Discussion questions on Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, Part I

1. In contrast to Rousseau's account, anthropologists now believe that for as long as human beings have existed, they have lived together in groups. To what extent does that detract from the value of Rousseau's account? What is he trying to accomplish?

2. In Rousseau's view, before the development of reason humans possess simple desires, such as the desire for food or sleep, a general concern for their own well-being and preservation, and compassion at the suffering of others. Is he right? Does it matter?

3. Rousseau maintains that human beings have two traits that distinguish them from animals. What are they? What relevance do they have to the origins of inequality?

4. What, according to Rousseau is human nature?