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Augustine And Rousseau And The State Of Human Nature

2422 words - 10 pages

Both Jean Jacques Rousseau and Saint Augustine present two distinct, yet co-related accounts of the human being and the consequences of unrestrained human desire. All were great philosophers of their time, who offered various standpoints concerning the state of human nature. These great thinkers differed and shared certain similarities regarding their thoughts on the nature of the human being. Thus the purpose of this paper is to put forward a critical examination of the work of Augustine and Jean Rousseau and to prove without a doubt, in regards to the troubles of modern day man and significant events, that Saint Augustine's views toward mankind was in actuality a more accurate descriptive account. Saint Augustine offers a more reasonable solution to the troubles that plague mankind, in which that we are faced with a divine calling and we need to listen to that call.Saint Augustine and Jean Rousseau presents specific varying views on the original state of the human being. Saint Augustine attempts to answer the question, what does it mean to be a human being? Throughout Augustine's life, he was in pursuit of something he did not know, this void in his life that he could not comprehend. Thus in this pursuit of happiness, Augustine eventually completely gave in to the desires of flesh, by engaging in various sexual activities and other sinful activities of the flesh. However, in the end, Augustine realized that nothing could fulfill that void, except for God. Human beings are the ultimate God seekers. We are always seeking something to fulfill that void in our life; there is always this hunger inside of us for meaning and understanding. As humans we are always discontent and in constantly seeking of fulfillment, and we tend to seek fulfillment and pleasure through "finite goods" such as money, sex, and etc. However these finite goods will only give us temporary relief and in the end we will always end up being more unhappy and unfulfilled. Basically what Augustine is saying is that life becomes more meaningful, more fulfilling and happier when we live a life with God rather than a materialistic attitude towards life. We are selfish creatures that only seek to fulfill our own greedy needs and desire, much like babies that want to get what they need by crying and screaming and creating as much havoc as they can.However, Jean Rousseau presents an approach, which is different from that of Saint Augustine, in saying that we are not self-centered and self-seeking beings but rather that a human has a built in instinct to care for and act compassionately towards other humans. Rousseau argues that in the 'state of nature', humans are non-competitive, interacting only purely for reproduction purposes. In Rousseau's original or natural state of human being, we are born pure in heart, and free of the evils and darkness of this world. However, due to the introduction of civilized society, though its properties, grandeurs, and laws it has shaped man into what he...

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