How does Rousseau think about the basic goodness of humanity?  

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rousseau felt that humans in their natural, uncorrupted state, were generally good. Though Rousseau's beliefs in differing complexities of society were  largely influenced by racist theories which served to commodify human labor (as in the Atlantic slave trade), he very much admired the cultures he termed "savages" for their high degree of egalitarianism and apparently uninhibited lifestyles. 

Rousseau believed that "all degenerates in man's hands," or that the farther humans distance themselves from nature, the more they (and the world) would suffer for it. He believed that "civilization" and all of the social and moral rules which are wrapped up in "civilized culture" limited mankind and distorted the instincts and emotions. One of his more famous quotes is as follows:

"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains."

This summarizes Rousseau's belief that humans are innately free and uninhibited. Morality is not a factor in the "goodness" of the Natural human, as morality is dependent upon the kind of socialization and civilization Rousseau thought we ought to be free from. After birth, we are brought up in culture and taught ways of being which are at odds with the "natural state," and limit a person's ability to be free and happy.

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