Rousseau vs. Marx Essay

Words: 2271
Pages: 10

In his "Discourse on the Origins of Inequality," Rousseau argues that the arts and sciences "which first civilized men, ruined humanity." The philosopher challenges Thomas Hobbes' theory of the wicked nature of man, arguing that it is not man's nature but society and the pleasantries of civilization that have weakened and demonized mankind: "It appears, at first view, that men in a state of nature, having no moral relations or determinate obligations to one another, could not be either good or bad, virtuous or vicious" (279). The nature of man, therefore, is naturally untainted and based on compassion- a basic, innate virtue. Man's nature is neither good nor evil, neither wracked with steadfast competition nor satiated of philanthropy. …show more content…
When such a weakness occurs, such as in society, man loses his fundamental natural right to self government- allowing others to rule over his decisions. The idea of society is not natural, and "[nature] has put little of her own into all they have done to create such bonds of union" (279). The desire of self preservation, or Amour Propre, is the catalyst of human degradation. Prior to civilization there was no need to rely on other men, since each was equipped with methods of survival, "what times of dependence could there be among men without possessions?" (284). It was only when the idea of property arose that men depended on one another to protect what was "theirs". While man's first instinct was to care for himself, he now cared for the goods he felt he rightfully acquired. Once man believed himself to be the owner of the fruits of earth, he began to question the motives of other men, attempt to protect his property against them, and fight wars for the accrual of more. The idea of possession sparked civil society and created differences in material wealth, but a more fundamental difference was just as important in the dissolution of the righteousness of man. Education, though seemingly a virtue that does all good for man, is yet another means of separating the community, creating groups of learned and naive. Rousseau contends that "education not only makes a differences such as are cultures and such as are not, but even increases the