Social Contract theorists say that morality consists of a set of rules governing how people should treat one another that rational beings will agree to accept for their mutual benefit, on the condition that others agree to follow these rules as well.
Hobbes runs the logic like this in the form of a logical syllogism:
We are all self-interested,
Each of us needs to have a peaceful and cooperative social order to pursue our interests,
We need moral rules in order to establish and maintain a cooperative social order,
Therefore, self-interest motivates us to establish moral rules.
Thomas Hobbes looked to the past to observe a primitive “State of Nature” in which there is no such thing as morality, and that this self-interested human nature was “nasty, brutish, and short” — a kind of perpetual state of warfare
John Locke disagreed, and set forth the view that the state exists to preserve the natural rights of its citizens. When governments fail in that task, citizens have the right—and sometimes the duty—to withdraw their support and even to rebel. Listen to Locke’s audio in this week’s lesson and read his lecturette to be able to answer this thread.
Locke addressed Hobbes’s claim that the state of nature was the state of war, though he attribute this claim to “some men” not to Hobbes. He refuted it by pointing to existing and real historical examples of people in a state of nature. For this purpose he regarded any people who are not subject to a common judge to resolve disputes, people who may legitimately take action to themselves punish wrong doers, as in a state of nature.
Which philosophy do you espouse?
In coming to grips with the two and considering your experience of society as it is today, think out loud about what you experiences as the State of Nature, and tell us what you would be willing to give up in exchange for civil order and personal security?
You might consider what you have already given up in exchange for security as well as what might be required in coming days.