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Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199555420
ISBN-10: 0199555427
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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author


Franklin Philip is the prize-winning translator of numerous French texts. Patrick Coleman is the author of Rousseau's Political Imagination (1984).
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199555427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199555420
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.3 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This essay was Rousseaus's submission to the Academy of Dijon contest, entitled, "Has the progress of the arts and sciences contributed more to the corruption or purification of morals?".

This text is his story about Nature, and Society, and the scandal that happens when people come together, build, divide, dance, sing, and compare themselves with one another. In many ways, it is his answer to the problem of evil.

Natural man is, in many ways, good, because his needs are immediately felt and immediately fulfilled. Social man begins to compete, to hoard, and to use cunning to enslave his fellows, to gain their esteem, take their property, and sometimes their lives.

His picture of the natural man is half what we think of an "animal" and half the "human" that we recognize in ourselves. He shifts his description as the flow of arguement dictates. The habitual provocateur, Rousseau - watch him!

In a way, he is rewriting the Christian "Creation Myth". In his version, evil does not originate at that moment when man eats the fruit of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" --to "be like God"; it happens when Adam wants a better apple than Eve's got for herself. Before society develops as we know it, Adam would have been fine with just a pear.
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