Philosopher dude, c. 1770

This joke is relevant to the recent discussions within the economics profession about rigor in research. It’s also just funny and shouldn’t be lost, as so many memes quickly are.

The worst philosopher dude offender is Rousseau. Rousseau is cringe.

Here are his misleading thoughts from the bath about primitive humans, “The produce of the earth furnished [man] with all he needed, and instinct told him how to use it.”

A quick search about primitive humans brings up this from Psychology Today:

The caveman diet is a great diet if you want to live to be 30 or 35 years old. That was the adult life expectancy until very, very recently (indeed, it wasn’t until well after the advent of agriculture that life expectancies began to rise—in agricultural communities!). We know this from skeletal evidence.

The data is very sketchy on primitive life. However, there is no reading of the available evidence that makes it sound like people were well-provisioned to care for themselves and their children. This BBC article provides more sources on life expectancy throughout history.  

One thought on “Philosopher dude, c. 1770

  1. Scott Buchanan June 29, 2021 / 2:53 pm

    Good point about Rousseau romanticizing primitive cultures.

    That said, I think the consensus is that the dawn of agriculture actually led on average to worse, not better health:
    “When populations around the globe started turning to agriculture around 10,000 years ago, regardless of their locations and type of crops, a similar trend occurred: the height and health of the people declined. ” – – Emory Univ. study 2011,


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