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  1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau The Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men

  2. Jean-Jacques Rousseau • Historical/Biographical Background • The Discourse on Inequality • The Natural Condition of the Human Species • The Chain of Being • Rousseau’s Natural Man

  3. I. Historical/Biographical Background • Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) • Born in Geneva • Runs away at 16 and lives on his own • Hooked up with various women for support • Was a tutor, civil servant, composer, music teacher, botanist, linguist, novelist, memoirist, and philosopher

  4. I. Historical/Biographical Background • In 1762 publishes “On Social Contract” and “Emile” • Both are condemned, books burned, leaves Paris for Saint Pierre, then on to England with David Hume (1766) • Returns to France (1767) • Publishes a series of autobiographical works, including Confessions (1782)

  5. II. The Discourse on Inequality • Written/Published in 1755 • Prompted by an essay question: “What is the origin of inequality among men; and is it authorized by natural law?” • Opens with a passage from Aristotle: “not in corrupt things, but in those which are well ordered in accordance with nature, should one consider that which is natural” (Aristotle, Politics, I, v)

  6. II. The Discourse on Inequality • Structure of the Work: • Dedication to Geneva • Preface • Note on the Notes • Title Page • Exordium (Introduction) • Part I • Part II

  7. II. The Discourse on Inequality • The conclusion he wants to reach is that inequality is not natural • That is, inequality is a product of human activity and as such can be changed by human actions

  8. II. The Discourse on Inequality “I conceive of two sorts of inequality in the human species: one, which I call natural or physical, because it is established by nature and consists in the difference of ages, health, bodily strengths, and qualities of mind or soul; the other, which may be called moral or political inequality, because it depends upon a sort of convention and is established, or at least authorized, by the consent of men…

  9. II. The Discourse on Inequality “One cannot ask what the source of natural inequality is, because the answer would be found enunciated in the simple definition of the word. Still less can one inquire if there would not be some essential link between the two inequalities; for that would be asking, in other terms, whether those who command are necessarily worth more than those who obey, and whether strength of body or mind, wisdom or virtue, are always found in the same individuals in proportion to power or wealth:”

  10. II. The Discourse on Inequality “a question perhaps good for slaves to discuss in the hearing of their masters, but not suitable for reasonable and free men who seek the truth.” -- Exordium

  11. “The most useful and least advanced of all human knowledge seems to me to be that of man; and I dare say that the inscription of the temple of Delphi alone contained a precept more important and more difficult than all the thick volumes of the moralists.” -- Preface (opening line) II. The Discourse on Inequality

  12. II. The Discourse on Inequality “The philosophers who have examined the foundations of society have all felt the necessity of going back to the state of nature, but none of them has reached it…All of them, finally, speaking continually of need, avarice, oppression, desires, and pride, have carried over to the state of nature ideas they had acquired in society: they spoke about savage man and they described civil man.” -- Exordium

  13. II. The Discourse on Inequality • Rousseau’s plan: “How will man manage to see himself as nature formed him, through all the changes that the sequence of time and things must have produced in his original constitution, and to separate what he gets from his own stock from what circumstances and his progress have added to or changed in his primitive state?” -- Preface

  14. II. The Discourse on Inequality • Rousseau needs to bring in natural history to refute Hobbes, Locke and others • But, there’s a catch…

  15. III. 18th Century Natural History

  16. T H E G R E A T C H A I N O F B E I N G God Angels Extraterrestials Human Beings Mammals Reptiles Fish Plants Pond Scum

  17. T H E G R E A T C H A I N O F B E I N G God Angels Extraterrestials Possible breaks in chain Human Beings Mammals Reptiles Fish Plants Pond Scum

  18. T H E G R E A T C H A I N O F B E I N G Human Beings Europeans Asians Americas South Pacific Africa “Orangs outang” Mammals Elephants Beavers

  19. T H E G R E A T C H A I N O F B E I N G Europeans Caucasus Region Northern Europe Western Europe Southern Europe Asians

  20. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Bridge potential gap in chain by emphasizing physical/behavioral similarities between populations presumed to be closest to the break • Emphasize the human attributes of the newly discovered great apes and the simian attributes of the newly “discovered” peoples of Africa, Australia

  21. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Physical similarities between orangs outang and human beings: • 1699 Edward Tyson (1651-1708) describes a primate called a “pygmie” that had a “human face” and ears which “differ nothing from the human form”

  22. 1744 William Smith (English explorer) described a primate called a “boggoe” or “mandrill” that bore “a near resemblance of a human creature, though nothing at all like an Ape.” • In the Second Discourse, Rousseau refers to a natural history text describing a “pongo” with “a human face” and which “resembles man exactly.”

  23. Tyson’s “Pygmie” (1699)

  24. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • On the other hand, human beings were sometimes described in terms of their animal similarities: • 1708 François Leguat compared an ape to a Hottentot and claimed that “its Face had no other Hair upon it than the Eyebrows, and in general it much resembled one of those Grotesque Faces which the Female Hottentots have at the Cape”

  25. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • 1718 Daniel Beeckman wrote that his orang was “handsomer I am sure than some Hottentots that I have seen.” • Beeckman’s orang

  26. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Physical similarity included reports that orangs walked like human beings

  27. Chimpaneze

  28. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Behavioral similarities of apes and humans • 1625 Samuel Purchas (1577-1626) reports that pongos may have a kind of religious understanding • 1774 Lord Monboddo reports that orangs outang have a sense of justice • Numerous reports that some primates could speak • L’abbé Prévost wrote that “guinous” are suspected of feigning muteness in order to escape being used as slaves

  29. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Other behavioral similarities: • Prévost and Tyson report on the elegant table manners of primates introduced to European dining • Tyson said his pygmie naturally adopted a conservative view towards alcohol and nudity • Reports from 1641 through 1788 report that orangs have high degree of sexual modesty

  30. Female Orang outang (1641 edition)

  31. Female Orang outang (1744 edition)

  32. Female Orangs Gaze averted

  33. Female Orangs Gaze averted Hands covering genitals

  34. Female Orangs Softer jaw line

  35. Female Orangs Softer jaw line More “human” like mammaries

  36. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Tyson reported that when given a choice of associating with either human beings or monkeys, his pygmie preferred human beings

  37. II. Primates, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being 1748 Benoît de Maillet writes: “If we could not say that these living creatures were men, at least they resembled them so much that it would have been unfair to consider them only as animals.” Benoît de Maillet (1656-1738)

  38. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Flip side of finding the missing link by raising animals was denigrating human populations, especially Africans and specifically Hottentots • Naturalists and explorers routinely drew parallels between these people and the newly discovered great apes

  39. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Physical similarities • 1696 Sir John Ovington describes Hottentots as “the very reverse of Human kind, so that if there’s any medium between a Rational Animal and a Beast, the Hotantot lays the fairest claim to that Species.” • 1718 Beeckman claimed that Hottentots “are not really unlike Monkeys or Baboons in their Gestures and Postures, especially when they sit Sunning themselves.”

  40. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Beeckman goes on to add that Hottentot men have “broad flat noses, blubber lips, great heads, disagreeable features, short trifled Hair” and that “nothing can be more ugly.” • Hottentot women were “as ugly in their kind as the Men, having long flabby breasts odiously dangling down to the waist, which they can toss over their shoulders for the children to suck.”

  41. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • This confirms an earlier report (1632) from English explorer Sir Thomas Herbert describing similar attributes in these women.

  42. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • 1774 Oliver Goldsmith would later extend this attribute to all African women, noting that once they being childbearing their breasts “hang down to the navel; and it is customary with them, to suckle the child at their backs, by throwing the breast over the shoulder.”

  43. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Behavioral similarities“As their persons are thus naturally deformed, at least to our imaginations, their minds are equally incapable of strong exertions.” -- Oliver Goldsmith (1774)

  44. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Behavioral Similarities • 1753 Count Buffon writes that the Africans of Guiney “appear to be perfectly stupid, not being able to count beyond the number three, that they never think spontaneously; that they have no memory, the past and the future being equally unknown to them.” • Beeckman writes that Hottentots are “filthy animals” who “hardly deserve the name of Rational Creatures.”

  45. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • On speech: • Beeckman compared Hottentot speech to the cackle of hens or turkeys • Herbert described it as “apishly sounded (with whom ‘tis thought they mix unnaturally)” and “very hard to be counterfeited” since it was voiced “like the Irish.”

  46. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • African sexual practices • Contrast with orang descriptions • Herbert claimed that Hottentot women expressed gratitude by displaying their genitalia and noted that these people live communally “coupling without distinction, the name of wife or brother unknown among these incestuous Troglodites.”

  47. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Prévost mentions that marriage was unknown among the Africans in Bomma • 1745 John Green describes the Africans of Teneriffe as a “rude uncivilized people” living in a society where “everyone took as many women as he pleased.”

  48. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Orangs might be offspring of human/simian copulation • 1688 Olfert Dapper claimed that the orangs of the Congo were so numerous and so nearly human in appearance that “it has entered the minds of some travelers that they may be the offspring of a woman and a monkey”

  49. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Leguat noted that • “Nature who does not oppose the copulation of horses with asses, may well admit that of an ape with a female animal that resembles him, especially where the latter is not restrained by any principle. An ape and a negro slave born and brought up out of the knowledge of God, have not less similitude between them than an Ass and a Mare.”

  50. II. Primitives, Missing Links, and the Chain of Being • Slavery and African/Primate relations • Slavery is a uniquely human institution • Africans subjugate inferior African tribes • Orangs subjugate some Africans