Philosophy / RousseauÐ’Ò‘S Savage

RousseauÐ’Ò‘S Savage

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Autor:  anton  27 October 2010
Tags:  Rousseaus,  Savage
Words: 885   |   Pages: 4
Views: 931


A savage man as Rousseau describes himВ—an illusion or real history?

To convince us in the decline of morality connected with the introduction of civil society, Rousseau gives a colourful description of man as he was made by natureВ—a savage man. With his help Rousseau tries to show the weekness of modern man and bad sides of the modern society. But is this comparison

justified? Has there really ever been a happy time with independent and innocent men or is the famous philosopher just longing the illusion? I am sure that a lot of arguments can be presented here from different fields of science and knowledge, but I would like to concentrate on those based on biology.

First, it is important to notice that we are not talking about an ancestor of human as we know him today, not about an ape or a neanderthal man. As Rousseau puts it:"I shall soppose him to have been formed from all time as I see him today: walking on two feet, using his hands as we do ours, directing his gaze on all of nature, and measuring the vast expanse of heaven with his eyes".This should be remembered because in the light of this sentence, the following statements that Rousseau makes, gain a quite different meaning.

To start with ,one could ask if the lonely and totally independent existence of man is really possible. Rousseau describes the peaceful life of the savage man:"I see him satisfying his hunger under an ouk, quenching his thirst at the first stream, finding his bed at the foot of the same tree, that furnished his meal; and therewith his needs are satisfied." Seems too good to be true. But if there is not enough food and water? What if wild animals use his sleep to attack and kill him? To prevent such miserable prospects, savage man has to store food and built a shelter. But that would mean that he has some fosight and this is in contradiction withRousseau's views of savage man. Actually it should not, because from the quotation in the second paragraph one can assume that this ancient man has reached some level of intelligence and is at least capable of learning. He should therefor try to avoid the unpleasant experience in the past. One way to do this is to cooperate with others. To live completely on one's own is not difficult just from the physical aspect but also from that of psychology. Man is a social animal and needs communication with others for normal development and existence. It can be also seen on our closest relatives apes, that perish quietly , when they are on some reason separated from the others.

Rousseau admits that there were cases when men(in the meaning of men and women) did get together. It was to have intercouse with each other. But again a contradiction with nature can be found. Rousseau is on the opinion that fighting for a woman is a result of modern society and its moral laws and that in the ancient times every man just took the woman that crossed his way and no competition was known among savages. I have my doubts about it. Everywhere in the nature there is competitionВ—from the lowest levels as insects to the highest levels of development like mammals. This is the basis of life. Only the strongest, the best have the chance to mate and pass on his genes. This is the quarantee of the quality of the species. It would be irrational to think, that man could be an exception to that universal rule. Rousseau argues here that unlike other animals humans are capable of having sex and producing children all year long and has thus no need for competition. But apes are also ready all year long and have still fights for females. So yhe competitive element is not strictly tied to the periodical chance to have intercouse, it is universal.

Another crack can be found in Rousseau's theory. He thinks that to satisfy his needs every woman is good enough for the savage man. "For his mind could not form abstract ideas of regularity and proportion, so his heart is not susceptible to the sentiments of admiration and love that, even without being noticed, arise from the application of these ideas." Today it is known that one doesn't have to form these ideas. They are put into us already by nature. Without even noticing it we prefer individuals with proportional face and body. It aplies also to other animals, as researches have shown. What concernes the love and admiration that are said to arise from it, then we can see in the nature that in a lot of cases it is not trueВ—after mating the male and female go separate ways. But there are species that form couples that last for lifetime. For example storkes. Is it love that tides them together or something else this is not known. These two rules of natureВ—competition and sense of proportionВ—that are used to find a partner are essential for the quality and survival of the species, as it minimizes the number of weak and disabled successors. It is obvious then that these laws were valid also for the savage man and are in a way also in modern society.

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