Rousseau- The Demise of Man’s Freedom
is an essay delving into the origins and
history of inequalities in men as we know them. In The Second Discourse of the essay,
Rousseau speaks to man’s inequalities, and expresses:
On the other hand, man, heretofore free and independent, was now in
consequence of a multitude of new needs, brought into subjection, as it
were, to all nature, and especially to his fellows, whose slave in some
sense he became, even by becoming their master; if rich, he stood in need
of their services, if poor, of their assistance; even mediocrity itself could
not enable him to do without them (Rousseau, 122).
These words allude to the main points that Rousseau is aiming to make throughout this
essay. Men have lost their freedom while simultaneously losing their self-sufficiency.
The peaceful, pleasant man that had once inhabited the earth in his most natural state,
was transformed into a slave of his own wants and possessions.
Unlike his often pessimistic counterpart Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
paints a colorful picture of man’s natural state through his first and second discourses.
The ideals portrayed in the
exemplify Rousseau’s thought that man is
inherently good, peaceful and free. The quote being analyzed exhibits that men became
unequal as a result of
needs, however, it is important to understand that Rousseau
already acknowledged some inequalities in men before the introduction of these new
needs. Natural, or physical inequalities, he states, consist in the differences of age, health,
bodily strength, and qualities of mind or soul. In Rousseau’s opinion, is not difficult to
see where natural inequalities stem from. However, it is the origin of moral or political
inequalities such as being richer, more honored or more powerful, that is up for debate
(Rousseau, 87). Factors of greed, natural inequalities, and division of instincts all
converge within men to create the moral inequalities we have come to know.