Kant Hobbes Rousseau Essay

Pages: 8 (2433 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology

Kant, Hobbes, Rousseau

One of the philosophical theories which has attracted the attention of numerous writers is represented by the theory of the social contract. The main philosophers who have dealt with it in their works are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The main idea transmitted through the theory of the social contract is that people are better off giving up part of their freedom in order to have an authority protect their rights and freedoms instead of living in a state of absolute freedom which would eventually be characterized by a perpetual conflict.

Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau try do explain which is the reason which legitimates the authority of the state since it is the state the structure which organizes individual rights and freedoms and which imposes the norms of behaviour for all the people. The starting point for the entire social contract theory is the conception regarding man's natural state (the so-called "state of nature"). In the state of nature, man has absolute freedom. This means that there is no authority which can limit or guide his actions other than his own conscience.

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According to Thomas Hobbes for example, the unlimited freedom which characterizes the state of nature implies amongst other things the right to possess al the existing things. Since the existing things, that we can also call resources are to be found in a limited number, the only possible consequence is represented by a continuous conflict fro the achievement of these resources. The state of nature would therefore be characterized by a state of "war of all against all" that would ultimately represent a challenge for the survival of the human species itself.

The solution that will save people is to be found in the social contract. Through it, people willingly give up a part of their absolute freedom and in return they receive civil rights. In this manner society is organized and people get to live in a community where everybody has to obey the same laws and where al the people are equal in front of the law.

Essay on Kant Hobbes Rousseau Assignment

The purpose of the social contract is to have everybody benefit from it. Its origin is to be found in human reason. After all, its character is a very pragmatic one. As far as the rights which it deals with are concerned, they are not natural ones, in the sense that people need to think about them and formulate them clearly, they do not merely exist needing to be observed. Another aspect worth mentioning is that the character of the rights that the social contract deals with is not a stable one. In other words, as society changes, so do people's rights.

The changes that the social contract undergoes are considered attempts to improve it. When an individual disobeys the laws, it can be considered that he willingly disobeys the contract and gives up his rights. It is natural for the other people to wish to be protected against this kind of actions which would threaten stability.

Hobbes' major work which dealt with the issue of the social contract is the Leviathan. It is here that his conception regarding the state of nature can be found. According to him, outside the stare, human nature is asocial and apolitical. Since everybody has the right to everything, the only imaginable result is a conflict for the use of resources. It is important to underline the fact that Hobbes believed in the advantages of an absolute type of government..

According to him, people have different ideas about what the rightful laws should be. Their interests differ so it is only natural for their conceptions to differ as well. The solution is to have an absolute government which would impose the same laws to everybody while avoiding conflicts regarding the very conceptions of justice.

Human nature is driven by two impulses. On the one hand, there is the fear of death. On the other hand, there is the will to achieve power. These are the main coordinates which allow us to understand the way people would live in the absence of a governing authority. In other words, these impulses would make people violent and unhappy. In order to control these impulses people give up part of their freedom to an authority (which can be incarnated by a single individual).

In exchange they receive protection of their rights in front of the law. The main advantage that people get through the social contract is protection. It is worth bringing into discussion the fact that Hobbes did not pay much importance to the for of government that was to e created. The thing that he considered most important was for society's unity to be preserved.

Another element which differentiates Hobbes from the other thinkers who have analyzed the concept of the social contract is his belief regarding the necessity to renew and revise the contract.

According to him, the social contract must not be revised. The laws that it conceives and guarantees are good enough to last forever. Any attempt to modify them can be considered only a means of trying to get back the freedom people initially renounced to. Violence and chaos would be the only possible consequences that people would have to deal with in case they should consider changing the social contract. It could be stated that Hobbes is a supporter of the absolute rule which controls people better and their impulses as well, providing for a society which is stable and peaceful.

John Locke was another philosopher who was interested in the theory of the social contract. There are however numerous differences between the conceptions of the two. For example, Hobbes believed that man is not a social animal, and that it is the state the mechanism through which society can come into being. Locke sustained the contrary and supported the idea according to which man is a social animal through his nature.

According to Hobbes, life in the state of nature can only be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Locke on the other hand claims that life can be pleasant in the state of nature as well. Since man is a social animal by nature, then he can respect his obligations. People have rights even in a state of nature. The rights that Locke refers to are the property ones.

While Hobbes believes that the absolute freedom which characterizes the state of nature can lead only to a perpetual conflict between all the existing individuals, generating into chaos and war and ultimately threatening the human species, Locke believes that the normal state of people is peace. According to him man can understand and appreciate the advantages of living in a state of peace. This is why people tend to end the existing conflicts and install peace.

In addition, people have the power to distinguish between what is right and what is evil. They also know that only the right things are the ones which support the state of freedom and it is only freedom that can bring universal benefits. This is why the people who perform actions which are against the principles of goodness should be punished.

Whenever a conflict occurs, the distinction that people can make between good and evil, lawfulness and unlawfulness, helps them solve it. Another element which proves to be helpful under these circumstances is represented by the right o private property. In other words, Locke believes that distinguishing between the different belongings helps people solve conflicts. While this is true, it is just ass true that this state of peace and balance is rather fragile, since there is no authority to guarantee it and impose the laws to all the individuals in an equal manner.

It may be argued that people are better off in a state of peace. Nevertheless, it is also true that people are in a constant race to achieve and use resources which are limited and therefore, not available for everybody. This means that different people have different interests which can be translated into different conceptions regarding justice. According to Locke, one way of avoiding conflict under these circumstances is to respect private property.

Another important factor which could be analyzed when reading Locke's works regarding the theory of the social contract is represented by the nature of good and evil. One question that people might end up asking themselves concerns the role of the social contract. In other words, does the social contract truly invent the laws, or does it only record them. The truth is that the value of good or evil that a thing may have does not depend on the judgement of the individual since the individual is biased by his interests. What is good for a person is bad for another one. Therefore, it would be impossible to reach an universal agreement in this direction. In reality the categories exist beyond human evaluation and description. According to Locke, if someone appreciates a thing as being good while the same thing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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