire of knowledge, men has to use reason to satisfy his
desire. Because resource is scarcer, men also have to enter
cooperative agreements with other men. No sense of duty to uphold
the agreement—no morality.
- But this will lead to longer arrangement like families. Also will lead to
the development of language to communicate. With family, interaction
with other beings, emergence of comparative concepts likes duty and
- The birth of a new kind of desire—the desire to be seen be others as
beautiful, worthy. Rousseau thinks it’s important for the progress of
men in the acquisition of these concepts. The range of passion men
feel will expand. He has basic evaluative judgments like beauty and
worthiness, desire of respected and be thought of beautiful by other
people. If these aren’t satisfied, he will feel shame/anger (when
denied), contempt, envy.
- These passions motivate men to be less nice, want to get revenge on
others. The natural