Discourse on the Origin of Inequality - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau sure likes cave men. 

 

I wonder if he'd dig the Jack Black/Michael Cera "Year One", or if he'd be more into "The Croods"?

 

I'd have to say either has better insight into the life of a cave man than Rousseau does.

 

Seriously, he spends more than HALF his discourse talking about cavemen. "the state of nature... whatever"

 

For a guy who spends so much time thinking about cave men, he sure gets a lot of stuff wrong that a cursory study of anthropology, or an afternoon watching the Discovery Channel could clear up.

 

Cavemen didn't have property? cavemen didn't have families? those seem to be pretty basic ideas that he's assuming didn't exist in prehistory. He must have done a lot of research. What, no? He pulled it all out of his butt? Why am I not surprised?

 

For most of the book, he talks about how awesome it would be to be a caveman, and how you'd never be poor or hungry or get eaten by a tiger or anything. His treatise is that modern society, particularly government forces inequality on people that they didn't have in their caveman days, and that the poor would have been better off being cavemen than being poor. To that, I profoundly disagree. While life in 1600s France as a peasant would have been nasty, brutish, and short, cave life would have been moreso.

 

What interests me is that Rousseau is pre-Darwin. So, they didn't believe mankind evolved from apes. Where, then, did our noble cavemen come from? Is he a creationist? If so, he's ignoring everything that christians and other religions believe happened post-creation to try to invent his "state of nature". Since he's pre-darwin, he can't draw parallels between gorilla/chimpanzee/whatever behavior and that of cavemen, which is a pretty natural and useful comparison today. Where, then, does he get his ideas? Thin air.

 

Blah. I'm smarter because I read this, but I'm not a fan of this. I don't know enough of my history to be sure, but Rousseau was one of the keystone philosophers of the French Revolution, right? Pretty weaksauce arguments they were basing their revolution on, then.