(below is the essay submitted for one of my online courses – i allowed the thoughts to brew off of yesterday’s post and then started composing after midnight. i preface this for as i give it a read now there is much to question and even offer objection to my own words. as i learned last week in another online class – Hume informs us not to trust testimony – Kant concurs that one must seek their own knowledge – ergo, read at your own risk knowing this is an essay of a novice in both literature and philosophy. that said, if you are well read, you shall not hurt my feelings if you wish to rip apart these words…well, as long as your comments uphold the ideology of Hume, offering a bit of evidence to uphold testimony – now, what is that called… )
(p.s. sadly, “Works Cited” has gone missing..)
(p.s.s. Marc Cary just came up on my Pandora – had to click over to find out who this killer jazz pianist was coolin’ the room- fab)
“Philosophical proponents of progress assert that the human condition has improved over the course of history and will continue to improve.” 
Despite the above statement, there are always those who propose the contrary. Two contrarians, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Gustave Flaubert, make no apologies in their writings. Both men raised objection to what they saw as a society being harmed by progress.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was not a proponent of the Age of Enlightenment; he believed it regressed the human condition. The moment a person was removed from their natural state into a civilized society, the natural progression of ownership stripped away personal freedoms.
John Locke stated: “The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property.” Rousseau explores this idea:
“The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, “Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” 2]
Rousseau equates ownership of land, a natural progression of industry, as the root of what falls man’s personal progress in society. Society begins to evolve and revolve around ownership. Material goods become a measure of man. Rousseau questions if society can survive man’s progress as it gives power to inequality.
Gustave Flaubert also questioned the notion of historical progress of society. Flaubert writes at the height of the Romantic movement, yet he rejects Romanticism, seeing it as illusionary. One could say that Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is to Rousseau’s “Discourse on the Origin of Social Inequality”. The author feels this notion of “passion”, which helps to define Romanticism, will not alleviate society of her ills brought on by progress.
Flaubert writes with a deft pen as we watch Emma Bovary self-destruct as she continues to live a life led by passion. The passion is an illusion, though, not of nature or virtue, but manufactured via her books and society. She falls into the trap of believing that passion and status will lead her to happiness. Ultimately, Madame Bovary, rejects Romanticism and Enlightenment making one question what Flaubert would say is the answer to living in progress. Julian Barnes’s novel on Flaubert offers a curious insight:
“[Flaubert] didn’t just hate the railway as such; he hated the way it flattered people with the illusion of progress. What was the point of scientific advance without moral advance? The railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid together.” 
Madame Bovary offers a taste of reality; a fair warning that tragedy is part of the trappings of a progressive society. Madame Bovary reminds why certain fictions are not really fiction at all. Perhaps this is why some factions were outraged when it was first published -why any literature creating ripples outrages– not because it is objectionable, but because it drops the scales from the reader’s eyes allowing us to see the beasts we’ve become.
Neither Flaubert or Rousseau were darlings of their society; peers rejected their writings as backward or ignorant. Today, however, it is understood that their words reflect issues that have continued to plague a society ‘progressed’. We are still seeking enlightenment – filling shelves with books on ‘how to find happiness and personal freedom’. We continue to chase dreams in the name of our passions with hopes to fulfill our destiny.
Does a step forward in progress today continue to take a step away from our intrinsic humanity? If the answer is yes, could we say these contrarians are perhaps more right than wrong?