Nekea Strong Professor NullHistory 10221 January 2018A Discourse onInequalityThe author Jean Jacques Rousseau wasthe son of a French watch maker. Rousseau had an odd background. His educationwas very unstable. He tried many different sources of employment and none ofthem lasted.
His only true talent was in his writing. Rousseau won a prizegiven by the academy of Dijon for a discourse to the question “whether theprogress of the sciences and of letters has tended to corrupt or to elevatemorals.” (Discourse on the Origin ofInequality). The academy of Dijon was extremely pleased with Rousseau’swork and his writing started to gain attention. Later on, Rousseau wrote an essaycalled A Discourse on Inequality. Rousseau wrote this essay in response toanother question proposed by the academy of Dijon.
The question asked, “what isthe origin of the inequality among mankind; and whether such inequality isauthorized by the law of nature?” (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality). The main purpose of this essay isto explain how there is such vast inequality among men and whether thisinequality is caused by nature or the rules of society. The first argument Rousseaupresented is the two inequalities between men, one being natural and the otherbeing moral or mental inequality.
Rousseau then goes back and gets his audienceto question what the cause of inequality is. He then shares with his audience thatman and nature, both have some sort of a role. Heconsidered one of man’s natures to be body strength.
Rousseau then tells hisreaders that society has been told they are extremely different from animals,but when it comes down to it humans and animals may be a little different, butinside we are actually the same. The text explains how animals get their characterbased on the elements that they are surrounded by, and how humans do not receiveany of that character because as humans our only tool is our body. Rousseauargues that if you take a man and strip him down, underneath we will find thesame thing that’s under an animal, but a weaker version of the animal. Thestrategy that Rousseau presents in this essay is he first introduces an idea tothe reader, makes the reader question it, inserts his opinion, then argues hisopinion. The intended audience of this discourse were the professors at theacademy of Dijon, and because of this I believe this forced Jean to make thisessay much more persuasive and make his opinion seem like fact. I believe thatthe experiences that Rousseau has faced makes him a reliable author and giveshim credibility. I believe Rousseau is reliable because he witnessed thisinequality first hand.Rousseau’s A Discourse onInequality differs a little from our current age.
One example would be inRousseau’s age, it was important for an individual to have a trade or aknowledge in a certain skill in order to support themselves. In our era, manyindividuals get paid a large amount of money for making an app, going viral onthe internet, making rap music, and other various hobbies that do not requirean education. Having a trade or having a good education was very importantduring that time. Because of this, some individuals of this generation wouldnot entirely understand certain parts of Rousseau’s argument. I personallyfound all of Rousseau’s arguments valid. A Discourse on Inequality supportsthe arguments found in Visions of The GreatGood Spirit. Visions of The Great Good Spirit is a primary source is about howthe “white man” changed the Native Americans way of life in the worst wayspossible (Pollard et al.
600). The primary source gives readers insight from aNative American perspective on how inequality has always been a huge issue insociety. In both sources inequality appears, but in very different ways. In bothprimary sources the idea of inequality is looked upon as unnatural. One of the major differences in these primarysources is, the Visions of The Great GoodSpirit has more of a spiritual background and is more focused on thespiritual condition than Rousseau’s discourse. Rousseau’s in my opinion refersmore to the elements of nature and psychology rather than a spirituality.
I findboth of these primary sources reliable and credible. Both Rousseau and Tenskwatawahad first-hand experience with inequality and the other issues they wroteabout.In the primary source The Azamgarh Proclamation, it discusseshow equality and freedom were taken away from the Hindoos and Mohammedans bythe English and their way of life (Pollard et al. 603). Were the English entirelyresponsible for the destroying the Hindoos and Mohammedans culture? Yes, theEnglish did enforce laws that resulted in unequal treatment, but the English hadto 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 deeperinto the understanding of how inequality became a concept.
WorkscitedEmbree, 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 HenryHarrison.
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. OxfordUniversity Press, 2009.