The Social Contract

Human Inequality and Rousseau's Social Contract Solution

In his discourse on inequality among men, Rousseau argued that, contrary to intuition, "savage" man living in a totally pre-social wilderness acted with more empathy and kindness towards fellow human beings than even reasoned philosophers of the modern era. Rousseau considered pity to be a natural (i.e., unaffected and unsocialized) impulse, evident even in animals, a sentiment that impelled savage man to help and not hinder any other humans he would come upon in distress. And since these humans had no property or society whatsoever, they would have no necessity of other men, and thus they would feel no impulse to commit acts of cruelty (e.g., theft) towards fellow men -- they would be "subject to few passions and self-sufficient." Although natural or "physical" inequality did exist -- e.g., differences in health, age, and physicality -- moral or "political" inequality did not, defined by Rousseau as "different privileges enjoyed by some at the expense of others, such as being richer, more honored, more powerful," even holding others in bondage.

The development of political equality began with the earliest development of society and property. First, as humans proliferated, so did...

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