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A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,984 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
Jean Jacques Rousseau was born at Geneva, June 28, 1712, the son of a watchmaker of French origin. His education was irregular, and though he tried many professions-including engraving, music, and teaching-he found it difficult to support himself in any of them. The discovery of his talent as a writer came with the winning of a prize offered by the Academy of Dijon for a d ...more
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Published April 26th 2004 by NuVision Publications (first published 1755)
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Mar 13, 2015 Siddharth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I shall hopefully write a proper review once I have composed my thoughts, but for now I will seek to emulate the delighted and reverential tone of those critics whose choiciest lines of praise are plastered on the back-cover, front-cover and insides of books:

"A magnificent triumph of imagination, scholarship and reason!"


The discourse is divided into two parts. Part I deals with Man in the "State of Nature" (a concept used to denote the hypothetical conditions of what the lives of people migh
David Sarkies
Aug 02, 2014 David Sarkies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in political philosophy
Recommended to David by: Some Guy on the internet
Shelves: philosophy
Why rulers are rulers and why we serve them
18 January 2013

I found this book an interesting read and it does has some interesting concepts. While it sort of reads like Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, much of the ideas are based upon speculation and Rousseau's conclusions seem to be little more than guess work. Mind you, it is interesting to see such a discourse written over one hundred years before Darwin wrote his Origin of the Species, and it appears that Darwin has borrowed from this text. Ho
Jun 10, 2007 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
rousseau has written the first anti-civ, anarchist philosophical essay that i am aware of. it doesn't seem to be fully acknowledged as that, but it's clear what rousseau is talking about when he declares "All ran to meet their chains thinking they secured their freedom... Such was the origin of society and laws, which gave new fetters to the weak and new forces to the rich, destroyed natural freedom for all time, established forever the law of property and inequality, changed a clever usurpation ...more
Wided Nems
يعدّ جان جاك روسو من أوائل الفلاسفة الذين ركزوا في العصر الحديث على الخطاب الفلسفي الناسوتي ,يتجلى لنا منظوره الأنثروبولوجي في خطابه أصل التفاوت بين البشر ,في اتخاذه الإنسان موضوعًا للدراسة, جاعلًا من البدائي نموذج يعكس لنا الحالة الطبيعية للإنسان , أو حتى "نموذج للفرز بين ماهو طبيعي وماهو اصطناعي في طبيعة الإنسان المدني" , مقارنًا _من الناحية الفيزيقية والأخلاقية_بين البدائي والمتمدن من جهة , وبين الإنسان والحيوان من جهة أخرى

في عام 1753 طرحت أكاديمية ديجون سؤالًا على عموم الكتّاب : ما أصل التف
Justin Evans
I'm occasionally struck by how bad the great classics of political philosophy are. Consider that, when teaching philosophy, we spend an awful lot of energy convincing students that their arguments have to be tight, they have to avoid fallacies, they have to back up their reasoning, and they have to avoid special pleading. Then we give them Locke's treatises, or The Prince, or this great turd of philosophical unreason.

That said, once you decide this isn't a work of philosophy, it gets much bette
Feb 05, 2013 Scot rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, political
I had a much harder time diving into this discourse compared to his previous on art and science which I thoroughly enjoyed. Once I got through his ramblings, which was about half of the book, I was thoroughly captivated though which salvaged my rating and of course overall enjoyment. It seems to be an imperative to remember the timing of its release and not apply modern filters, otherwise you can easily groan and guffaw at his treatise on the "noble savages" in the first half of the book. If you ...more
Feb 25, 2013 Clint rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Without Rousseau’s careful reflections on “the distance from pure sensations to the simplest knowledge”, Kant couldn’t have applied his theory that, “Men work themselves gradually out of barbarity if only intentional artifices are not made to hold them in it.” Rousseau says the distance couldn’t have been bridged without communication and goes on to show how incredibly slow the process to create language must have been. Society must have been a precursor to real language, the first ideas must ha
Mar 21, 2016 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The problem with reading Rousseau’s ‘Discourse on Inequality’ more than 250 years after its composition is that the content alternately seems obvious, because it had such influence on subsequent work, and archaic, because so much has been superceded. On balance it was still worth reading, although I wouldn’t have bothered if my mum hadn’t given me a copy. The overall argument about human nature inevitably seems dated and repeated references to 'savages' grate. Rousseau’s views on women also real ...more
I remember having to read Rousseau's confessions at school, a pursuit I artfully dodged being the first rate slacker that I was. Yet I did not escaped the few lessons we were taught on this character, which I somehow came to picture, based on those partial readings, as a whiny, self-loathing and moralizing character, which in those attributes seemed quite credible as the father of the democratic thought.
More recently I have come across a variety of texts addressing a very different Rousseau - u
Nov 11, 2015 Kichi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This serves as a sort of footnote to his first Discourse. Here, Rousseau exposes the misconceptions about "man in nature" as opposed to "man in society." Brilliantly marshaled, his ideas emphasize the value in constantly assessing what direction civil progress is taking us. Very sound, though a few of his conclusions fail to confront the issues he had so clearly pointed out.
Valdemar Gomes
It is old, what it says is antiquated and much of it can be disproved with an "Anthropology 101" book. It has its historical relevance and it has some very nice premises. Still, the further it goes, the worse it gets. This whole book is a snowball fallacy.

P.S. Terrible conclusion! Primitivism or faith and loyalty to the state? Bah how limited.
Juka Pakatsoshvili
the text is a little controversial. one should read it carefully, otherwise she/he might be deceived. understanding Rousseau is much more difficult than Hobbes or Locke
translated by Lester Crocker.

Although this treatise contains many good points, and some advanced ideas on democratic government, I found its argument empty. Even given that Rousseau’s construction of the “natural world,” of early, “savage” man is a conjecture, a hypothetical thought experiment, it is misinformed and lacks any data to even suggest validity. My two main objections are: (i) the “original” state of man was not, in fact, a solitary nomadic one, but most likely has always been a triba
Jul 19, 2013 Srivani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This piece was essentially written for an "essay competition" (by the Academy of Dijon, I believe) before Rousseau realized that he was a good writer and that he should perhaps do it professionally.

Les Miserables, the musical, is one of our favorites and we have recently started reading the book. This essay was interesting to read in that context because it gives an idea about the prevailing ideas in France at the time that eventually led to the revolution and more.

This was a period in modern w
Skyler Myers
Jan 06, 2014 Skyler Myers rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Rousseau
"The civil law being thus become the common rule of citizens, the law of nature no longer obtained but among the different societies, in which, under the name of the law of nations, it was qualified by some tacit conventions to render commerce possible, and supply the place of natural compassion, which, losing by degrees all that influence over societies which it originally had over individuals, no longer exists but in some great souls, who consider themselves as citizens of the world, and forci ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Andre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rousseau is rather convincing on humanity in a primitive state. He's full of wondrous examples and beautiful delineations in which he presents a view of nature that runs counter to Hobbes (and in some respects to Golding), yet how relevant such an analysis to civilized man is, I am not sure. We are born into society, born into inequality, from which there can be no hope of return. Judging from Rousseau's quoting of Locke, I think it is fair to assess that he would agree that a return is impossib ...more
Jan 15, 2016 Bertport rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
During my first reading of this essay, I was repeatedly annoyed by how much Rousseau got wrong about non-civilized man. But eventually I decided to take into account that he had little factual information available to work with. He said as much at the beginning, that he had to speculate because science had not progressed far enough for him to avoid it. Rousseau's thinking about early man introduced some fundamental concepts that are still driving anthropology and evolutionary psychology today. F ...more
Jim Coughenour
I've never understood the attraction of Rousseau – but then, up to now, I'd only read extracts and synopses of his work. My book group (which is more serious than I am) decided to read both his discourses, The Social Contract and his letter to Letter to d'Alembert. In this book his passion for thinking and feeling is palpable, although I'm with most of the skeptics in being unpersuaded by either. Still, with the assistance of Ernst Cassirer and the entertaining The Philosopher's Quarrel, I'm gai ...more
Nov 18, 2012 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
While Rousseau's premise is not one I find I totally agree with, the Second Discourse is an interesting work, written with verve and passion. The style of writing takes a little getting used to, but I find it more accessible than the works of a some of Rousseau's contemporaries (looking at you, Hume and Kant). For anyone interested in the ideas or political history of the eighteenth century, this is well worth a read. The arguments presented here may not always be convincing, but the originality ...more
تُقاس جودة الكتاب بمدى طول فترة صمود افكاره..
روسو هنا يقلب الموازين فيجعل المدنية هي الوحشية والبدائية هي البراءة الأولى

كتاب مهم جدًا ويستحق القراءة
Paloma *Corrado's Bellissima*

he wrote this all jumbled like 5 things at once it was so confusing
Azzam To'meh
It is a really interesting discourse, very similar to Hobbes's discourse and the examination of man in the state of nature. It does, however, lack much anthropological accuracy, which he does recognize as a defect in his writing in the beginning. Distinctly, he looks at man as far more autonomous in the state of nature than did Locke or Hobbes. His recognition of property as the beginning of civilization is interesting, and very well-argued. The general view of the book is: lots of good ideas mi ...more
Rosa Ramôa
Jun 19, 2015 Rosa Ramôa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"As Infelizes Necessidades do Homem Civilizado

Um autor célebre, calculando os bens e os males da vida humana, e comparando as duas somas, achou que a última ultrapassa muito a primeira, e que tomando o conjunto, a vida era para o homem um péssimo presente. Não fiquei surpreendido com a conclusão; ele tirou todos os seus raciocínios da constituição do homem civilizado. Se subisse até ao homem natural, pode-se julgar que encontraria resultados muito diferentes; porque perceberia que o homem só tem
Fatima Saeed
يحمل كتاب أصل التفاوت بين الناس تأملات الإنسان التي تُستلهَم من طبيعته المتجردة و التي تحمل في طياتها جوهر الأصالة في التكوين الإنساني، و ذلك من خلال دراسته للإنسان، و حاجاته الحقيقية. ويشتمل الكتاب على وصف خيالي لحال الإنسان الذي تكبله الأغلال في كل مكان، كما يعلِّل الفساد القائم بين البشر بالتفاوت بين أفراد المجتمع في المعاملات.
نص فلسفي فريد استطاع أن يفرض نفسه لثلاثة قرون على الفكر البشري.
Nov 07, 2015 Ciara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arts-one, for-school
Reading this book straight after Hobbes was such a treat. I'm not talking about the content of the book, but rather the way it is written. A Discourse on Inequality was had so much more flow, in comparison to Leviathan and lacked the "eth's" that Hobbes loved to used. It so much easier to understand. My brain thanks you.

This book is a classic case of "But wait, there's more!" where everything you're waiting for is giant mess. Rousseau started out with some pretty interesting ideas, but as the b
Yazeed AlMogren
يقوم جان جاك روسو في هذا الكتاب بتفكيك الإنسان الطبيعي المتمدن التي أسهمت مدنيته ومعرفته في تكوين اللامساواة بين أفراده الى الصفر ويرجعه الى بداياته عندما كان إنسانًا متوحشًا يعيش في الغابات لاهم له سوى قوت يومه ومطاردة فرائسه لكي يعطي تحليلًا واضحًا وكاملًا عن كيفية ظهور اللامساواة بين البشر.
Ethar Mahmoud
أصل التفاوت بين الناس : الكتاب ده مقدمة لأشهر كتاب لروسو اللى هو العقد الاجتماعى ......
ف جملة فالفصل التانى دى لخصت تقريبا فلسفة روسو والغرض من الكتاب ((كل تقدم حدث هو نحو الكمال ف الظاهر،ونحو هرم النوع فالحقيقة))
روسو متبنى ف فلسفته فكرة أن المدنية والحضارة هى أصل كل الشرور اللى ظهرت فالنفس البشرية .....
فالكتاب هنا بيناقش منبع اعتقاده بكده وأن ازاى بعد ماكانت كل الناس سواسية ،حصل التفاوت وهكذا.......
فالفصل الأول رجع ده لبداية ظهور اللغة واختلاف الألسنة بين الناس ....وخلينى أعترف ان الفصل ده بال
Maan Kawas
Jan 24, 2014 Maan Kawas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful book by the great French thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau that tries to examine the origin and foundations among men! Although, it is an imaginary journey that tries to trace the evolution of modern man as well as modern society- particularly in relation to political inequality, it uses a beautiful logical and beautiful methodology. I was surprised to see Rousseau discussing some questions related to evolution, evolutionary psychology in particular. In his examination Rousseau tries to g ...more
It's a really great book though Rousseau didn't have the anthropological studies we have today. So he had to work with what was available to him. He establishes his view about the natural state of man which was something popular in those days after Hobbes' Leviathan. Part 1 establishes many little things and points he makes, then in part 2 which is shorter, he combines what the points he previously made to reach a conclussion.

If only he would have had Anthropology back then his ideas wouldn't s
Nov 17, 2009 Adonis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book really intresting, my friend recomended me the book and once i opened i couldnt find myself closing the book. The author begins with notes on Rousseau life and how his views changed as he grew and moved from place to place and how specific people had affected him, from intellectuals to those who payed for his studies. In Rousseau paper i really found his points intresting and compelling, and i could see why he one so writing competitions during his age. i personaly think that m ...more
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains an important figure in the history of philosophy, both because of his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and because of his influence on later thinkers. Rousseau's own view of philosophy and philosophers was firmly negative, seeing philosophers as the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as pl ...more
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“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” 42 likes
“The extreme inequality of our ways of life, the excess of idleness among some and the excess of toil among others, the ease of stimulating and gratifying our appetites and our senses, the over-elaborate foods of the rich, which inflame and overwhelm them with indigestion, the bad food of the poor, which they often go withotu altogether, so hat they over-eat greedily when they have the opportunity; those late nights, excesses of all kinds, immoderate transports of every passion, fatigue, exhaustion of mind, the innumerable sorrows and anxieties that people in all classes suffer, and by which the human soul is constantly tormented: these are the fatal proofs that most of our ills are of our own making, and that we might have avoided nearly all of them if only we had adhered to the simple, unchanging and solitary way of life that nature ordained for us. ” 33 likes
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