The aim of the article is to shed light on two problems, regarding the meaning and the role of the law of nature in the first half of Rousseau’s second Discourse. The first problem concerns the relationship between self-love and pity, that is, the two passions that Rousseau identifies as the fundamental drives of the law of nature. The second one concerns the way in which this law can effectively act upon men who live in the pure state of nature, since men in the pure state of nature seem to lack that kind of intelligence and freedom which are necessary to the development of any sort of morality. In order to solve these problems, the author of the article focuses on passages of the Discourse that are rarely taken into account by scholars, regarding in particular the way in which men interact with each other and, more generally, with other living beings. Through the analysis of specific cases, he demonstrates how in the Discourse the role of pity, first understood as an autonomous principle that can possibly stand in the way of self-love, is gradually marginalised in favour of self-love. Then, he shows how this subordination of the former passion to the latter leads towards a fundamentally utilitarian account of morality. As in Hobbes, also in Rousseau’s second Discourse no judgment is considered morally valid, except for the one that individuals may have of themselves. The boundary between moral actions and violence can therefore become vague and vanishing.
Keywords: Faculties, Morality, Natural law, Piety, Rousseau, Self-love.