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Corruption by Civilization - The fundamental problem for...

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The fundamental problem for Rousseau is not nature or man but instead is social institutions. Rousseau's view is that society corrupts the pure individual. Arguing that men are not inherently constrained by human nature, Rousseau claims that men are limited and corrupted by social arrangements. Conceiving of freedom as an absolute, independent of any natural limitations, Rousseau disavows the world of nature and its inherent laws, constraints, and regulations. Rousseau held that reason had its opportunity but had failed, claiming that the act of reflection is contrary to nature. Rousseau asserts that man's natural goodness has been depraved by the progress he has made and the knowledge he has acquired. He proceeded to attack the Age of Reason by emphasizing feeling, the opposite of reason, as the key to reality and the future. His thought thereby foreshadowed and gave impetus to the Romantic Movement. Rousseau assigned primacy to instinct, emotion, intuition, feelings, and passion. He believed that these could provide better insights into what is good and real than could reason. Rousseau thus minimized reason and differences in the moral worth of individuals. He failed to realize that freedom is meaningless in the absence of reason. He did not grasp that reason connects the moral subject to the world of values. Rousseau observed that although life was peaceful in the state of nature, people were unfulfilled. They needed to interact in order to find actualization. Evil, greed, and selfishness emerged as human society began to develop. As people formed social institutions, they developed vices. One such institution was private property that encouraged avarice and self-interest. Rousseau viewed private property as a destructive, impulsive, and egotistical institution
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that rewarded greed and luck. Civil society thus was born when people began fencing off their property, claiming that it was theirs, and finding that other people agreed with them. Depravity is due to the corruption of man's essence by civilization. For Rousseau, civil society resulted from the degeneration of a basically good state of nature. Man's problems arose because of civil society. He believed that the state of nature changed because it was internally unstable. For example, because talents were not distributed equally among persons, the balance that existed in the state of nature was disturbed and with inequality came conflicting interests. The more talented, able, and intelligent people brought about advances in science, technology, commerce, and so on. Because people simply are born with certain natural endowments, a person cannot be praised for having talent or blamed for not having it. Rousseau saw talent as naturally leading to achievement. Inequality developed as some people produced more and earned more. He failed to acknowledge the importance of motivation, industry, and volitional use of one's reason and other potentialities.
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