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Lec #3 Rousseau: Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Simone Chambers

Sept. 26/13 Rousseau: Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Jean Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778 Emile- Book on how to educate The Two Rousseau’s?  Authenticity has been threatened, perhaps destroyed by progress. o Sentiment and passion  Reason tells us that we are fundamentally free and that consent is the only basis of legitimate political authority  ‘Know thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘be thyself’ shall be written- Oscar Wilde. o Convention, is that really how you feel?  We live in a society of layers of manners; the social norms and conventions were really complicated. Layering of artificial manners, and all our parts have been written. Social relations are structured by these norms. This version of authenticity, we are these people with passions and sentiments and we just suppress them, for the sake of…?  We cannot live this way, this strand of the modern world is trying to get back to who we really are, the story of the discourse is the story f the growing disappearance of authenticity, ‘we live outside ourselves in the opinion of others.’ Discourse on the Origins of Foundation and Inequality  Genre/Method  Savage State  Pre-political society  Political society  End state  Central concept. Genre/Method  Distourses  1 Discourse  Conjectural history  History of the human soul  It was an essay, written to be read easily and read by the general educated people.  In the first discourse he talks about themes that are common.  Science and art has led to a society morally corrupt. He is living pre-revolution in France and it was a very corrupt place.  It set him as an anti-progress person.  The 2 nddiscourse people did not like as much. The economic system we live in, it was an attack on commerce, property etc., It appears that he is saying we took a terrible wrong turn and there is no recovery from this.  He uses the method of conjectural history- he talks about the state of Nature (not like Locke or Hobbes). It is this hypothetical static state. A state of nature is a state without laws. Rousseau’s story is over a long time. He does not tell a straightforward story, he is the history of human soul/character, of our identity.  ‘Let us therefore begin, putting aside the facts, for they have no bearing on the question, the investigations that may be undertaken concerning this subject should not be taken as historical truth…’ pg. 38 Introduction  pg. 39 Preface ‘ like the stature of… that storms has disfigured so it looks less like a god and more like a wild beast… by changes that took place in the constitution of bodies… changed its appearance to the point of not being recognizable…’  it is about the shaping of human nature over time by the multiple forces shaping it over time. Human nature is malleable. There is a story he tells but the way we went is a gross distortion (but we could have gone the other way).  Part II- pg 70 ‘the first glance he directed upon himself stirred pride.’ Savage state  Pg.44’ I can conceive of 2 kinds of inequality in the human species, ne which I call natural or physical, the other may be called moral or political inequality, it depends on a kind of convention, this latter type of inequality… richer…’  Natural
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