Tutorial- October 2, 2013
Kant said that we live in an age of enlightenment, when people begin to think for
themselves. He looks forward to a time when human beings can think for
themselves, instead of relying on religious and political leaders.
Now we look at Rousseau. Kant was very influenced by Rousseau.
Rousseau is looking backwards…Kant is looking forwards.
Rousseau is stuck between prior to the enlightenment and the enlightenment.
He is concerned with how we got here, to the point that we have others thinking for
In order to do this he proposes a different account of human nature (state of nature)
than Hobbes. He says that humans weren’t always social, and would not be in
constant conflict with one another. He says that we have to go back in time, and
look at human history. He says that there is something that pre-dates the Hobbesian
way of thinking.
He is pursuing “conjectural history”, which uses a less literal account of human
history. He is trying to shed light on what human beings were before, and how we
became what we are. He is imagining society as a theoretical past history. He says
we shouldn’t look at our society and look back from there, but that we should look
back further and use our imaginations.
How do humans act in the state of nature?
The 2 impulses that humans are interested in are:
1. Self-preservation (longing to live, not suffering, not dying)
2. Pity (a gut feeling towards our fellow human beings). He refers to this as the
cry of nature.
When we define these two impulses, how do individuals interact?
They only interact in order to procreate. It rests on momentary transactions, with
no sustainable relationships. In this state humans are more closer to animals than
He thinks that neither gods nor beasts are dependent, so he says that humans as
self-sufficient on their own, they do not depend on other people for their survival.
So why is there no war in this state of nature?
There is the key impulse of pity, as well as the fact that people don’t know one
another enough (they don’t compete or compare themselves to others), they hardly
interact with one another.
He talks about the fact that inequality cannot exist in a state of nature, they do not
measure themselves with one another in the state of nature. Then there aren’t
concepts such as justice or contracts.
There are two forms of inequality that he outlines:
Physical inequality (weight, size, strength, biology)
Political inequality (social, power, consent) Human beings have free will, so they tend to adapt to their surrounding
Rousseau is concerned mainly with the political inequality.
He believes political inequality is an artificial construction and therefore is
He wants to discover how we arrived at this type of inequality.
Is private property natural? No. Not for Rousseau. IT is not natural because it is an
artificial construct. He believes that god gave