Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rousseau number 2

Last post I talked about Rousseau's essay "A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality", this post I'm going to quote one of my favorite paragraphs from it.

"As an unbroken steed bristles his mane, paws the ground with his hoof, and struggles violently at the mere approach of the bit, while a trained horse patiently endures the whip and the spur, barbarous man does not bow his head for the yoke that civilized man wears without a murmur, and he prefers the most stormy liberty to tranquil subjection. Thus it is not by the degradation of enslaved peoples that man's natural dispositions for or against servitude are to be judged, but by the wonders that all free peoples have accomplished to safeguard themselves from oppression. I know that enslaved peoples do nothing but boast of the peace and tranquility they enjoy in their chains and that they give the name 'peace' to the most miserable slavery. But when I see free peoples sacrificing pleasures, tranquility, wealth, power, and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is regarded so disdainfully by those who have lost it; when I see animals born free and abhorring captivity break their heads against the bars of their prison; when I see multitudes of utterly naked savages scorn European pleasures and brave hunger, fire, sword and death, simply to preserve their independence, I sense that it is inappropriate for slaves to reason about liberty."

1 comment:

AT said...

One of my favorite passages from Rousseau's "Discourse on the Origins of Inequality" lies hidden in his notes. It reads as follows: “Individuals may well come and go; it seems that philosophy travels nowhere; moreover, the philosophy of one people is little suited to another.”