Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Lecture 2 PHIL 1003 2008-09 Student comment • “If vanity is the problem, shouldn’t the key question be why such vanity occurs? What are the circumstances, factors which lead to it? If we know the cause that leads to it, can we change it to address the problem of vanity?” Rousseau's State of Nature • equality; natural inequalities minor; • freedom/free will: – from others, from servitude, from mere instinct; • isolation & autonomy--no social relations, no families (cf. Locke); • no languages; • no illness: – “In becoming habituated to the ways of society ... he becomes weak, fearful and servile”; savage is robust, not weak and servile like civil man. S of N, cont. • Hunting-gathering; no sedentary agriculture/property: – " ...what man would be so foolish as to tire himself out cultivating a field that will be plundered by the first comer ... ?" (47). • limited desires/passions: – "His desires do not go beyond his physical needs. The only goods he knows are ... nourishment, a woman and rest ... ". – “His soul, agitated by nothing, is given over to the single feeling of his own present existence, without any idea of the future". (cf. Hobbes: man = welter of passions) • faculty of self-perfection (vs animal instinct): – "this distinctive and almost unlimited faculty is the source of all man's misfortunes". Stages of Transformation • Little contact among people—no war; • Nature provides fruits of the earth • Emergence of language: – “... it is clear, from the little care taken by nature to bring men together through mutual needs and to facilitate their use of speech, how little she prepared them for becoming habituated to the ways of society.” Question • Isn’t music a kind of language anyway? Consider the case of birds. Don’t all species therefore communicate in some way? (my paraphrase) Early Society—’Hut Stage’ • language enables us to form ideas of – property (mine/yours), – Comparison (II.15-16): • strong/weak, • beautiful/ugly. • early community life—beginning of vanity; – relatively free from the evils of civil society; – early social organization – a limited notion of property. The ‘Hut Stage’ • "this period ... maintaining a middle position between the indolence of our primitive state and the petulant activity of our egocentrism must have been the happiest and most durable epoch“. Middle stage—still in huts • Factors dictating further transformations: – demographic increase – natural disasters – harsh climates • Technological change: – metallurgy – Agriculture. Our world emerges • Division of labour: exploitation of some by others, interdependence: – "... as soon as one man realized that it was useful for a single individual to have provisions for two, equality disappeared ... (65)." • state of war ensues: – “... the destruction of equality was followed by the most frightful disorder. Thus the usurpations of the rich, the acts of brigandage by the poor, the unbridled passions of all ... made men greedy, ambitious and wicked .... Emerging society gave way to the most horrible state of war ....” The Wrong Social Contract • the rich dream up the fraudulent social contract: – “... the most thought-out project that ever entered the human mind. It was to use in his favor the very strength of those who attacked him ...”. • the poor willingly take on the yoke: – “They all ran to chain themselves, in the belief that they secured their liberty ...”. Big Hair, 18th century-style What kinds of inequality does this picture illustrate? Student question • “What makes us feel as though we need to impress others? Why is our confidence dependent on the way others react to our outward appearance?” What’s left? Empty appearances! • “…everything being reduced to appearances, everything becomes factitious and play–acting… • …we have nothing more than a deceiving and frivolous exterior, honor without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness…” (DOI, II.57). We enable our own oppression: “Citizens let themselves be oppressed only so far as they are swept up by blind ambition and…come to hold Domination dearer than independence, and consent to bear chains so that they might impose chains in turn” [II.51]. Civilized misery • “…the Citizen, forever active, sweats, scurries, constantly agonizes…he works to the death, even rushes toward it in order to be in a position to live…He courts the great whom he hates, and the rich whom he despises; he spares nothing to attain the honor of serving them…” (II.57). The final word on inequality • Prelude to Marx: “…it is manifestly against the Law of Nature, however defined, that...a handful of people abound in superfluities while the starving multitude lacks necessities” (II.58).