Philosophic Anthropology in Rousseau and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the most durably influential critic of classic modern liberalism, maintained that the optimal conditions for human happiness existed only in a pre-political and pre-legal world. This essay, prepared for a festschrift honoring the philosopher and biologist Leon Kass, examines Rousseau’s claim in light of new evidence provided by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, a contemporary anthropologist and naturalist. The essay argues that Marshall’s findings, along with others provided by modern science, confirm and enrich the core elements of Rousseau’s analysis.