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1 JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU 2 A DISSERTATION 3 ON THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF 4 THE INEQUALITY OF MANKIND 5 THE FIRST PART 6 I MPORTANT as it may be, in order to judge rightly of the natural state of man, to consider him 7 from his origin, and to examine him, as it were, in the embryo of his species; I shall not follow 8 his organisation through its successive developments, nor shall I stay to inquire what his animal 9 system must have been at the beginning, in order to become at length what it actually is. I shall 10 not ask whether his long nails were at first, as Aristotle supposes, only crooked talons; whether 11 his whole body, like that of a bear, was not covered with hair; or whether the fact that he walked 12 upon all fours, with his looks directed toward the earth, confined to a horizon of a few paces, did 13 not at once point out the nature and limits of his ideas. On this subject I could form none but 14 vague and almost imaginary conjectures. Comparative anatomy has as yet made too little 15 progress, and the observations of naturalists are too uncertain to afford an adequate basis for any 16 solid reasoning. So that, without having recourse to the supernatural information given us on this 17 head, or paying any regard to the changes which must have taken place in the internal, as well as 18 the external, conformation of man, as he applied his limbs to new uses, and fed himself on new 19 kinds of food, I shall suppose his conformation to have been at all times what it appears to us at 20 this day; that he always walked on two legs, made use of his hands as we do, directed his looks 21 over all nature, and measured with his eyes the vast expanse of Heaven. 22 If we strip this being, thus constituted, of all the supernatural gifts he may have received, and all 23 the artificial faculties he can have acquired only by a long process; if we consider him, in a word, 24 just as he must have come from the hands of nature, we behold in him an animal weaker than 25 some, and less agile than others; but, taking him all round, the most advantageously organised of 26 any. I see him satisfying his hunger at the first oak, and slaking his thirst at the first brook; 27 finding his bed at the foot of the tree which afforded him a repast; and, with that, all his wants 28 supplied. 29 While the earth was left to its natural fertility and covered with immense forests, whose trees 30 were never mutilated by the axe, it would present on every side both sustenance and shelter for 31 every species of animal. Men, dispersed up and down among the rest, would observe and imitate 32 their industry, and thus attain even to the instinct of the beasts, with the advantage that, whereas 33 every species of brutes was confined to one particular instinct, man, who perhaps has not any one 34 peculiar to himself, would appropriate them all, and live upon most of those different foods 35 which other animals shared among themselves; and thus would find his subsistence much more 36 easily than any of the rest. 37
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This note was uploaded on 11/16/2011 for the course POT 2002 taught by Professor Beck during the Fall '10 term at Santa Fe College.

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