Philosophy – Social Contract
Justice and the Social Contract
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all end up with a version of the Social Contract, but Hobbes starts with a very threatening “state of nature” in which all men are at war against other men.
Here is an updated version of Hobbes theory:Imagine you washed up on a deserted island, and after a few hours of exploring, you realize the only food on the island is a somewhat limited supply of coconuts. After a few days, another person washes up on the beach. Since you were not sure that there were enough coconut trees on the island to feed you for the rest of your life if no ship came to save you, both you and the new person immediately start gathering up as many coconuts as you can find, and you both carry your coconuts to opposite ends of the island.
Unbeknownst to each other, both of you also start gathering rocks so you can defend yourselves if the other person tries to sneak over to steal your coconuts. Neither of you can sleep, because you both are afraid that the other will attack in the middle of the night.
After a few days of not sleeping, you guys meet on the beach and both agree that there will be no night attacks. But, even in your exhaustion, you suspect that the other guy is lying and will not keep his word, because you were fully aware that you were lying since you needed his coconuts to survive.
Another week passes, and the two of you crawl out on the beach—too tired from lack of sleep to walk. Again, you both swear emphatically that you will not bash in the other person’s head in the middle of the night and steal the other person’s coconuts. But, both of you are still lying. At the first chance for either of you, rocks will slam down on the other person’s head, and coconuts will be stolen.
A few days later, a third guy washes up on the beach. In is surveying of the island, he has found both of you guys and requests a meeting. Clearly, you and the other guy are too exhausted to even protect the coconuts you have, but what else can you do?
So, the third guy (let’s call him the Leviathan) tells you and the second guy that he will stay up at night and protect you from each other while you are both sleeping. But, it would cost you both two coconuts a week for him to do this. And, he also wanted all of the rocks.
By now, the two of you are so tired that you both agree to the offer and immediately sleep for five days straight. Now refreshed, you and the second guy sit down and start planning on how you can grow more coconut trees and increase the amount of food on the island. With the Leviathan keeping the peace for the price of a couple of coconuts each week, the two of you can cooperate and work together rather than constantly be at war. And, with the arrival of the Leviathan (a.k.a., the government), you have entered into a Social Contract in which there can be laws, justice, protected personal property, and restful sleep. Of course, you have to keep feeding the Leviathan—the monster.
One significant difference between Hobbes and other Social Contract theorists is that Hobbes thought it was alright to overthrow an unjust government or even kill an unjust monarch. If the Leviathan is eating all of your coconuts but the people are getting no benefits from the arrangement, it might be prudent to kill the monster. Not surprisingly, the British monarchy was unhappy with Hobbes’ theory.
Developed a well-organized argumentative essay which addresses all of the following questions:
- What is your definition of justice?
- Pick one of the political approaches (Libertarianism, Liberalism, or Communitarianism) and demonstrate why you believe it would be the most unjust of the three approaches for a centralized government,
- Depending on your viewpoint, demonstrate which aspects of our current American society make it a just (or unjust) society?
- Some people believe that property ownership is an entitlement while others believe it is privilege but not a right. Explain what you believe is the best way to handle property ownership in a way to insure that equality can be guaranteed.
- Who do you think should rule in a truly just society?
Please ensure that your essay addresses each component of the assigned questions and that your answer is well-organized, uses excellent, college-level prose, and makes judicious use of textual evidence. Your essay must follow APA formatting and should be 500-750 words long.
If you quote, paraphrase, or summarize from the textbook or any other source, you must include in-text citations and a References page.