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Single Idea 19756

[catalogued under 25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / a. Human distinctiveness]

Full Idea

It is not so much understanding which causes the specific distinction of man from all other animals as it is his being a free agent.

Gist of Idea

Humans are less distinguished from other animals by understanding, than by being free agents


Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality [1754], Part I)

A Reaction

I'm not sure how deep Rousseau takes 'free' to go. Having little enthusiasm for free will, I would say that we are distinguished by the complexity of our decision making. But I attribute that to meta-thought, the mark of humanity.

Book Reference

Rousseau,Jean-Jacques: 'The Basic Political Writings', ed/tr. Cress,Donald A. [Hackett 1987], p.45