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Inequality’s Philosophical Description Critical Essay

When examining the statement “there is hardly any inequality among men in the state of nature” by Rousseau one cannot help but think of the concept of the Ubermensch developed by Nietzsche.

Nietzsche describes human beings as being in a phase of intermediate evolution between apes and the overman wherein due to this intermediary state humans can thus be broken down into two distinct categories of master and slave (White and Hellerich, 39).

For Rousseau his argument focuses on the apparent equality of all human beings at the point of being born and it is only when outside environmental factors are introduced that the state of inequality among men occurs.

This can take the form of having parents who are more economically well off, being born in a 1st world country or being within an area that fosters better growth and education. Rosseau does not mention factors relating to physical or mental superiority since for him such factors are developed as a result of environmental consequences and are not inherent in a person at the time of birth.

It is only when sufficient environmental influence is enacted on the growth of an individual that true inequality occurs. As such, under the ideas of Rosseau can it can be presumed that if two men were born in exactly the same situation, in the same environment and with the same background and economic circumstances then these men would continue to be equal.

Taking this particular viewpoint to its zenith it can thus be stated if a large enough population were born also under the same circumstances, environment, background etc. then everyone in it would be equal as well. This particular conclusion can be arrived to by assuming that the state of nature mentioned by Rosseau means a state with absolutely no outside interference and letting the natural progression of human growth take its place.

The Master and Slave Concept of Nietzsche

The inherent problem with the proposed concept of Rossaeu is that it fails to take into account the possibility of inequality naturally occurring as a result of the need for concerted effort in order to achieve a particular end.

Nietzsche argues that humans can basically be divided into two distinct categories namely that of the master and the slave which in essence are distinctions used today in the concepts of leaders and followers (White and Hellerich, 39).

It can be stated that from a certain sociological standpoint the concept postulated by Nietzsche does in fact have a basis in the way society is organized.

For example, a progressive society cannot be composed entirely of leaders since someone has to be the one to actually follow the orders of the leaders on the other hand a society composed entirely of followers would be unguided and thus would not be able to actually effectively commit to a goal requiring concerted effort.

While such a concept agrees with the statement of Rosseau that “there is no inequality among men in the state of nature” it based more upon physical and biological characteristics rather the psychological (Beyond Good and Evil, 1).

By its very nature the concept of leadership places a person above another; Rosseau is actually erroneous in believing that the state of nature does not create inequality when in fact nature itself creates various examples of inequality.

For example, packs of wolves have a leader who is the same physically and biologically as all the other members yet is made a the leader due to the necessity for most groups, human or otherwise, to have a guiding force behind the groups actions.

This notion is applicable to humans as it is to animals since any concerted effort requires a certain dominating personality to be able to control individuals towards a particular goal (Allen, 386 – 402). Thus it can be seen that the concept of inequality occurs naturally in nature (Allen, 386 – 402).

In the case of interpreting the state of nature as being an environment with no outside interference towards development inequality will still develop since if there need of any concerted effort in such an environment the concept of a leader will inevitably arise thus resulting in creation of a system of inequality where there is an individual dictating others what to do.


Based on the findings of this paper I can say that I disagree with the statement of Rosseaus since for me inequality is still evident in most states of nature. I can even go so far as state that inequality is even a necessity in the grand scheme of things.

Works Cited

Allen, James Sloan. “Nietzsche and Wilde: An Ethics of Style.” Sewanee Review. 386-

402. University of the South, 2006. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Web.

“Beyond Good and Evil.” Ethics (Ready Reference series) (1994): 1. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Web.

White, Daniel R., and Gert Hellerich. “The Ecological Self: Humanity and Nature in

Nietzsche and Goethe.” European Legacy 3.3 (1998): 39. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web.

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"Inequality's Philosophical Description." IvyPanda, 29 May 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/inequality/.

1. IvyPanda. "Inequality's Philosophical Description." May 29, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/inequality/.


IvyPanda. "Inequality's Philosophical Description." May 29, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/inequality/.


IvyPanda. 2018. "Inequality's Philosophical Description." May 29, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/inequality/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Inequality's Philosophical Description'. 29 May.

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