The Origin of Inequality and the Need for ContractingJune 27, 2021
What is the State of Nature?
If we assume, following Rousseau, that humanity has been corrupted by an artificial civilization, what is the natural state, the state of nature from which humanity has moved away? This question is discussed by Rousseau in his Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of Human Inequality.
Undoubtedly, no empirical or historical data could be relied upon in this field. Therefore, all of Rousseau’s assertions on this subject are hypothetical: what distinguishes the first man in the state of nature from the animal? According to Rousseau, it is freedom rather than reason that constitutes the species distinction between animal and human. With this awareness of freedom, a person also exhibits the spirituality of his soul. Because the mechanics of sensibility can more or less explain the act of thought on the basis of perception, but being conscious of choice in the act of choosing is an essential distinction that is only spiritual and cannot be explained by mechanical laws. For this reason, Rousseau does not accept a purely materialistic and mechanistic explanation of human nature. Another quality that distinguishes humans from animals is their ability to develop and perfect themselves. However, these abilities are also the result of a certain development and change.
According to Rousseau, it is freedom rather than reason that constitutes the species distinction between animal and human.
Rousseau imagines the primordial man as “a creature that wanders up and down the woods without work, speech, and home, equally alien to war and all bonds, neither needing nor willing to hurt creatures of his own kind.” Such a person cannot be said to have moral qualities. But such a person cannot be called evil.
According to him, Hobbes’ portrayal of the natural human condition as a state of war of all against all is also wrong. He also admits that self-love is the basic drive. But when self-love is understood as a self-preservation drive, it is not inherently evil and non-violent. “In the beginning, the individual’s interest in others was not very deep, but as his interest gradually increased, it became more in the form of compassion; This feeling can be observed even in animals.” ü
As a result, according to Rousseau, man in the primitive state of nature is good. As an objection to the religious system, he emphasized that man is naturally good and that there is no original sin or heresy in human nature.
He states that in the state of nature, having a language also contributes to the gradual development of human beings. “General ideas cannot be presented to consciousness without the aid of words, nor can the understanding grasp them without the mediation of propositions.” Therefore, it is impossible to consider the development of human mental life separately from the development of language. As can be seen, according to Rousseau, the human in the state of nature is in complete contrast with the natural human of Hobbes. While Hobbes’ primitive man gained ethical values by passing into the society condition, Rousseau’s natural man got worse to the extent that he socialized.
While Hobbes argued that man’s natural state is a war environment, Rousseau drew attention to the inherent goodness of man and described the natural state as a kind of freedom and well-being.
Rousseau discusses the transition from the state of nature to organized society in the second part of the Discourse on Inequality, which undoubtedly took the form of settlement first: According to him, after fencing off a piece of land, “This is mine.” The first person who said that and found individuals who believed in him easily became the real founder of civilized society. As a result of this development, property emerged, equality disappeared, forests turned into fields, slavery and misery emerged in parallel with grain production. Also, moral distinctions between justice and injustice have become clear; people are no longer better than they were in the state of nature. “Extortions by the rich, thefts by the poor, and the unbridled passions of both drowned out the cries of natural compassion and the weaker voice of justice, and filled the people with greed, greed, and debauchery… The nascent social situation thus precipitated a dire state of war” (cited in Copleston) , 1995: 76).
According to Rousseau, he fenced off a piece of land and said, “This is mine.” The first person who said that and was able to convince people of this is the founder of civilized society.
As the insecurity and other evils that accompanied the establishment and development of the private property institution increased, people resorted to making contracts with each other to guarantee their security and freedom, thus the government and the legal system were established by common consensus. But for Rousseau, the establishment of political society was not a real solution either; On the contrary, the political order of society put new chains on the poor and added new powers to the power of the rich. Freedom was also irretrievably lost. The eternal law of property and inequality has been established. Rousseau reports that he contented himself with seeing the establishment of political society as “a real contract between the people and the chiefs elected by them.” Pursuant to this contract, both parties have agreed to abide by the laws expressed in it. This is how Rousseau began the politic