Nekea Strong

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History 102

21 January 2018

A Discourse on
Inequality

The author Jean Jacques Rousseau was
the son of a French watch maker. Rousseau had an odd background. His education
was not regular and he tried many sources of employment. His only true talent
was in his writing. Rousseau won a prize given by the academy of Dijon for a
discourse to the question “whether the progress of the sciences and of letters
has tended to corrupt or to elevate morals.”  The academy of Dijon was extremely pleased
with Rousseau’s work and his writing started to gain attention. Later on,
Rousseau wrote an essay called A Discourse on Inequality. Rousseau wrote this
essay in response to another question proposed by the academy of Dijon. The
question asked, “what is the origin of the inequality among mankind; and
whether such inequality is authorized by the law of nature?” The main purpose
of this essay is to explain how there is such vast inequality among men and
whether this inequality is caused by nature or the rules of society.

The first argument Rousseau
presents is the two inequalities between men one being natural and the other
being moral or mental inequality. Rousseau then goes back and gets his audience
to question what the cause of inequality is. He then shares with his audience that
man and nature both have some sort of a role. He
considered one of man’s natures to be body strength. Rousseau then gives the
example of how we differ from animals. The text explains how animals get their character
based on the elements that they are surrounded by, and how humans do not receive
any of that character because as humans our only tool is our body. Rousseau
argues that if you take a man and strip him down, underneath we will find the
same thing that’s under an animal, but a weaker version of the animal. The
strategy that Rousseau presents in this essay is he first introduces an idea to
the reader, makes the reader question it, inserts his opinion, then argues his
opinion. The intended audience of this discourse were the professors at the
academy of Dijon, and because of this I believe this forced Jean to make this
essay much more persuasive and make his opinion seem like fact. I believe that
the experiences that Rousseau has faced makes him a reliable author and gives
him some credibility. I believe Rousseau is reliable because he witnessed this
inequality first hand.

Rousseau’s A Discourse on
Inequality differs a little from our current age. One example would be in
Rousseau’s age it was important for an individual to have a trade or a
knowledge in a certain skill in order to support themselves. In our era, many
individuals get paid a large amount of money for making an app, going viral on
the internet, making rap music, and other various hobbies that do not require
an education. Having a trade or having a good education was very important
during that time. Because of this, some individuals from this generation would
not entirely understand certain parts of Rousseau’s argument. I personally
found all of Rousseau’s arguments valid.

A Discourse on Inequality supports
the arguments found in Visions of The Great
Good Spirit.  Visions of The Great Good Spirit is a primary source is about how
the “white man” changed the Native Americans way of life in the worst ways
possible (Pollard et al. 600). The primary source gives readers insight from a
Native American perspective on how inequality has always been a huge issue in
society. In both sources inequality appears, but in very different ways. In both
primary sources the idea of inequality is looked upon as unnatural. Rousseau’s essay…

 One of the major differences in these primary
sources is, the Visions of The Great Good
Spirit has more of a spiritual back ground and is more focused on the
spiritual condition than Rousseau’s discourse. Rousseau’s in my opinion refers
more to the elements of nature and psychology rather than a spirituality. I find
both of these primary sources reliable and credible. Both Rousseau and Tenskwatawa
had first hand experienced with inequality and the other issues they wrote
about.

In another primary source The Azamgarh Proclamation, it discusses
how equality and freedom were taken away from the Hindoos and Mohammedans by
the English and their way of life (Pollard et al. 603). Were the English entirely
responsible for the destroying the Hindoos and Mohammedans culture? Yes, the
English did enforce laws that resulted in unequal treatment, but the English had
to learn those laws from somewhere; or they could have created the laws themselves.

That’s an area where Rousseau shines light on in his discourse he goes deeper
into the understanding of how inequality became a concept.

 

 

                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works
cited

Embree, Ainsle T,
editor. “The Revolt against For- Eign Rule.” The Revolt against For-
Eign Rule, Delhi: Chanakya Publications, 1987, pp. 3–6.

Esarey, Logan,
editor. Words of Tenskwatawa, in Messages and Letters of William Henry
Harrison. Indiana Historial Commission, 1992.

Pollard,
Elizabeth, et al. “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart.” Worlds Together,
Worlds Apart, W.W. Norton & Company, 2015.

Rousseau,
Jean-Jacques, et al. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Oxford
University Press, 2009.

 

 

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