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SecondDiscourseClassNotes

SecondDiscourseClassNotes - Rousseau Second Discourse He...

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Rousseau, Second Discourse He notes, “freedom is like those solid and rich foods or those hearty wines, which are proper to nourish and fortify robust constitutions habituated to them, but which overpower, ruin and intoxicate the weak and delicate who are unsuited for them. Once peoples are accustomed to masters, they are no longer able to do without them.” He argues, “Amiable and virtuous countrywomen, the fate of your sex will always be to govern ours. It is fortunate when your chaste power, exercised solely in conjugal union, makes itself felt only for the glory of the State and the public happiness!...What barbarous man could resist the voice of honor and reason in the mouth of a tender wife?” Of inequality, he claims we must first find the roots of it in human beings, “how can the course of inequality among men be known unless one begins by knowing men themselves? And how will man manage to see himself as nature formed him, through all the changes that the sequence of time and things must have produced in his original constitution, and to separate what he gets from his own stock from what circumstances and his progress have added to or changed in his primitive state?” The more we learn, the less we can access the means of gaining the most important knowledge of all: “by dint of studying man…we have made ourselves incapable of knowing him.” Two principles anterior to reason in the soul – 1) one seeking our well-being/self- preservation, 2) one inspiring us with natural repugnance to see any sensitive being perish or suffer. He claims, “It is from the conjunction and combination that our mind is able to make of these two principles, without the necessity of introducing that of sociability, that all the rules of natural right appear to me to flow: rules which reason is later forced to reestablish upon other foundations when, by its successive developments, it has succeeded in stifling nature.” Of human institutions: “And as nothing is less stable among men than those external relationships which chance produces more often than wisdom, and which are called weakness or power, wealth or poverty, human establishments appear at first glance to be founded on piles of quicksand. It is only by examining them closely, it is only after removing the dust and sand that surround the edifice, that one perceives the unshakeable base upon which it is built, and that one learns to respect its foundations.” He notes two types of inequality: 1) natural/physical,
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