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Essay on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and The Essence of Human Nature

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Rousseau starts his discourse with the quote, “What is natural has to be investigated not in beings that are depraved, but in those that are good according to nature” (Aristotle. Politics. II). It is this idea that Rousseau uses to define his second discourse. Rousseau begins his story of human nature by “setting aside all the facts” (132). Rousseau believes the facts of the natural state of humanity are not necessary to determine the natural essence of human nature, and adding facts based on man’s condition in society does not show man’s natural condition. The facts don’t matter for Rousseau because to understand the essence of human nature requires looking to how man is in a completely natural state. Since man is no longer in this state, to determine this state means ignoring how man is now and focusing on man’s traits in a state completely different than the one man is in now. This is what Rousseau tries to do in imagining a state of nature. For Rousseau, the story of the state of nature is not meant to be used as a critique of human nature but as a way to discover the essence of human nature.
Rousseau starts his discourse by sets aside all the facts to understand the natural state of man untainted by the traits of man in society. He states “the inquiries that may be pursued regarding this subject ought not be taken for historical truths, but only for hypothetical and conditional reasonings; better suited to elucidate the nature of things than to show their genuine origin” (132). The subject is the genuine nature of man. To discover this nature the facts cannot help because they do not look to the nature of man in his original state but to the man of now. Facts of the past help more in the discovery in the man of now than the ...


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...s ideas.
Rousseau’s argument for the freedom of society is supported by his intentions of creating doubt. By creating a scenario where man is naturally good, he created a platform for the argument for the freedom of man in society. But, he does not necessarily persuade the reader man is good. He needs not persuade the reader in truth. He needs only to create doubt in the minds of the readers so that the individual may question the need for society. In this purpose, Rousseau accomplishes his task. He created a natural world in which the natural man is good leaving the societal man to question his role in society. Is equality necessary? Is authority necessary? These are the questions the reader must answer.



Works Cited

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques and Victor Gourevitch. The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.



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