Tuesday, February 5, 2013
ROUSSEAU: HUMAN NATURE
• The savage: a being wandering in the forest feeling hunger and thirst. Once satisfying
those needs, would forget all about it. This is the radical difference that Rousseau thought
was present between the savage and the civil human being.
• Rousseau argues that the savage has limited consciousness because they do not associate
with language, and without language, thoughts of higher meaning could not be formed
• For Rousseau, equality is had because people did not have anything. In the beginning,
equality could be achieved since there was little of desire. Any little food or water could
satisfy the desires of people.
The Savage: Mind and Morality
• The description of the savage is a speculation based on what we know
• Savages would be neither good nor evil based on current conceptions of those terms by
• Rousseau claims that Hobbes made a mistake. He thinks that men are naturally evil
because he attributes to the natural man a multitude of passions. And it is those passions
that lead to all sorts of crimes. Because the savage is a creature of instinct, it wants only
few things that result in its self-preservation. How could this possibly be prejudicial to
other human beings?
• Hobbes did not actually say that people are naturally evil. Rousseau may have
inaccurately represented Hobbes’ stance. What Rousseau is truly concerned about is the
competition and state of war between individuals, which remains a legitimate claim.
• It is only because they are creatures of instinct that the savages are so easily gratified.
And it is only an instinct that is not easily satisfied that reason is set in motion to seek
gratification. It is reason that develops human enterprise and gives rise to more
complicated desires. Ultimately, it is civilized persons that end up needing all sorts of
satisfactions that the savage could not even dream of.
o Civil human beings have honour (or pride) and that becomes a threat to a person’s
being when honour is threatened. Howeve