Rousseau And Human Nature Essay

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For Rousseau, civil society resulted from the degeneration of a basically good state of nature. He believed that the state of nature changed because it was internally unstable.

For example, because talents were not distributed equally among persons, the balance that existed in the state of nature was disturbed and with inequality came conflicting interests.

Because man is by nature a saint, it must be the corrupting influence of society that is responsible for the misconduct of the individual.

The fundamental problem for Rousseau is not nature or man but instead is social institutions.

He believed that these could provide better insights into what is good and real than could reason.

Rousseau thus minimized reason and differences in the moral worth of individuals.One such institution was private property that encouraged avarice and self-interest.Rousseau viewed private property as a destructive, impulsive, and egotistical institution that rewarded greed and luck.Conceiving of freedom as an absolute, independent of any natural limitations, Rousseau disavows the world of nature and its inherent laws, constraints, and regulations.Rousseau held that reason had its opportunity but had failed, claiming that the act of reflection is contrary to nature.For Rousseau, a man could be just without virtue and good without effort.According to Rousseau, man in the state of nature was free, wise, and good and the laws of nature were benevolent.However, there did exist an unreflective sympathy and general compassion toward others that was indiscriminate and not based on merits.In the state of nature egoism was absent and compassion was present.Evil, greed, and selfishness emerged as human society began to develop.As people formed social institutions, they developed vices.


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