I don't understand the bold sentence below. I guess it means "I should not attempt to find the origin of the human's organization by studying its evolution progress." What confuse me is that I don't know the prefection refer to.

Could you interprete this sentence for me, especially the phrase through its successive approaches to perfection.

However important it may be, in order to form a proper judgment of the natural state of man, to consider him from his origin, and to examine him, as it were, in the first embryo of the species; I shall not attempt to trace his organization through its successive approaches to perfection: I shall not stop to examine in the animal system what he might have been in the beginning, to become at last what he actually is; I shall not inquire whether, as Aristotle thinks, his neglected nails were no better at first than crooked talons; whether his whole body was not, bear-like, thick covered with rough hair; and whether, walking upon all-fours, his eyes, directed to the earth, and confined to a horizon of a few paces extent, did not at once point out the nature and limits of his ideas.

This sentence comes from A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality among Mankind

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    For someone familiar with the English language, this would be General Reference. As you seem to be a non-native speaker, it is too early (see further*) for you to attempt to understand this. (*In view of several spelling, grammatical and other errors in your writing, it is apparent that you first need to work on your English skills first to prepare the ground for bigger things). See also English Language Learners
    – Kris
    Dec 7, 2013 at 7:05
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    @Kris I find this book interesting thus I want to read it now, not when I become skilled in English, which may be a quite long time. I can still endeavor to understand this book if I spend more time with my current English ability. Dec 7, 2013 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


The opening lines of the paragraph imply it might be important to look at the origins of mankind to properly assess the “natural state of man”. The rest of the quote implies a belief that progress has occurred in a series of steps, or stages.

In the bolded part, Rousseau says he will not spell out how organization of the human body has changed during the various stages of progress. The series of clauses that end the quote provide examples of questions that Rousseau will not discuss. Why those items won't be discussed is mentioned later in the discourse: To avoid vague and useless conjecture.


A few lines later in the discourse, Rousseau says,

"I see an animal less strong than some, and less active than others, but, upon the whole, the most advantageously organized of any.."

So he is talking of (not) tracing the evolution to what led man to become the most organised among animals...and (more importantly) the further evolution of that endeavor of continued (ways of) organisation in an attempt to reach perfection.

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