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The Relevance Of A Discourse On In Equality In The Modern World

1228 words - 5 pages

Essay 1The Relevance of A Discourse on In Equality in the Modern World"In the long run men inevitably become the victims of their wealth. They adapt their lives and habits to their money, not their money to their lives. It preoccupies their thoughts, creates artificial needs, and draws a curtain between them and the world."-Herbert CrolyU.S. political philosopher (1869-1930)Croly's quote captures the essence of modern human existence. Man has become a puppet in the hands of the wealth and the amenities that he created to make life 'simpler and easier'. Tools, techniques and technology had to help man's life become less strenuous. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. Man has gotten further embroiled in the entrapments of modern society. He has become more competitive and dissatisfied with himself and his life.Rousseau's A Discourse on Inequality aims to explain the nature of man by delving deep into the history of man and tracing the story of how man came to be. He does so by understanding the nature of savage man- man as he was meant to be by nature. The savage man was animal-like. His motivation came from two values- pity and self-preservation. Pity allowed him to show compassion for fellow men and self-preservation allowed him to take care of himself and his needs. These two values were not contrarian- savage man could show compassion for others and himself at the same time. The only key distinction between savage man and animals was man's ability to mould himself according to his environment i.e. man's perfectibility. His perfectibility allowed him to respond to changes in his environment, a skill that other animals did not have.After explaining the nature of savage man, Rousseau sheds light on the nature of the modern man. He explains that the modern man, by virtue of advancement in tools and techniques, has become freer and thus has developed a new set of needs that he must fulfill. His virtues of pity and self-preservation are now replaced by amour propre and he begins to compare himself to other men. And that is true of all of us. We want to graduate the top of our class- even if that means learning by rote. We want to have the largest pay package- even if it means sacrificing family time or time to enjoy one's passions. The difference between the two have been exposed as:Reflection teaches us nothing on that head, but what experience perfectly confirms. Savage man and civilised man differ so much at bottom in point of inclinations and passions, that what constitutes the supreme happiness of the one would reduce the other to despair. The first sighs for nothing but repose and liberty;he desires only to live, and to be exempt from labour; nay, the ataraxy of the most confirmed Stoic falls short of his consummate indifference for every other object. On the contrary, the citizen always in motion, is perpetually sweating and toiling, and racking his brains to find out occupations still more laborious: He continues a drudge to his last...

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