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To address both the passages and the other comments I fear some length will

be required; I dont think most of the comments fully or fairly evaluated the
arguments. In Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau articulates his ideas about the
source of the same. He ultimately traces the source of inequality to a system that
rewards differentials in intelligence, strength, and skill, rather than honor and
goodness- the gifted realizing their relative superiority, causes on the one side
vanity and contempt, and on the other shame and envy. He conceptualizes
inequality as an evolution- as the first gifted aggrandized, the difference between
men, developed by their different circumstances...beg[an] to have an
influence...over the lot of individuals.. The wealthy then created government to
restrain the many poor from overcoming them; one against allthe rich man
conceivedto give them other institutions as favorable to himself as the law of
nature was unfavorable codifying inequality. He describes these consequences
simply as the natural progression of worth judgements based on ability, and
characterizes a system where each labors only by himself as free, healthy, honest
and happy. Thus, what he means when he says men are wicked, is that as we
begin to compare ourselves in worth, we compete for worth (creating equality and
violence), while a man alone can have no such desire, and so is naturally good. He
criticizes capitalism (or something like it) as a system where it is impossible for a
man who has nothing to have anything, [and] where a good man has no escape
from his misery. What Rousseau really questions is the end to knowledge, wealth,
and ability- he intuits a still unanswered question: what is all our learning and selfimprovement for? Is it for an ever better state of well-being? Possessions?
Enlightenment? To convince others and ourselves of our own superiority? What
makes him so radical is that he values human goodness, virtue, and contentedness,
where others value ever greater physical welfare; he recognizes the nature of the
hedonic treadmill, questions the value of luxuries and esteem, (and so the means to
acquire them), as well as the side effects of those means. Material comforts lose all
their power to please, and even degenerate[d] into real needs, till the want of them
became far more disagreeable than the possession of them had been pleasant. His
criticism of science and learning is the same as of any other kind of self-interested
competition, that it only serves to heighten inequality of ability, with its only benefit
being to arm us with new defenses against natural inconveniences- that is, as we
become accustomed to our new welfare, it loses its utility, and so we demand ever
more. For him science is simply instrumental, grasping at some benefit that will
never materialize. He describes how we strayed from what is really valuable, to
what does not get lost in an infinite regress of desire toward nebulous innovation.
He would criticize capitalism for its equation of worth with the ability satisfy
material demands, and he cuts right to the core of what the meaning of human life
really is; while his critique is certainly outdated, it is still highly relevant. He
certainly is not writing purely out of ignorance, or out of some irrational hate for
science- he does not want the destruction of education, as he concedes that now,
because the desire for esteem has been entrenched, learning must be a distraction
for those that would seek it more nefarious ways.