A Discourse on Inequality Essay

A Discourse on Inequality Essay

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A Discourse on Inequality


In Rousseau’s book “A Discourse On Inequality”, he looks into the question of where the general inequality amongst men came from. Inequality exists economically, structurally, amongst different generations, genders, races, and in almost all other areas of society. However, Rousseau considers that there are really two categories of inequality. The first is called Natural/Physical, it occurs as an affect of nature. It includes inequalities of age,, health, bodily strength, and the qualities of the mind and soul. The second may be called Moral/Political inequality, this basically occurs through the consent of men. This consists of the privileges one group may have over another, such as the rich over the poor.
Rousseau came to the conclusion that the best way to examine the inequality in society is to examine the beginning of mankind itself. He tried to imagine the early state of man assuming there was ever actually a state where man existed only with the nature, in a solitary, and primitive lifestyle. He did not however revert as far back to the idea of the Neanderthal man to examine the ideas man held and where they came from. Instead, he looked at a state where man looked, and seemed to have the same physical abilities as he does today. Rousseau also concedes that a time where the ideas of government, ownership, justice, and injustice did not exist may not have ever existed. If what many religions tell us is true, then, in mans beginning, he was from the start, handed down laws from god which would influence his thinking and decisions. Through this, the only way such a period could come about would have to be through some catastrophic event, which would not only be impossible to explain, but consequently, impossible to prove. Therefore, imagining this state could prove not only embarrassing, but would be a contradiction to the Holy Scriptures.
In the “natural state”, Rousseau suggests that we should strip man of all the “supernatural gifts” he may have been given over the course of time. He says we should “consider him, in a word, just as he must have come from the hands of nature, we behold in him an animal weaker than some, and less agile than others; but, taking him all around, the most advantageously organized of any.” He presumes that man’s needs would be easily satisfied. His food was easily gained, as wa...


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...e significantly because in more instances remaining a part of the group was more of a benefit then not.
Now that groups were steadily together, they began to expand their knowledge, their tool making abilities had increased, they learned to make huts, and did so because they believed they were easier to defend. Others would not try and take over this hut, not because it belonged to the one who built it, but either because it served no use to them, they were weaker, they could build it themselves, or most likely, they knew that they would have to fight with the family if they did attempt to take it. Instead, this person was likely to become a neighbor, rather then an enemy for the sheer motive of convenience. Essentially, the fact that others stood by as one did something for oneself, mimicked it rather than tearing it down, allowed for the ideas of property, and ownership. Property, as it grew large in its ideology would become too big for those who would eventually try to tear it down, this would lead to laws and groups who would enforce it as being a valid concept. Thus Ownership, Property, and Law are the basis for the outbreak and ever present inequality in our lives.

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