Social Contract Theory Essay

And the contemporary revival of contractarian moral and political thought, represented by John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971) or David Gauthier Os Morals by Agreement (1986), needs to be appreciated in the history of this tradition.« less more » Part 1 Introduction Part 2 Acknowledgments Chapter 3 1 Hobbes' War of All against All Chapter 4 2 Hobbes' "Mortal God": Is There a Fallacy in Hobbes' Theory of Sovereignty?

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Thomas Hobbes (1588 1679) and John Locke (1632 1704) developed their political theories at a time of religious, political and social upheaval in England.

They were archetypal enlightenment figures well acquainted with the scientific and philosophical concerns of their time.

Twelve thoughtfully selected essays guide students through the texts, familiarizing them with key elements of the theory, while at the same time introducing them to current scholarly controversies. The classical social contract theorists represent one of the two or three most important modern traditions in political thought.

Their ideas dominated political debates in Europe and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, influencing political thinkers, statesmen, constitution makers, revolutionaries, and other political actors alike.

Prior to the civil war in England government was theocratic.

This saw kings as divinely appointed and their subjects as divinely commanded to obey them.

For example, it is in everyones interest to have a criminal justice system that is effective at prosecuting lawbreakers while at the same time protecting rights of the accused and providing for fair trials and reasonable punishments.

Since the parties are doing so out of self-interest, it does not make sense for the negotiations to include everyone in the world (why would it be in our self-interest to enter a binding social contract with the people of Timbuktu?

To develop their theories of government they started with man in his original condition, or “the state of nature”.

Where they differed was in their assumptions about the nature of ungoverned human interaction and behaviour. Starting from their very different assumptions as to the “state of nature” they came to different conclusions and provided different prescriptions for the government of society.


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