Science ou vision

Science ou vision

Une analyse du Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes

Series H, Humanistica 8, vol. 23

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Second Discourse on the origin of equality (1755) is generally consider his most brilliant and most influential philosophical essay. Studied in universities over the world to this day, interpretations of the essay differ widely, as they have done ever since it was enthusiastically welcomed by his contemporaries and slated by Voltaire. The reason for the dissensions is that Rousseau, in the Second Discourse, lives fully up to his reputation as “a man of paradoxes”, permitting himself to defend a thesis as well as its opposite.

The aim of the book is to show that behind the paradoxes a profound mind is striving to produce a new and coherent picture of the childhood of mankind. To clear the way for Rousseau’s “deep thought” one must first eliminate the misleading interpretations which have marred the philosophical reception of the Second Discourse. Even some of its most fundamental concepts are often misunderstood by critics, for instance the so-called goodness of natural man, the idea of going back to nature or the equally incorrect assumption of the historic reality of the state of nature.

The author's first step is to propose a clear definition of Rousseau’s basic concepts (liberty, compassion, perfectibility, reason et cetera). Secondly, he discusses the evidently contradictory arguments which render a consistent definition so arduous, trying to explain the paradoxes as results of the permanent conflict going on inside the man. This was the conflict between visionary reformer (whom we know from the Social Contract) and anthropologist/sociologist who conducts his investigation as rationally as any other modern scientist. Finally, the author establishes the evolutionary model constructed by Rousseau. According to him, humanity evolved through six stages (state of nature, family, landed property, bellum omnium in omnes, social contract, revolution of the slaves) before arriving at the actual conformation.

At the very end of the essay, Rousseau surprisingly launches an ambitious research project in social psychology. He proclaims the need to study not the social, but the mental mechanisms which, operating throughout the evolution, have changed the very nature of man, producing “an assembly of artificial men”. The visionary philosopher aims at laying the ground for a new human nature, that is to create “the new man”.

Morten Nøjgaard. Emeritus professor of Romance philology, University of Southern Denmark. After a thesis on the history and structure of the Aesopic fable in ancient Greek and Latin literature, the main research publications of MN concern French literature from 1600 and the theory of literature with a special interest for narratology, the representation of time and the functions of literary description. Until recently MN has been general editor of the international review of literary studies Orbis Litterarum.

Science ou vision - Une analyse du Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes
Morten Nøjgaard
1. udgave 2024
ISBN: 9788773044568
Antal sider: 212
Pris: 200,00 kr.
Serie: Scientia Danica. Series H 8. Humanistica
Udgivelsesdato: 01-05-2024

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