7. Rosseau 143
Chapter 7 Rousseau I shall suppose his conformation to have been at all times what it appears to us at this day; that he always walked on two legs, made use of his hands as we do, di- rected his looks over all nature, and measured with his eyes the vast expanse of Heaven. —Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755)1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau embraced anthropological (intraspecies) change and sociological progress, but he rejected biological transformism (the notion that man metamorphosed from species of a lower organization). As an ob- server of nature, he held that there was no evidence that man had ever been a quadruped. As a deist, he agreed with Buffon that man left the hands of God as a biped, not a quadruped, in the same anthropomorphic form as we see him today. God differentiated man from the animals by giving him intellec- tual potential or intellectual perfectibility (that is, the ability to learn and im- prove himself as he grows older) and free will. There were several factors that influenced Rousseau’s thought: 1. He had enormous respect for Buffon and Buffon rejected transform- ism. Buffon hypothesized that an interior molding force shapes the essential physical characteristics of each species and that therefore, species do not undergo significant changes over time. Rousseau ac- cepted the permanence of man’s anthropomorphic characteristics. 2. Rousseau was a deist and he believed that God created all species perfectly at the time of Creation. In the first sentence of...
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