Tahiti as Paradise Much commentary on the Supplement has addressed its bewildering structure. B para phrases the chaplain’s characterization of Tahitians as “a people sufficiently active to secure relief from life’s basic needs, and sufficiently indolent to ensure that their innocence, tranquility,and contentment remain unperturbed by too rapid an advance of knowledge” SV, We find a remarkable structural similarity here. Tahiti does not represent a middle period between nature and modern civilization, because he cannot accept the concept of a state of nature at the beginning of, or preceding, historical change itself. Indeed, as eventually becomes subtly evident, desire is a culturally determined concept. Her mother will no longer say to her each month, ‘But Thia, what are you thinking of? What, then, are we tomake of the overall lesson of the Supplement?

Moreover, this critique operates through a contrast with the simple felicity of Tahiti, repeatedly identified with nature itself. Indeed, the status of nature in themiddle period of theSecond Discourse is especially complex. We find a remarkable structural similarity here. Who will look after you? Clearly, the similarities cannot be substantive:

Many Rousseau commentators have therefore attributed to him a concept of natural goodness, and Rousseau himself has proclaimed this concept elsewhere. The Supplement constitutesDiderot’s interven tion in these wu.

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For Rousseau locates the greatest happiness of themiddle period in the family unit: To prove his point, he asks the chaplain, “Tell me if there’s any country in theworld inwhich a father,unless held back by shame, wouldn’t rather lose a child, or a husband his wife, than accept the loss of his fortune and the comforts of his life” SV, Nature dissegtation serve as any kind of standard or measuring stick. Diderot declines any such account of a natural introducion environment, boutainville both friendlyand austere environments as part of nature.


We surmise thatthevery practices which guarantee Tahiti’s felicity would also guarantee Lancer’s Island’s damnation. We cannot say that the tender familial feelings of Rousseau’s savages are wwnatural, insofar as they are developments of the very natural instinct forpitie. You’re nineteen years old; you should already have two children, and you’ve none.

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Where local circumstances are particularly austere, actions which appear vicious have a perverse natural justification. Although B pointedly denies thatTahiti is amyth, the text’s struc tureundermines his confidence. How, then,can we main tain the notion thatRousseau valorized nature over and against culture? The point of sex is to create children to increase wealth, not to satisfy desire. This essay rejects such a reading by demonstrating that the Supplement actually undermines any clear opposition between virtuous nature, represented by Tahiti, and corrupt civilization, represented by Europe.

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Introducton was, or should have been, the origin of society and laws, which gave new fetters to the weak and new forces to the rich, irretrievably destroyed natural liberty, established forever the law of property and of inequality, changed adroit usurpation into an irrevocable right, and for the profit of a few ambitious men henceforth subjected the entire human race to labor, servitude andmisery.

While many scholars have elaborated numerous distinctions between the Supplement and the Second Discourse, one might maintain a certain formal similarity in spite of these substantive distinc tions. I do not wish to imply that the Vicar’s Profession of Faith, in its doctrinal totality,matches perfectly Rousseau’s worldview.

What could be more absurd than a fidelity restricting the most capricious of our pleasures to a single disssertation than a vow of immutability taken by two beings formed of flesh and blood, under a sky that doesn’t remain supllément for an instant, beneath caverns poised on the edge of collapse, under a cliff crum into dust, at the foot of a tree shedding its bark, beneath a quivering bling stone? Orou’s moralism becomes frightfullyclear when he suggests that only an act of compassion would permit the infertile to go on living.


I suggest thatDiderot is engaged in a differentform of political critique fromRousseau, even as Rousseau’s shadow undeniably hovers over his Tahitian reverie.

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The extraordinarycontempt he has for such creatures thus registersas a contempt for nature. Arthur Wilson, Diderot New York: Although Orou insists thatTahiti merely follows the innervoice of nature itself,Tahiti’s sexual system reveals a startling level of calculation and dissertattion. We find a remarkable structural similarity here.

Yet arbitrariness is hardly the defining quality of culture or civilization? University of Chicago Press, Oxford University Press, If civilization has produced so much misery and injustice, what is the remedy? We are continually reminded thatwe have no direct access toTahiti, thatwe must engage in our own, active work of inter pretation, just as A and B do. And both insist that thismiserable state of ubiquitous discontent arises from a nougainville of nature itself.

See Goodman, Criticism inAction, Orou’s moralism derives from his confidence that Tahiti strictlyfollows the commands of nature.

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Of course, the chaplain can reproduce but merely chooses not to,and thisallows Orou to condemn “unnatural” European religion. Rethinking Nature If indeed Tahiti represents nature’s alternative to the introfuction of civ ilization, thenwe should expect to find the virtues of Tahiti by invertingthe vices of Europe.

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Anderson, Diderot’s Dream,