John Locke (1632-1704), a British empiricist philosopher whom we first met in the epistemology unit, had a more optimistic view of human nature than Hobbes.`. In their natural state, according to Locke, men are particularly rational and possess inalienable rights to pursue life at will. In his Second Treatise on Government (1690), Locke describes his views on the social contract, the purpose and structure of government, and his image of the ideal relationship between an individual and a government. The philosophers of the Enlightenment period we met claim to imagine man in a “state of nature” that is before socialization. Do you think a presocial idea of human nature is possible? Why or why not? And if possible, would it be a useful starting point for understanding the individual`s best interests in defining a relationship with a governing body? Why or why not? According to Hobbe, people in the state of nature are selfish, destructive, unprincipled and at war with each other. But because people are so rational, they realize that their lives will be better when they work with others and live under the protection of a sovereign authority, namely the British monarchy. According to Hobbes, this social contract is to give up a certain freedom in exchange for security. A political structure is needed for peace and cooperation. The following video selection are lectures from Michael Sandel`s course at Harvard University “Justice”.
The videos include interactions between Sandel and his students and between students whose opinions differ on these topics. John Locke used the social contract to justify the authority of the state. However, he believed that the role of government was to be the “servant” of its citizens and to protect the natural rights of peoples. The right to private property, among these natural rights, is at the heart of Locke`s advocacy for civilian government; Ownership of the property is devoid of object disputes, and the contract expects the civil authority to protect the property and other rights of the individual. Locke believed that all people have natural rights, regardless of culture or circumstance. Natural rights are a fundamental moral law; moral requirements are rooted in his conception of human nature; every human being has these rights, simply by virtue of his humanity. According to Locke, the right to life, liberty, health and property is inalienable. His ideas were instrumental in forming the basis of america`s Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The theories of the social contract advanced by philosophers generally refer to contracts between a nation and its citizens.
Consent to such treaties should be tacit or implied because one is a citizen of the State. (An exception to this rule could be that an immigrant is naturalized and there would be a genuine oath of conformity or consent here.) The social principles and political structure of a society, established by the consent of its members, represent the norm of that society as to what is good or just. Rousseau believed that society should be organized in such a way that people would give up certain individual freedoms and rights for collective freedom. His vision of the social contract included unification to express a single collective will. In this way, the state (or society) acts as a legal person and not just as a set of individuals. The general will is the will of a politically united group of people who define the common good, determine good and evil, and establish it through the adoption of laws. The majority vote democratically confirms the general will. Several philosophers have proposed theories of the social contract during the period of European history known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, from the late 1600s to the early 1800s. If we look at three of these philosophers, remember that: (1) everyone has a specific view of man`s “state of nature” (human nature before socialization), and (2) everyone advocates a social contract that embraces their view of human nature. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was a British philosopher who lived during the English Civil War (1642–1648). The work that most fully expresses his political thought is Leviathan (1651). Hobbes` underlying epistemological and metaphysical beliefs contribute to his socio-political views; he was materialistic and attached to the laws of causality and movement of bodies.
He expressed very pessimistic views about man in his natural state and the social contract required to live in a relatively carefree society. Theories of social contracts. This video (more than 8 minutes) summarizes and compares the theories of the social contract of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. In his work Politics, Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) explained how the virtuous life of individual citizens is supported by the political community itself. He believed that obtaining virtue and acquiring a sense of self-identity required social interaction and work with others. Being a member of society (with its term “the city”) is the natural state of man. Humans are by nature social beings living in groups, and living in a community (the city) is necessary for a full human life. Note that for Aristotle, “the city” represents the culmination of the social structure; it starts with families, families form villages, and villages develop into cities, centers of culture. Social contract theory states that people in society live together in accordance with an agreement that establishes moral and political rules of conduct. Some people believe that if we live by a social contract, we can live morally by our own choice and not because a divine being demands it. What does it mean to be a member of a community, to “belong” to the society in which you live? In response to such questions, philosophers propose theories about what should be the case; on the other hand, social scientists describe what is the case. Social and political philosophy, like ethics, is a normative aspiration, and the idea of what constitutes moral actions for individuals is an integral part of their relationship with the community (the broader social group) to which they belong.
The idea of “good” is essential to understanding what makes a society just or just for its members. If we look at how specific philosophers see the relationship of the individual with society and what makes the quality of a society, we find that a certain idea of human nature will underpin theories about the relationship between individuals and their society, whether it is a local community or a nation. .