Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind - Jean-Jacques Rousseau 6*

Jean Jacques Rousseau
Jean Jacques Rousseau (Photo credit: Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara)
If you take Edward Said's statement that the West constructed a false image of the Orient that suited their purpose (and therefore of Africa, the Americas and anywhere else that did not contain 'civilised' Western Europeans) then some of the blame for that image building must be laid at the feet of philosophers like Rousseau and his idea of the 'noble savage.'

In Rousseau's mind the savage lives in a state of simple grace. He is not educated enough to feel the finer emotions of love, desire and loss and therefore lives happily in his own way, unknowing and uncaring of the woes of modern society.

Rousseau does make some interesting points though. His thoughts on the origin and development of language are astute and would chime with the research done by many contemporary linguists.

His final thoughts that possessions and the human desire to own things are the root of conflict and evil is argued eloquently and stands up better to scrutiny than many of his ramblings on so-called savages.
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