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Single Idea 19765

[catalogued under 25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / b. The natural life]

Full Idea

We could say that savages are not evil because they do not know what is good; for it is neither enlightenment nor legal restraint, but the calm of the passions and the ignorance of vice which prevents them from doing evil.

Gist of Idea

Savages avoid evil because they are calm, and never think of it (not because they know goodness)

Source

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

A Reaction

Suggests one of my favourite ideas (Idea 519). While his hopes for savages and the state of nature may be optimistic, the idea that you won't do evil if it never crosses your mind (and it won't if you are a calm person) is very powerful.

Book Reference

Rousseau,Jean-Jacques: 'The Basic Political Writings', ed/tr. Cress,Donald A. [Hackett 1987], p.53

Related Idea

Idea 519 One must avoid even speaking of evil deeds [Democritus]