Rational Religion

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However, Rousseau Was Not an Idiot...


...Although it takes a great deal of charity to value his exalted principles in the face of his abominable grasp of both history and of "human nature."


Rousseau's theoretical "state of nature" probably never existed anywhere; certainly not for more than five minutes and NOwhere that there were human beings of ANY state of evolution.


He idealized "primitive" societies to the point of criminality.  His notions about Native Americans, for instance, could only have been formulated by an intelligence which had never studied them in depth or close up; or one so dedicated to proving his tortured thesis that it was capable of ignoring anything which contradicted his theories.


Rousseau's central premise that most of man's ills sprang from his surrendering his splendid individual isolation to society doesn't hold water from any study of the human animal, before or since.   We were doubtless social, through many phases of evolution, before we were human; with all the vicissitudes that implies in the becoming.


The Great Philosopher's basic premises are all so flawed it is difficult to keep a straight face long enough to realize that his vision of future man, and man's possible societies, was intensely moral and even ethical. 


Rousseau would make us all saints, which of course will never happen; but if he succeeds in making a FEW of us worthy of beatification he will have served an admirable purpose.