Mt. Everest and Rousseau
Recently I read and article about a man who died on Mt. Everest. Sounds familar right? We hear many stories each year about those who lose their lives because of the extreme mountain conditions of Mt. Everest. But, something was different about this particular story. The article wasn’t about just the mans death; it was about the 40 people who passed by the man lying there in a caved in snow cave and did not even stop to attempt to help him, except for one man who gave him and oxygen tank. When I read this, I found it so disturbing that out of forty people, only one person stopped. But I guess in the high altitude of mountain life, civil society doesn’t exist anymore, and the state of nature takes control. (If you are interested in reading the whole article here is the link http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/26/AR2006052601637.html)
In J.J. Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Social Contract, Rousseau presents his idea of what a state of nature is and what it is to have a civil society, and to an extent I agree with him. When describing a state of nature, Rousseau suggests that there are two major characteristics that are present: self-love and compassion. Then he goes on to say that in order to reach a civil society there must be an establishment of property, and once you hit this civil society you can never go back to a state of nature. This is where Rousseau and I disagree. I think that in certain circumstances, like the climber who was left for dead on Mt. Everest, the nature of humans can resort back to that in a state of nature where self-love and compassion reign. Using the Mt. Everest article as an example, one can see that in that situation the 40 climbers who passed by the man who was in trouble and did nothing were obviously interested in one thing: self love and preservation. This shows that in high stake situations, such as climbing Mt. Everest, one can resort back to their original state of nature and do what they see fit to survive. Like Rousseau’s predecessor Darwin suggested, it is survival of the fittest and I think that in certain situations, one can resort back to a state of nature.