the need to sidestep jealousy & competition & to look exclusively at ourselves to identify our self-worth, to resist the evils of comparison so as to avoid misery & feelings of inadequacy

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Philosophy – Jean-Jacques Rousseau (born in 1712, Geneva, Switzerland; died 1778)

A summary if the main ideas:
– modern life founded around the idea of progress
– notion of happiness being bound to knowing more (science & technology) & having more (economically)
– 18th century – view took hold that mankind was on a positive trajectory moving from ignorance & barbarism towards prosperity & civility
– Rousseau was an opposing voice to this “idea of progress”
– discussion of his turbulent childhood
– his later exposure to opulence & luxury in Paris c/w Geneva
– influenced by a paper by the Academie de Dijon that civilisation & progress had NOT in fact improved people (moral decline, competitive quest for luxury & emulation of others higher in the social hierarchy based on family & wealth)
– he in turn wrote “Discourse on Arts & Science” which argued:
– human history was a story of regress rather than enlightenment
– a movement away from simplicity, listening to our needs & being “good” (his “state of Nature” idea where people understood intuitively features of a satisfied life: family, respect for Nature (including empathy for others), awe of the universe, a curiosity of others, interest in music & simple entertainments)
– a movement towards “vice” & being reduced to pauperism, of envying others, longing for social accoutrements/material goods & suffering in a world of plenty
– although a controversial work, it made Rousseau famous.
– civilisation had awoken in mankind “self-love” centred on pride, jealousy/envy & vanity, based on looking at other people o gain their sense of self
– in his view, civilisation meant/translated into:
– people ceasing to think about what they wanted & felt
– people began to imitate others
– people competed with each other for status & money (careers, luxury goods/material possessions & looking “good”)
Whereas primitive man focused upon himself & his survival – contentment amidst simplicity

– discussion about indigenous societies & their “psychologically rewarding” social structure & societal features

– his work today resonates & encourages the need to sidestep jealousy & competition & to look exclusively at ourselves to identify our self-worth, to resist the evils of comparison so as to avoid misery & feelings of inadequacy

Source: The Philosopher’s Mail @ http://thephilosophersmail.com/virtues/the-great-philosophers-jean-jacques-rousseau/

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