308: The State of Gaming Nature

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Dastardly:
What's interesting to me about both Hobbes and Rousseau is that neither seemed to really get into how the genesis of "society" plays into our state of nature. They seemed to speak as though Society was somehow imposed on us by an outside force, some unseen "zookeeper," rather than constructed by mankind itself. Society isn't in conflict with our nature. It reveals our nature, or rather what we feel about our nature, because we created it.

Neither of them saw a real need, considering the state of nature for either was a thought experiment to illustrate their end goal: for Rousseau, demonstrating that the convention of property was the basis of all inequality; for Hobbes, demonstrating that people are inherently wicked and needed an autocratic figure to guide them. That said, they both very explicitly did discuss the genesis of society out of this hypothetical state of nature, which for both was the capacity to reason: Rousseau held that the desire to claim and own property was that which created society, and Hobbes held that the fear of death was that which created society. Either way, society and the contracts which both philosophers espoused were born of man.

Honestly, I don't think either philosopher really applies to either game, considering societal constraint pre-dated the time periods either game espoused and throws the whole thing into a mess of either observer's dilemma or confirmation bias depending how you look at it. Yes, Rousseau mistakenly used Native American culture to add rhetorical flair to his argument in A Discourse in Inequality, but that use was not only wildly inaccurate but contradicted his own state of nature; yes, under Hobbes postulated the potential to return to the state of nature in the absence of autocracy, which is empirically disprovable straight out of the game even at the time he wrote the book.

Which, as a sidenote, was little other than pro-monarchical propaganda at the time, until Locke took the concept of the social contract and ran with it in his essays supporting William of Orange. Why yes, I'm still a little sore over my article pitch about vidjagame morality systems being constrained by designer-dictated and -enforced objectivity (and necessarily consequentialist) being rejected.

I love this weeks articles (they do this stuff weekly on the Escapist don't they...?) normally I don't take much interest in them but this is pretty good.

Yes, as mentioned above this is an excellent feature. Interesting, well written and with plenty of well thought out points.

Reading a little too far into these games.

Certainly they can be a lens into how developers think about human nature, but it seems silly to think they were designed that way to specifically evoke those thoughts. That's a level of reading I doubt they ever intended.

More likely these developers simply looked at the world around them and tried to mimic human nature as they saw it. The best media of any kind has always been that which was true to human nature.

That is the great part about Fallout NV...the story and even the general gameplay changes considerably with the choices you make...the wastes don't have to be a bloody place if you make the correct choices, and you can easily play nice with both sides of most disputes. Sure, there are some chem addicts that attack everyone...but they can be dealt with using only a few small bullets; you can even shoot their baseball bats and then they will run away. If you did some planning, you might actually be able to beat that game without killing anything. Also, there are more than two endings. Personally, I liked the ending where the desert was left in Anarchy.

mattag08:
Reading a little too far into these games.

More likely these developers simply looked at the world around them and tried to mimic human nature as they saw it. The best media of any kind has always been that which was true to human nature.

See, the thing is that designers can and do integrate heavily intellectual concepts into game design, but when it's done well the footprint is so light that you only recognize those things if you observe the game through that lens. Look no further than BioShock (as much as I hate to invoke that considered I loathed the game) for an example of some hefty intellectual business going on under the hood of a first-person shooter; the game's backstory and plot was a thorough deconstruction of Objectivism as a political theory, with some free will stuff thrown in, and you'd never known it unless you read about it or had already read Rand.

More to the point, New Vegas was written by Chris Avellone -- the guy who wrote games like Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, and Knights of the Old Republic 2. Look at any of those games and tell me there's not some deep intellectual stuff going on under the hood. The guy knows his stuff and integrates it well into the games he writes. Did Avellone sit down and decide when working on FO2, VB, NV, or the FO Bible "I'm going to envision a Hobbesian state of nature!"? probably not (especially considering the FO universe would be a poor reflection of a truly Hobbesian state of nature to begin with), but stuff like PS:T, KoTOR2, and (not Avellone's, but fits here) BioShock aren't created in a vacuum; a working understanding of the underlying concepts is necessary to craft a piece of work and translate it to an audience, while leaving a light enough footprint to not dominate the piece.

Fantastic article, it was very delicious and filling food for thought all in all. As for the debate I see abit of middle ground that can be reached between the two games/schools of thought. But since Im unable to find a philosopher and a game to go with this view point I hold Im more inclined to side with Red Dead Redemption and Rousseau.

Both arguments are wrong-headed. Freedom is the willingness to deal with the consequences of one's actions.

Andrew Bell:
The State of Gaming Nature

Judging by Fallout: New Vegas and Red Dead Redemption, centuries-old philosophers Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau would've made pretty good game designers.

Read Full Article

As a fan of both games, I really enjoyed this article. One note though: on page 2, it's "New Austin", not "New Austen".

I wonder if the people that made Pong had any idea what was to come.

I think John Locke would have also been a good game designer. Funny that I had to just do a report on those three.

This was a darned fine article.

I don't really know what to say other than that was great. I personally can't decide between two camps, but I will say I was always more of A John Locke fan than Hobbes. Locke was always more about the combine efforts of people rather than the divine right of single leaders. That doesn't have much to do with the state of nature thing but whatever. Locke however did agree that without community and civilization, people were basically animals.

Eacaraxe:

Which, as a sidenote, was little other than pro-monarchical propaganda at the time, until Locke took the concept of the social contract and ran with it in his essays supporting William of Orange. Why yes, I'm still a little sore over my article pitch about vidjagame morality systems being constrained by designer-dictated and -enforced objectivity (and necessarily consequentialist) being rejected.

Exactly.

What a wonderfully worded and thoughtful article, Mr Bell. I really enjoyed reading it - I'd love to see more gaming articles here on the Escapist if they'll let you publish them. :)

the one fallasy of Hobbes is that if as an individual Mankind is a savage beast, what as a collective forces them to civilise? apparently it's this "social contract" we all agree too but I think that is bullshit.
Rosseau is a better start point as it explains that injustices created by society force man to become cruel and uncaring rather than that being their base nature explaining how inequalities in the artificial construct of a civilisation creates "bad" men rather than trying to explain how "bad" men make "good" civilisations.

Hobbes' political philosophy came at a time when it was becoming difficult to keep a lid on parliamentarians. Hobbes had the philosophy that we at nature fight each other for resources. to protect ourselves we surrender power to a monarchy and in return they protect us. it pissed a whole lot of people off. he pissed off parliamentarians because he thought there should be a monarchy and pissed off monarchists because he denied the divine right to rule. they were going to burn him and his books but he was saved by Charles II whom he had tutored while self-exiled in France.

The whole, "all humans are inherently bad" comes from that obstinate culture of statism. Leviathan was representative of the rational discourse in those days, ranging from Mercantilism to the prevalence of the Church.

Hobbes was an idiot, and should be seen the same way Marxian economics is seen.

Aw, hail naw. Nobody f*cks with my social contractualist homies. Why yes, I am writing while so abundantly drunk that Locke, when writing about his proviso which would later be adapted to the Norman yoke, would have thought "oh damn, just have some coffee and go to bed, dude". Therefore...well, tongue-in-cheek, grain of salt, et cetera.

Jammy Fingers:
the one fallasy of Hobbes is that if as an individual Mankind is a savage beast

Blah blah F*ckin' blah.

they were going to burn him and his books but he was saved by Charles II whom he had tutored while self-exiled in France.

No, Hobbes was a monarchist writing in response to the English Civil War and the Treaty of Westphalia. He liked monarchy, and in response to the burgeoning Enlightenment philosophers sought a rationalist solution to the question of why monarchy is necessary. The Hobbesian state of nature was concluded, and the contract created, out of mankind's capability to reason the Hobbisan state of nature would end in tragedy. That's kind of a PITA, so in order to save our individual asses, we contracted with one another to create society under an autocracy, whether that be by monarchy, aristocracy, or democratic tyrant. It's evolution, baby! Mutually assured destruction. That's what Hobbesian society seeks to avert, and why the Leviathan is Pretty G*dd*mn Important.

In other words, we had the capacity to figure out life was nasty, brutish and short. We didn't like that. So we averted that with...society! Ya dun like it? Read that other half of Leviathan -- you know, that half where he talks about religion and scriptural literacy by monarchical right; somebody loved them some Henry VIII and his multitude of headless bizzitches. Yep, he cheesed off a lot of folks...the same ones who'd be licking Locke's William of Orange-loving, Irish-f*cking, taint-sweat screaming "YUM YUM BEEYOTCH!" and doing middling crap like writing the Declaration of Independence another century later. Suck it.

Country Whigs represent, yo. West Say-eed, bizzatch. French land redistributed to enfranchise the common man to create a yeoman-farmer society for everyone! F*ck the man, and anybody trying to craft an a priori argument as to why tyranny is a Good Thing can lick my 100% Flag-Waving Jingoist who knows his Modern Philosophy American ballsack.

Rousseau? You mean the proto-Marxist, pre-Hegelian, dialectic mofo that was into some kinky ass shizzite like nun spankings a-plenty and was so balls-out rockstar he got kicked out of David Hume's house for chrissake? Oh yeah, 18th Century philosophers were

Human reason was the basis for the desire to own property. The Rousseauvian state of nature was absent the capacity for reason, which makes him such a world-grade cock towards the Native Americans. Don't make me bust out my personal copy of A Discourse on Inequality or The Social Contract for citations. Everything else is secondary, including the desire to regulate and institutionalize inequality. Which, by the way, was a intermediary step for the development and enactment of the General Will, which would make any given Tea Partier on Earth crap their pants and run home screaming for the warm and gentle embrace of Sarah Palin's saggy grandma derp-baby funbags.

The old books have relevance to understand new games.

I do find this article enjoyably interesting, in particular the ideas that would have never crossed my mind, such as how the sleeping mechanic in both of these games reinforces the themes.

For Fallout, I might argue that sleeping in a bed you own represents sleeping in a place you feel comfortable and safe, rather than some bed whose inhabitants have seemingly disappeared (or maybe the guilt of taking someone else's bed?), not necessarily a promotion of civilization. In fact, Fallout could, overall, be an "anti-civilization game" since the current state of the world, a radiated wasteland, is thanks to civilization and its bombs (perhaps Fallout 3 does a better job of representing this, since many of the more civilized groups like the Enclave and leadership structure of Vault 101 are more blatantly corrupt). The Vaults themselves, many of them social experiments, also may demonstrate the corruption of civilization, perhaps. In addition, I'm surprised that the endings of Independent New Vegas or siding with Mr. House weren't mentioned, since they do provide a different flavor to the message of Fallout: New Vegas. One might interpret those endings as siding against civilization (or rather something more civilized like the NCR and the Legion, since none of the endings are absolutely anti-civilization).

Oh God, but Hobbes would've advocated a Sovereign whom tyranically rules in supression of our inherent evilness. Oh wait. Its EA. Nevermind.

OT: Great article. Great to see my politics and philosophy courses paid off SOMWHERE ;)

I dont think that a game can adopt one philosophical perspective, there is bound to be more than one view in there. But I do agree. This was a fantastic article, keep on writing stuff like this

wow those philosophers are SO OLD. that means that their philosophies are no longer applicable in our time right? i mean sun tzu's art of war isn't a spetacular literary work because it holds up today, but because it was written in ancient times right?

and excuse me, but at what point does a game explicitly force a player to philosophize about his or her actions? i'd be more inclined to think that philosophizing is an attribute of the player and not the game itself, and it is the player's choice whether to philosophize or not.

what a load of bull.

There is more to Leviathan than chapter 13.

life is nasty brutish and short UNLESS men follow the laws of nature, hobbes chief point on man in the natural state was that it could be left

Dark Harbinger:
That was indeed an excellent article, very thought provoking and carefully structured with deep analysis. I am siding with Red Dead Redemption's outlook on it however, with the simple belief that while the old west was harsher than modern society, it was more honest, as people knew morals and how to conduct themselves properly without needing 'society' to beat it into them. In a place like the old west, people with malicious intent cannot expect to last long in a world where people will defend themselves and each other.

Plus I'm a sucker for a good old six-shooter. ^^

Oh please.

If there is one argument for Hobbes, it's the "Old West": proof that men being what they are, anarchy is just a larger number of smaller dictatorships. The big rancher who wanted your land? You were defenceless against him. Bandits and outlaws? If you were outnumbered, you were dead. Railway barons? They had a whole native population exterminated, for Christ's sake.

Hell no. The one reason I am always wary of America is their romanticising of a period which, to any civilised human being, must have been the definition of Hell.

Oh, and Rousseau was the most dangerous idiot to ever walk the planet. None of his observations have anything to do with human reality, but people, especially the young and the dumb, eat that shit up because it sounds so nice. If I could travel back in time and kill someone, Rousseau would be so far ahead of Hitler, Stalin, Marx, Mao etc it's not even funny.

JackSparrowSucks:
The whole, "all humans are inherently bad" comes from that obstinate culture of statism. Leviathan was representative of the rational discourse in those days, ranging from Mercantilism to the prevalence of the Church.

Hobbes was an idiot, and should be seen the same way Marxian economics is seen.

Um, no.

Humans ARE inherently bad. Greed and murder is who we are, and we can see it every time that society's bounds are loosened. People in Rwanda hacked their neighbours and their schoolmates to death with machetes not because they were ordered to, but simply because they were ALLOWED to. The second the Leviathan took its leave from the former Yugoslavia, men were raping their co-workers' daughters. The second regulations became so low that bankers could get away with fraud on a trillion-dollar scale, they did, and ruint millions of people and entire countries.

That is what we are. History is rather full of examples of this. Pretty much every problem in political discourse since, well, Rousseau is that we substitute idealistic bullshit like his for this simple yet inconvenient truth.

Archangel357:

JackSparrowSucks:
The whole, "all humans are inherently bad" comes from that obstinate culture of statism. Leviathan was representative of the rational discourse in those days, ranging from Mercantilism to the prevalence of the Church.

Hobbes was an idiot, and should be seen the same way Marxian economics is seen.

Um, no.

Humans ARE inherently bad. Greed and murder is who we are, and we can see it every time that society's bounds are loosened. People in Rwanda hacked their neighbours and their schoolmates to death with machetes not because they were ordered to, but simply because they were ALLOWED to. The second the Leviathan took its leave from the former Yugoslavia, men were raping their co-workers' daughters. The second regulations became so low that bankers could get away with fraud on a trillion-dollar scale, they did, and ruint millions of people and entire countries.

That is what we are. History is rather full of examples of this. Pretty much every problem in political discourse since, well, Rousseau is that we substitute idealistic bullshit like his for this simple yet inconvenient truth.

WELL, in order to easily respond; what you're saying is that YOU would rape women and defraud people unless the government tells you not to. OK, then, it's not like economic development or social liberalism (which comes from economic development, BTW) radically changes how we view the world and respect others. Not only were Yugoslavia and Rwanda incredibly poor, but those respective governments encouraged the rape by systematically dehumanizing their women (via the media) and tacitly hinting at how they can get their comeuppance.

Also, the mind is not static. Our brain "shapes" according to the environment; if the environment is an egalitarian utopia, then it's obvious what type of person you're going to be. The only concept of good and bad we have that are seemingly innate are how we treat others.

If you think that humans treat others well just to backstab them when the time is right, that's called sociopathy; which, termed antisocial personality disorder, is prevalent in 3% of males.

EDIT:
Also, so I don't seem disingenuous, we all have the ability to defraud others, it's just that we deceive ourselves into thinking it's not a very big deal. If people knew the full extent of their crimes without finding a way to justify it, well, look up antisocial personality disorder again.

Archangel357:

JackSparrowSucks:
The whole, "all humans are inherently bad" comes from that obstinate culture of statism. Leviathan was representative of the rational discourse in those days, ranging from Mercantilism to the prevalence of the Church.

Hobbes was an idiot, and should be seen the same way Marxian economics is seen.

Um, no.

Humans ARE inherently bad. Greed and murder is who we are, and we can see it every time that society's bounds are loosened. People in Rwanda hacked their neighbours and their schoolmates to death with machetes not because they were ordered to, but simply because they were ALLOWED to. The second the Leviathan took its leave from the former Yugoslavia, men were raping their co-workers' daughters. The second regulations became so low that bankers could get away with fraud on a trillion-dollar scale, they did, and ruint millions of people and entire countries.

That is what we are. History is rather full of examples of this. Pretty much every problem in political discourse since, well, Rousseau is that we substitute idealistic bullshit like his for this simple yet inconvenient truth.

Well said - "wouldn't it be nice if everyone was nice" is a happy little pipe dream, but the unavoidable reality that idealists blind themselves to is that humans are nasty. When it comes to the "functioning" members of society, at best we convince ourselves to feel ashamed for the terrible thoughts we entertain and therefore out of that instilled shame do not act upon them (much), at worst we simply recognize that "being ourselves" just isn't worth the possible consequences that behavior would entail; either way we're holding our own "real" nature in check, every minute of every day.

Take away the learned guilt or remove those consequences that hold us in check, and the result isn't very pretty. Humans are certainly capable of remarkable acts of charity, kindness, and love of course, but we exhibit those traits in defiance of our natures, not in accordance with them, thanks to our capacity for reason; reason that both frees us and condemns us with the same stroke, for when we act in accordance with our wicked natures we cannot argue that we didn't have a choice not to.

Building any sort of model based on the assumption that humans are basically good is a doomed endeavor - the "noble savage" is and has always been a myth.

JackSparrowSucks:
If you think that humans treat others well just to backstab them when the time is right, that's called sociopathy; which, termed antisocial personality disorder, is prevalent in 3% of males.

EDIT:
Also, so I don't seem disingenuous, we all have the ability to defraud others, it's just that we deceive ourselves into thinking it's not a very big deal. If people knew the full extent of their crimes without finding a way to justify it, well, look up antisocial personality disorder again.

If YOU think that humans treat each other well for any other reason than being told to do so by society, that's called naďveté, a condition which is prevalent in 100% of idealists. It's really quaint when you're under 21 or so, but a bit silly in a grown person.

Where, exactly, do you get your info from? Yugoslavia, "incredibly poor"? Granted, it wasn't Park Avenue, but compared to certain countries in Africa, it was heaven. Also, when did socialist media encourage rape? You can blame the commies for a lot of things, but sexism isn't really one of them. Next: do you really believe that people who fuck others over do so only because they don't know that they are hurting other people?

Really?

Wow.

As for the shaping of the human mind, well, Thucydides called it a load of crap, and 2500 years have proven him right. Read an account of the 30 Years War. Hell, read Thucydides's description of human depravity after a plague destroyed society, and then read Boccaccio's, which was written 1900 years later. All things being equal, human beings will react equally. By being the most disgusting creatures on earth.

Culture, at its core, is force. Whether it is formed by belief in supernatural beings or by a consensus regarding certain constructs of the human mind (which is the same thing, really), or even by one group exercising violence against another, culture is the difference between us and animals, and it became an evolutionary necessity when a species found out that killing was FUN. Noble savages, my arse.

Archangel357:
snip

How the government perpetuated the sexism and rape.


How the brain works, and its relation to experience, ideas, etc.

How culture takes over others;culture cannot be forced upon by another, there must be some mutual acceptance.

Why wars and actions can be brutal, and, also, be considered innocuous by its perpetrators; why war crimes even happen. (you should also look up "collectivism" and "groupthink".)

Evolutionary Psychology, what you seem to be pushing as your basis for HUMANS ARE EVIL BASTARDS theory, debunked.

I'm not an idiot. For example, I read Wikipedia too goddam much.
Also, just so I can reach the link singularity, here's a libertarian perspective on the "Wild" west (It's TL;DR, so just check out some Bullet-points; and read the whole thing if you're interested.)

Also, a video

A brilliant pieces. It's articles like this that keep me coming back to the Escapist.

JackSparrowSucks:
snip

I don't think that you're an idiot. I think that you're an idealist, which is much worse. At any rate, I've asked you for examples of sexism and poverty in Yugoslavia, and you give me examples from Rwanda. Well, duh.

Oh, and evolutionary psychology. Cute. You might want to pick a source less agenda-driven than Dawkins, he makes Rousseau look almost honest. You do know that Rousseau sent all of his kids into foster care because they disturbed his work, right? Every idealist is a hypocrite; he has to be.

Human history is full of ostensibly smart people coming up with excuses for human behaviour. All of them get proven wrong by its unchanging nature. Tell me, if men evolve, how come that the single most barbaric and bloody conflict in our history happened just 70 years ago?

Archangel357:
Oh, and evolutionary psychology. Cute. You might want to pick a source less agenda-driven than Dawkins, he makes Rousseau look almost honest.

Well, we certainly know on which side your bread is buttered. Jonah Goldberg-like typing detected.

You do know that Rousseau sent all of his kids into foster care because they disturbed his work, right? Every idealist is a hypocrite; he has to be.

...and your point is? He was an 18th Century aristocrat, that's what they did. Rousseau also wrote Emile and drew the unflinching, eternal enmity of the feminist community, was probably paranoid schizophrenic, and had a nun fetish. Kant was an obsessive-compulsive hermit. Marx lived off his wife's wealth. Thomas Jefferson raped at least one of his slaves, and John Adams was probably the only founding father who didn't beat his wife. Doesn't change the content or quality of their work, or the times in which they lived, in the least. Argumenta ad hominem and ad odium are pro, yo.

If you seriously think Rousseau was a starry-eyed idealist, you're sorely in need of a more in-depth reading of his work. Romantic, yes as befits the period, but idealist not by a longshot. To wit:

Culture, at its core, is force [...] Noble savages, my arse.

That was Rousseau's entire goddamned point. The difference between the "noble savage" and the "civilized human" is reason and with it, language, which mediates and dampens empathy, mutual respect, and equality of big-N-as-the-social-contractualists-understood-it Nature. Congratulations, in the course of attempting to debunk Rousseau you inadvertently used his own argument, albeit much less eloquently. Not convinced?

Labeling Rousseau an idealist for his teleology is a rhetorical ploy by his critics in lack of a more viable, or substantive, argument against his theory. You may as well call Ayn Rand idealist as well, as she was a "theorist" who envisioned a utopian society which was the final cause of all which came before as well.

Also, sidenote:

Also, just so I can reach the link singularity, here's a libertarian perspective on the "Wild" west (It's TL;DR, so just check out some Bullet-points; and read the whole thing if you're interested.)

Seriously, the Ludwig von Mises Institute? Blech. You know what classical economic liberalism and "neoliberalism" got us? One Great Depression, one S&L crisis, and one Great Recession (in the last century alone). No thanks.

Eacaraxe:
Well, we certainly know on which side your bread is buttered. Jonah Goldberg-like typing detected.

Yeah, no. And I really take offence at being thrown in with some American republican Bible-thumper. My point was that Dawkins, being 60% agenda, 30% self-aggrandisement, and 10% human, wasn't really a great choice when making an argument in a discussion already filled with agenda.

...and your point is? He was an 18th Century aristocrat, that's what they did. Rousseau also wrote Emile and drew the unflinching, eternal enmity of the feminist community, was probably paranoid schizophrenic, and had a nun fetish. Kant was an obsessive-compulsive hermit. Marx lived off his wife's wealth. Thomas Jefferson raped at least one of his slaves, and John Adams was probably the only founding father who didn't beat his wife. Doesn't change the content or quality of their work, or the times in which they lived, in the least. Argumenta ad hominem and ad odium are pro, yo.

Cute. The thing is, when what they do goes against the principles of what they say and write, one wonders about their integrity and honesty. Cicero was one of the worst back-stabbers of all time; but since that really doesn't conflict with his De re publica, I don't have a problem with it. But the guy who wrote Émile basically sending off his own children to live miserably, without an education or a shot at life? Not to get overly low-brow on you, mate, but walking the walk sort of does have a bearing on how I judge a person's talk. I happen to respect men more when their life's intellectual work and the way they lived their lives coincide. That's probably why I generally prefer poets to philosophers.

But I guess that demanding personal integrity is the equivalent of an ad hominem attack to you.

If you seriously think Rousseau was a starry-eyed idealist, you're sorely in need of a more in-depth reading of his work. Romantic, yes as befits the period, but idealist not by a longshot. To wit:

Culture, at its core, is force [...] Noble savages, my arse.

That was Rousseau's entire goddamned point. The difference between the "noble savage" and the "civilized human" is reason and with it, language, which mediates and dampens empathy, mutual respect, and equality of big-N-as-the-social-contractualists-understood-it Nature. Congratulations, in the course of attempting to debunk Rousseau you inadvertently used his own argument, albeit much less eloquently. Not convinced?

The obvious and manifest difference, of course (and one which you choose to ignore), that I consider that force to be a force for good, whereas he extols the virtues of solipsism and considers the "citizen" to be the polar opposite of the "man". As well he should know, pampered, whingey ponce that he was - oh, wait, I'm insulting the great man by stating facts again, damn.

My entire point is that the savage isn't, and never has been, noble, as any anthropologist will gladly tell you. "Without war", indeed. It's wishful thinking, a silly mirage used to illustrate a point which is, well, not just counter-intuitive, but so logically unsound that it makes Marx's conclusions (as opposed to his observations) look positively rooted in reality. I'm not much of a fan of philosophies based on mirages and fallacies; they tend to neglect the "what is" for the "what should be".

I mean, damn that bad, bad man who invented society for giving us medicine, culture, art, poetry, wealth, science, and an 80-year lifespan almost free of manual labour. What WAS that cunt thinking? Good thing that men were equal before he came around, and wasn't at the whim of something just and equal like, dunno, physical strength.

Bad society. Rousseau always sounds like a whingy teenager, ever notice that? "Things could be so great if daddy culture and mommy society would just let me be." I guess that's why so much young people used to idolise him.

Labeling Rousseau an idealist for his teleology is a rhetorical ploy by his critics in lack of a more viable, or substantive, argument against his theory. You may as well call Ayn Rand idealist as well, as she was a "theorist" who envisioned a utopian society which was the final cause of all which came before as well.

So maybe he wasn't himself an idealist, I'll grant you that; but he certainly spawned a whole mess of them. Hell, his work is basically the soil on which every idealist theory since then is based.

Archangel357:
Yeah, no. And I really take offence at being thrown in with some American republican Bible-thumper. My point was that Dawkins, being 60% agenda, 30% self-aggrandisement, and 10% human, wasn't really a great choice when making an argument in a discussion already filled with agenda.

Sorry, but dismissing Dawkins out of hand due to a perceived agenda, which is an entirely meaningless statement considering anyone who engages in normative discussion has one and that's the very point, then proceeding to lump Rousseau in with not only Marx (which is on its own not a poor comparison, though I'd argue Marx owes far more to Hegel than Rousseau, with the latter's influence on Marx being ancillary) but among the greatest criminals against humanity the 20th Century has to offer for what you perceive to be idealism, tends to trigger ye olde deductive bullshit detector.

But I guess that demanding personal integrity is the equivalent of an ad hominem attack to you.

Of course, there's also the issue of people being of their times and accepting societal foibles without allowing those things to detract from the meaning of their work. But hey, if you want to start throwing philosophers out because they might have been assholes or engaged in assholish behavior, that's certainly your prerogative.

I mean shit, Aristotle thought women weren't even human in any meaningful sense of the word but let's not hold that against him shall we?

The obvious and manifest difference, of course (and one which you choose to ignore), that I consider that force to be a force for good, whereas he extols the virtues of solipsism and considers the "citizen" to be the polar opposite of the "man". As well he should know, pampered, whingey ponce that he was - oh, wait, I'm insulting the great man by stating facts again, damn.

And again, you've entirely stripped Rousseau of the vital context of his state of nature. Rousseau himself never used the term "noble savage", by the way -- Voltaire applied it to Rousseau's work to ridicule it. Rousseau's state of nature was not any real iteration of men, past or present, and not intended to be such. His state of nature was a thought experiment to illustrate man without reason or language. In other words, animals.

The entire body of Rousseau's work, notably The Social Contract, was how social and cultural forces could be used for good, whereas in the past and present are for evil, through the enactment of the General Will (which he envisioned as simply the rule of law).

My entire point is that the savage isn't, and never has been, noble, as any anthropologist will gladly tell you. "Without war", indeed. It's wishful thinking, a silly mirage used to illustrate a point which is, well, not just counter-intuitive, but so logically unsound that it makes Marx's conclusions (as opposed to his observations) look positively rooted in reality. I'm not much of a fan of philosophies based on mirages and fallacies; they tend to neglect the "what is" for the "what should be".

...and here you've managed to condemn all social contractualists. It may come as a surprise to you that all contractualists, from Hobbes straight through to Rawls and his original position, used the state of nature as a thought experiment to illustrate their normative arguments. The thought experiment is not, nor ever was (except for Aristotle who argued society was man's state of nature) intended to be literal. We can argue over whose conceptualization of the state of nature is the closest to actual human nature all day, but that doesn't change the fact the state of nature is a fiction regardless who used it.

First, let me say that I'm enjoying this immensely. Even if we don't see eye to eye, it's refreshing to fence with a truly educated person on these boards.

Captatio benevolentiae over, now off to the critique again.

Eacaraxe:
Sorry, but dismissing Dawkins out of hand due to a perceived agenda, which is an entirely meaningless statement considering anyone who engages in normative discussion has one and that's the very point, then proceeding to lump Rousseau in with not only Marx (which is on its own not a poor comparison, though I'd argue Marx owes far more to Hegel than Rousseau, with the latter's influence on Marx being ancillary) but among the greatest criminals against humanity the 20th Century has to offer for what you perceive to be idealism, tends to trigger ye olde deductive bullshit detector.

Dawkins? Normative discussion? The man's a biologist. How about he sticks to genes and cells. Using science as a bully pulpit to engage in philosophy and metaphysics is precisely what turns me off the man. We get it, he hates Bible-thumpers (who do the exact inverse of what he does). So does everybody else with a brain. Moving on.

As for Marx and Hegel, technically, yes. Systemically, sure. Marx didn't go implementing Rousseau's philosophies into his theories; I'm talking more about a pervasive spirit of, well, romantic idealism - by the way, Schelling, Hölderlin and Hegel would very much object to you separating the two - about the improvability of man, about society curing the ills of society. Yes, you have similar things in Plato and Campanella, but still, what I mean is a spirit more than a philosophy. Plus, as you said:

for Rousseau, demonstrating that the convention of property was the basis of all inequality

Marx took nothing away from that? Really? Didn't you call him "proto-Marxist" yourself in this very thread?

Of course, there's also the issue of people being of their times and accepting societal foibles without allowing those things to detract from the meaning of their work. But hey, if you want to start throwing philosophers out because they might have been assholes or engaged in assholish behavior, that's certainly your prerogative.

I mean shit, Aristotle thought women weren't even human in any meaningful sense of the word but let's not hold that against him shall we?

Strawman. As I've already said, it's not about their behavior per se, but rather about how it clashes with the ideas they bring forth in their works. Schopenhauer hated the shit out of women, but I am not invalidating The World as Will and Representation because of that, because his views on women have no bearing on it: however, if he'd written a feminist manifesto, I'd most definitely question his integrity. For all I care, Rousseau could have eaten his kids alive; it's the preposterous nature of one his major works being on education and child-rearing that smacks of hypocrisy, something that is rather immutable through the ages.

And again, you've entirely stripped Rousseau of the vital context of his state of nature. Rousseau himself never used the term "noble savage", by the way -- Voltaire applied it to Rousseau's work to ridicule it. Rousseau's state of nature was not any real iteration of men, past or present, and not intended to be such. His state of nature was a thought experiment to illustrate man without reason or language. In other words, animals.

The entire body of Rousseau's work, notably The Social Contract, was how social and cultural forces could be used for good, whereas in the past and present are for evil, through the enactment of the General Will (which he envisioned as simply the rule of law).

And it is with his vision of "good" with which I disagree, which is my whole point. And one of the reasons why I do so is because his definition of "good" has no basis in reality. Any utopia, per definitionem, disregards objective reality for wishful thinking, and thus, justifies pretty much anything.

...and here you've managed to condemn all social contractualists. It may come as a surprise to you that all contractualists, from Hobbes straight through to Rawls and his original position, used the state of nature as a thought experiment to illustrate their normative arguments. The thought experiment is not, nor ever was (except for Aristotle who argued society was man's state of nature) intended to be literal. We can argue over whose conceptualization of the state of nature is the closest to actual human nature all day, but that doesn't change the fact the state of nature is a fiction regardless who used it.

Disagree. Hobbes had seen civil war in all its human atrocity, so his views on what he considered the "natural" state are coloured by reality and history. I find it strange to see the bellum omnium contra omnes called a "theoretical thought experiment" in that context. Does he generalise one historical event to make a point? Absolutely. But then, so did Kant and Voltaire (and Kleist) with the Lisbon Earthquake, something that actually happened. Hell, Boccaccio's humanism is a direct result of the Black Death, and that just created modernity as we know it. Yeah, f*ck you guys, I'm rolling with Old Giovanni here. Actually, young Giovanni, because he became something of a recanting, Bible-thumping bore in his old age (credit Petrarch and his hypocrisy - see above - for that sh*t).
In what are Rousseau's views rooted? Because as you say, it's certainly not scientific or cultural anthropology. Hell, Freud (as little as I like him as a psycholgist, I love his anthropological work) painted a more realistic picture, didn't he.

The whole issue of a fictitious or even arbitrarily determined natural state as being of no consequence since it is only a construct irks me, because, again, you basically suggest that one can make anything up just to hammer one's point home. Isn't that basically the basis for every ism in the world? A made up natural state used to justify and even apotheosise any form of vile behaviour?

Captcha: dissidel totally. For some reason, that made me laugh.

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