Rousseau’s ‘First Discourse’

rousseau dent

In it we find a not yet fully developed presentation of several crucial ideas that he develops in much of his mature writing. They are that contemporary society and morality are deeply corrupt, despite the appearances of civility and courtesy; that little or no honour is accorded men and deeds of true virtue but is rather given to attributes and achievements which solicit invidious acclaim and celebrity; that idleness and luxury work together with a craving for distinction to cause men to glory in one another’s despite; that seeking such distinction places the meaning and value of one’s person and life at the disposal of others’ opinion of you; that the achievements that crown a life are very usually no more than pseudo-merits which have only the significance of making it possible to have the famous and the unknown; and that, beneath the appearance of civility, social and personal relations are pervaded by hostility, envy, contempt and malice as each individual tries to do down others.

References:

1. Dent, N. J. H. Rousseau. London: Routledge, 2005. Print. 57.

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