Well, we’re back into the swing of things. I hope everyone had a great break! Book number one of term two is done and we’ll soon be writing our essays. But for now let’s just focus on Rousseau.
I thought this text was a good start to the term. I got into it fairly quickly and the only real trouble I had with the language was when I got frustrated at the run-on sentences that lasted for a paragraph. But other than that, all was well. Rousseau quite nicely explained what the “object of this discourse” was right at the beginning, and there were no points at which I felt I couldn’t follow his logic. All-in-all, I really enjoyed reading it. I still had disagreements of course, but that didn’t really interfere with the fact that I found his opinions quite interesting. I got really intrigued when Rousseau was talking about pity, around page 101. He asserts that pity is enough to stop cruelty and, as he says, save an old man from being robbed. I realized, reading that, that I’ve never given much thought to the power of pity. It certainly can be a powerful emotion, but is it really enough to be able to prevent murder or robbery if a person, alone and deprived of food, saw another person eating something they’d been unable to acquire? I feel like pity would play a small role.
Part two was much more interesting than the first I felt. Part one was really just setting the stage for what he wanted to say about oppression and inequality once he was done clarifying terms and setting himself apart from Hobbes. This is when Rousseau starts to look less optimistic about humanity as he describes when certain vices came into play, and much is to blamed on society. (side note, it reminded me of our talk of monsters). Rousseau comes to define the “savage man” and the “civilized man” quite differently than is usually thought, as the civil man is made out to be more savage than the savage man himself. He talks about civilized society, and the different forms of government that can be established. At this point I was strongly curious about what he would think of Canada. We talked about what Hobbes’ opinion would be, could he come forward in time, which is why I think it’d be very interesting to do the same for Rousseau. Are we close enough to a state of nature for Rousseau?