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Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755)

av Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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1,604198,086 (3.54)16
Donald Cress's highly regarded translation, based on the critical Pléiade edition of 1964, is here issued with a lively introduction by James Miller, who brings into sharp focus the cultural and intellectual milieu in which Rousseau operated. This new edition includes a select bibliography, a note on the text, a translator's note, and Rousseau's own Notes on the Discourse.… (mer)
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» Se även 16 omnämnanden

engelska (14)  nederländska (2)  spanska (1)  franska (1)  katalanska (1)  Alla språk (19)
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Lately many of the ills of liberalism have been ascribed to Rousseau: "man being born free but everywhere is found in chains" and the myth of the noble savage. Reading Rousseau made me realize how distorted are some of the claims about his philosophy. He is definitely not the caricature which others make of him and his thought is original and well developed. Of course, some times is difficult to agree with what he says and others he is totally off. ( )
  Adrianmb | Mar 23, 2021 |
Everyone should read this one. ( )
  rjcrunden | Feb 2, 2021 |
classiques Larousse
  kortep | Nov 21, 2020 |
FG-6
  Murtra | Oct 28, 2020 |
I'm occasionally struck by how bad the great classics of political philosophy are. Consider that, when teaching philosophy, we spend an awful lot of energy convincing students that their arguments have to be tight, they have to avoid fallacies, they have to back up their reasoning, and they have to avoid special pleading. Then we give them Locke's treatises, or The Prince, or this great turd of philosophical unreason.

That said, once you decide this isn't a work of philosophy, it gets much better; it's not. It's pretty clearly a work of rhetoric, seeking to persuade rather than to reason. The first part, in particular, is utterly ridiculous taken as an argument of any kind: we have no reason to think that human beings outside of society are happy vegetables, but that's how Rousseau presents them. His 'argument' is entirely inconsistent; one minute he says these 'savages' have no need of tools or weapons, since they can just eat acorns, the next minute he's happily supplying them with spears to fight off wild beasts. Taken as a rhetorical attack on previous state-of-nature theories, however, and on the idea that civilization is always all good, it's okay. It's too silly to be anything other than okay, but that's fine. Read it ironically, and it makes sense: Rousseau's picture is no sillier than Hobbes', or Locke's, and his name is a lot less silly than Pufendorf's.

Part II is a bit more serious. Here Rousseau takes a lot from Hobbes (one of the few philosophically solid classics of political philosophy), his analysis tightens up, and we're suddenly faced with a whole bunch of fascinating questions: how did it happen that humans because social? how did it happen that some people get the power and wealth, while others get nothing? can that be justified?

His answers aren't particularly good, but as a way of showing us how difficult and important these questions are--and, pace Hobbes/Locke/et al., how difficult they are to solve--Rousseau's book works very nicely. It's much harder to justify inequality than previous philosophers had argued (slash some philosophers still argue), it's much harder to provide a rational basis for human society than most of us like to think, and it's very hard indeed to imagine how human institutions came into being.

Sadly, Rousseau seems to have led more people towards naturalism than away from it, even though you can easily read this book as an attempt to do the latter. The point about the 'state of nature' is that it probably never happened, not that we should return to it; if we can get out of the habit of thinking that there's some nature we can get back to, we can also get out of the habit of thinking we can justify our institutions and actions based on the 'fact' that they're 'natural.' ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
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Donald Cress's highly regarded translation, based on the critical Pléiade edition of 1964, is here issued with a lively introduction by James Miller, who brings into sharp focus the cultural and intellectual milieu in which Rousseau operated. This new edition includes a select bibliography, a note on the text, a translator's note, and Rousseau's own Notes on the Discourse.

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