Hi, I'm finding it difficult to get my head around Rousseau's discourse on inequality. Can anybody help me with a summary before my exam?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rousseau's discourse on equality was really more centred on the origins of inequality and was a seminal work of philosophy which still influences French (and world) society up to this day. He held that the 'vices' which let down mankind originated not in 'original sin' but in man’s departure from his own natural state, an existence in which he was contented and compliant, a state of 'Noble Savage.' The two inequalities he saw were “natural” and “moral.' Natural equality emanated from physical differences but moral inequality stemmed from man-made rules such as those of societal convention or politics. Rousseau dared to wonder what man might become if he could be taken out of the religious perspective through which he lived (under God's will) into his own original,natural state. 

First Rousseau examined the natural “embryo" of the species of mankind where people operated as high functioning animals. Here man was free from artifice and care as he lived 'in the moment.' Rousseau held up the example of a thinking man being an alien unnatural being. He also suggested a theory where Nature was, in essence, a force of good where all creatures did well. Rousseau's thoughts concerned the point of departure from that natural order - he wondered whether it was at that point that mankind began to fail both physically and morally, because man left a state where he was superior in both those measures. There, man had superiority because his only instincts were to want and to survive so, like an animal, he could not be judged in terms of good and evil. 

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