No Gods or Kings, Only Man

Upon entering the city, Rapture, "No Gods or Kings Only Man."

Upon entering the city, Rapture, “No Gods or Kings Only Man.”

“No Gods or Kings, only Man”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s work, “Emile, or On Education”, is a piece regarding his opinion on social institutions and how they affect the education of a person. Within the first sentences, he gives his two cents on the role of humans: “…everything degenerates in the hands of Man…” (37). He feels that there is a disparity between those who live in “…the abyss of the human species” (59), or, cities, are placed with a huge disadvantage to education when compared to those who live in the country. “Men are made not to be crowded into anthills but to be dispersed over the earth which they should cultivate. The more they come together, the more they are corrupted”(59).

Upon reading this, I felt a connection to a videogame that I had played a short time before known as, Bioshock. It is located in a subterranean world, under the Atlantic Ocean in which a community of the richest most cultured, and intelligent people of the human-race live away from the overbearing rules and constraints that society has contracted them into. Walking into the city, known as Rapture, a red curtain is draped from the corners of the roof with gold letters that read “No Gods or Kings, only Man”.

                As stated in Book I of Rousseau, “…one must choose between making a man or a citizen, for one cannot make both at the same time” (39). Rousseau believes that a man is stronger than a citizen, for man is a product of nature, while a citizen is a product of the human-race. Ultimately, however, the human-race is subject to the rules of nature. Much in the same way, the founder of Rapture, a Man by the name of, Andrew Ryan feels that the rules of society are arbitrary, that while most would gladly live in a community of citizens, he would like to have a community of men, free from the restrains of human history. The irony is obvious however, that while trying to make a community of men, he is forcing men to be “crammed like sheep” (59), wherein he creates the corruption that he tried so hard to escape.

2 responses to “No Gods or Kings, Only Man

  1. Rousseau’s emphasis on man of nature vs. man of society also leaves a deep impression in my mind. I liked how you draw the video game from experience to relate to his concepts. For me, I immediately thought about “the Brave New World”. People in the society consider the protagonist (whose name I forgot) a “savage”. Yet, they only follow orders and superficial happiness programmed into them. The savage, towards the end of the book, has a conversation with one of the Directors. He says that he would prefer to experience agony and pain because those are what make humans humane. Thus, I can see what Rousseau is trying to suggest in his text. By being one with nature, one actually lives.

  2. Dinh, I have not read Brave New World yet, but it sounds very interesting. In my post, I was examining the irony that was in both Rousseau and in the videogame. Rousseau, a man who shuns social institutions and cities, uses print and paper in order to transplant his philosophy to others, thereby being dependent upon the social-constructs he so vilified before. I found a nice website which may shed light on what you were going for by comparing Rousseau to Huxley, you can find it on http://www.cliffsnotes.com/cliffsnotes/literature/how-is-john-the-savages-name-ironic-in-brave-new-world .

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