Views on Human Nature and the Division of Labour

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Views on Human Nature and the Division of Labour

(Question #1)

Margarita Banting

Student Number: 43108026

FDNS 103.002

Seminar Group: U2C

TA: Laura King

October 31, 2002

Rousseau’s, Smith’s, and Marx’s differing perspectives on human nature provides a basis for their reasoning on the division of labour.  Rousseau believes that as man perfects his ability to reason concepts, the more corrupt he grows to be. With this belief, Rousseau reasons that man becomes corrupt when he creates the division of labour.  Alternatively, Smith reasons that the division of labour exists because of man’s instinct to “barter” (317).  In contrast to Rousseau, he perceives the division of labour as advantageous to the economy.  Lastly, Marx sees the division of labour between the proletarian and the bourgeois.  Dependence, greed, and freedom are characteristics of human nature that allow the division of labour.  The men seek an effective ideology that allows human error, and its vices to occur in society, without disrupting it.

Rousseau argues that through the development of “education” and “habits”, man has “been able to corrupt” himself (294).  At the start of his progression, man’s relationship with nature is simple and innocent; he is not yet aware of his ability to reason. But Rousseau notices that through time, man’s abilities increase. Life, for him, becomes increasingly complicated.  

Rousseau observes that the savage man can adapt to different environments more than any other species because of their “ability to observe and imitate their industry” (295).  As savage man observes, he begins to relate ideas together.  For example, a man observes that large rocks, when thrown at animals can kill them.  He also observes that the meat of the dead animals nourish him.  By relating these observations, he develops his ability to reason:  he realizes that the rocks serve as excellent tools in catching prey.  Reason allows man to believe that he can control his environment—he is a “free agent” (296) from nature.  Once essential in man’s growth, nature now looses importance to him: “the will still speaks when nature is silent” (296).  

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When man is dependent on nature, few challenges arise, but when a society is created where man is dependent on his own species, corruption of the society begins.  Rousseau witnesses “how little [nature] prepared [man] for becoming habituated to the ways of society” (297).  “Natural pity” is what creates friendships; it “is what carries us without reflection to the aid of those we see suffering” (300).  But reason mutes pity and turns man against the nature that once nurtured him.  Reason then, aids in the corruption of man and his society. He “has merely to place his hands over his ...

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