Rousseau's solitary man
This thesis gives a synoptic account of Rousseau’s description, in the Second Discourse, of the original a-sociability of human beings and the subsequent emergence of human society as the chance outcome of various contingent alterations to the original human condition. It takes up three major questions that arise in connection with this account: (1) What is the basis for Rousseau’s denial of natural human sociability? (2) What turns on, or what is at stake in, Rousseau’s denial of natural human sociability? And (3) what is the significance and what are the relative statuses of the different stages of the state of nature, in particular, of the first and the last of these stages, “the pure state of nature” and “nascent society”? This thesis argues that Rousseau thinks that natural sociability is a necessary condition for natural law, and for the naturalness of morality more broadly, which are, in his view, essential components of the Christian scholastic view of man, as well as the official position of classical political philosophy, both of which he wants to deny. In light of what’s at stake, this thesis also addresses the question of the basis upon which Rousseau denies that human beings are naturally sociable. It contributes to the scholarly literature on these questions by drawing our attention to the evidence for a-sociability Rousseau draws from his reflections on the origin of languages in the Second Discourse and the Essay on the Origin of Languages.