A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind HTML version

they invented the line and the hook, and became fishermen and ichthyophagous. In the
forests they made themselves bows and arrows, and became huntsmen and warriors. In
the cold countries they covered themselves with the skins of the beasts they had killed;
thunder, a volcano, or some happy accident made them acquainted with fire, a new
resource against the rigours of winter: they discovered the method of preserving this
element, then that of reproducing it, and lastly the way of preparing with it the flesh of
animals, which heretofore they devoured raw from the carcass.
This reiterated application of various beings to himself, and to one another, must have
naturally engendered in the mind of man the idea of certain relations. These relations,
which we express by the words, great, little, strong, weak, swift, slow, fearful, bold, and
the like, compared occasionally, and almost without thinking of it, produced in him some
kind of reflection, or rather a mechanical prudence, which pointed out to him the
precautions most essential to his preservation and safety.
The new lights resulting from this development increased his superiority over other
animals, by making him sensible of it. He laid himself out to ensnare them; he played
them a thousand tricks; and though several surpassed him in strength or in swiftness, he
in time became the master of those that could be of any service to him, and a sore enemy
to those that could do him any mischief. 'Tis thus, that the first look he gave into himself
produced the first emotion of pride in him; 'tis thus that, at a time he scarce knew how to
distinguish between the different ranks of existence, by attributing to his species the first
rank among animals in general, he prepared himself at a distance to pretend to it as an
individual among those of his own species in particular.
Though other men were not to him what they are to us, and he had scarce more
intercourse with them than with other animals, they were not overlooked in his
observations. The conformities, which in time he might discover between them, and
between himself and his female, made him judge of those he did not perceive; and seeing
that they all behaved as himself would have done in similar circumstances, he concluded
that their manner of thinking and willing was quite conformable to his own; and this
important truth, when once engraved deeply on his mind, made him follow, by a
presentiment as sure as any logic, and withal much quicker, the best rules of conduct,
which for the sake of his own safety and advantage it was proper he should observe
towards them.
Instructed by experience that the love of happiness is the sole principle of all human
actions, he found himself in a condition to distinguish the few cases, in which common
interest might authorize him to build upon the assistance of his fellows, and those still
fewer, in which a competition of interests might justly render it suspected. In the first
case he united with them in the same flock, or at most by some kind of free association
which obliged none of its members, and lasted no longer than the transitory necessity that
had given birth to it. In the second case every one aimed at his own private advantage,
either by open force if he found himself strong enough, or by cunning and address if he
thought himself too weak to use violence.