No, Rousseau, Man Is a Social Animal

No man is an island. Economics is based on that fact. You can’t make an exchange, and markets cannot emerge, with solitary people leading solitary lives. Evolution bears this out. Our predecessors, from at least Australopithecus on down, lived in bands and tribes. Not alone. They lived, loved, ate, fought, and died together. We are evolved to need each other.

Rousseau, who died over 70 years before Darwin’s Origin of Species, thought differently. His Original Man in the state of nature assumes away our innate social tendencies. From his false premises come many of his false conclusions:

He [Rousseau] begins with a portrait of natural man as a solitary animal devoid of reason and speech, a being whose limited needs can be easily satisfied without depending on anyone, whose soul is restricted to the sole sentiment of his existence without any idea of the future, as near as it may be.

Robert Zaresky and John T. Scott, The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding, location 381 in the Kindle edition.

From that miserable Rousseauian Eden, we are fallen. Thank goodness.

One response to “No, Rousseau, Man Is a Social Animal

  1. But can we not be solitary WITH reason and speech?