liberte - Rowan Buchanan Contemporary Civilization Alheli...

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Rowan Buchanan Contemporary Civilization Alheli Alvarado-Diaz Essay 1 02/04/10 Liberté Rousseau, in examining the evolution of human society, posits that man in nature was far more free than man now. And that indeed, this move away from freedom continues so that it should be 'the dread of those who have the unhappiness of living after you.' (39) It is easy to attack him as Voltaire did by saying, 'I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours.' Whether or not we desire to, we cannot go back in time, so it might seem a pointless exercise to attack Rousseau's view of the past. However, Rousseau himself is not trying to advocate this. Instead, it is the grounds upon which he makes his argument of how the modern day should be as supposed to how it is. In his words, 'It follows from this presentation that . .. inequality is practically non-existent in the state of nature' and has been created through 'property and laws.' This leads to a society where it is common for 'an imbecile to lead a wise man, and for a handful of people to gorge themselves on superfluities while the starving multitude lacks necessities.' He divides inequality into natural inequality caused by intelligence, size and strength and moral inequality caused by property, education
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and wealth. Although, moral inequality comes under so much fire it is interesting to note he finds the natural inequality fine. Despite the fact that, it makes no more sense that the weak or stupid should suffer than the wise and strong. It is not controversial to say that it is undesirable to have a 'starving multitude.' But many philosopher's such as Hobbes would see the moral inequality as being a necessary evil in order to avoid the natural state of chaos. In order to prove that moral inequality is not necessary, Rousseau must show that the alternative you risk is not so terrible. Hence, why he tries to show the happiness of savage man and extolls his freedom highly. What is to be desired? Most philosopher's seem to have an answer. For Adam Smith it is the useful accumulation of goods. For St. Augustine it is to please God. For Kant it is to behave in a moral way as is determined by reason. Aristotle, had perhaps the most conclusive answer, to be happy. But happiness, is a concept so slippery that happiness simply seems like a restatement of the phrase what is to be desired. Rousseau's answer appears to be freedom above almost everything, especially wealth or human interaction. In his works he tries to unite this love of freedom with the social contract. One of the ways he reconciles the two ideas is to take the same stance as lock that if someone does not want to be part of the social contract they do not have to be.
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This note was uploaded on 02/24/2010 for the course ENG W2018 taught by Professor Niccolas during the Spring '10 term at Columbia.

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liberte - Rowan Buchanan Contemporary Civilization Alheli...

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