Rousseau's Discours sur l'inégalité - Opening Section

  • Created by: CaraPW
  • Created on: 03-05-21 12:49
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  • Rousseau's Discours sur l'inégalité - the introductory sections
    • Dédicace
      • Ironically dedicates his work to an unequal civil state
      • Addresses Genevan citizens in second person
      • Justifies dedication to Genevan Citizens (educated elite men)
      • Partly classic flattery of Geneva
      • Says that approach to equality and inequality in Geneva is closest to natural law
      • Doesn't think it's perfect or natural, but is the best sort of unequal society
      • There is bound to be inequality, because inequality comes from man
    • Préface
      • Identifies gap in reader knowledge that makes answering the essay prompt impossible
      • We can't possibly know which laws are natural for man unless we know what man was like in their natural state - his discours will determine this
      • Written in first person
    • Exordium
      • Distinguishes between natural and moral inequality
      • In nature, there are human inequalities
      • There is physical inequality, which is unavoidable, and is hardly felt at all in comparison to moral inequality
      • Moral inequality is a fact of nature - "une sorte de convention" - he struggles to find a word for what it is that justifies inequality that is unjustifiable
      • Uses his rhetorical skill in manipulating language to reinforce his message - makes us think that the concept is so incomprehensible that it's indescribable, but is more concrete with natural inequality
      • First half written in the first person, then a switch to the second person using 'tu; halfway through, addresses single reader like a preacher would
    • Use of voice and language
      • Paradoxes - books of fellow men are supposedly filled with lies, but he tells us this in a book, gets around this by saying his book might have falsehoods because of inaccurate translation onto paper
        • Says everything that comes from nature in his book is true
      • Increasingly messiah-like voice throughout opening section
        • Says human developments should have stopped earlier, but that we're not unrecognisable - he seems like a prophet
      • Moments of optimism contrasting deep troughs of despair
      • Causal chains communicated through 'retrograder' - we can't go back, people who come after should be nervous - communicates degradation


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