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Module 10: Justice – Hobbes, Rousseau, and the Social Contract Philosophy 240: Introductory Ethics Online CCBC Author: Daniel G. Jenkins, MA Updated May.

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Presentation on theme: "Module 10: Justice – Hobbes, Rousseau, and the Social Contract Philosophy 240: Introductory Ethics Online CCBC Author: Daniel G. Jenkins, MA Updated May."— Presentation transcript:


2 Module 10: Justice – Hobbes, Rousseau, and the Social Contract Philosophy 240: Introductory Ethics Online CCBC Author: Daniel G. Jenkins, MA Updated May 2008

3 This module is meant to accompany Chapter 10: The Idea of a Social Contract in Rachels The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 5 th edition. Module Goals: After completing readings, presentations, discussions, and coursework for this module, you will be able to: Identify and explain core aspects of Hobbes ethics Apply Hobbes ethics in moral decision-making Analyze the usefulness and critique features of Hobbes ethics Synthesize Hobbes ethics with other theories in the academic study of ethics

4 What is the purpose of justice? In Module 9 we discussed Kants deontological ethics. While the Utilitarians say that punishment should not be retributive but rehabilitative, Kant says that the only goal of punishment should be punishment for a crime. What stance do you take on justice? Is the goal of justice punishment, as Kant suggests, or is the goal of justice rehabilitation, as the Utilitarians suggest? In the module that follows, we will explore in depth the notion of justice through an ethical lens.

5 Hobbes Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an English philosopher, whose famous 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy. Hobbes's account of human nature as self-interested cooperation has proved to be an enduring theory in philosophy.

6 Morality for Hobbes Morality simply consists in rules that allow social living. What if there were no rules and no method or mechanism by which they could be enforced? No government, no police, no courts. What would this be like? Take a moment to think about this before advancing.

7 The State of Nature Hobbes calls human activity in the absence of rules the state of nature, and in the state of nature we would be free to do as we pleased. But we would have no industry, no hospitals, no society, continual fear of danger and violent death, and the life of man (and woman) would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

8 4 Characteristics Define the State of Nature 1. Equality of Need 2. Scarcity of Resources 3. Equality of Human Power 4. Limited Altruism

9 The State of Nature is Not Hypothetical Hobbes was not making empty analogies or speculative predictions. This is what happens when civilizations descend into anarchy following the collapse of government. Consider, for example, Iraq following U.S. occupation, or New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

10 Escaping the State of Nature Formulate a stable and cooperative society Allow division of labor

11 The Social Contract Two things are required for us to establish cooperative social order: 1.There must be guarantees that people will not harm one another 2.People must be able to rely on one another to keep their agreements. The government plays an essential role in cultivating and maintaining these assurances.

12 Benefits of Social Living Hobbes says that only with adherence to the social contract can we become beneficent/altruistic beings Social living allows for a higher quality of living

13 Does a Contract Really Exist? We did not personally agree to the terms of our contract – the Constitution and Bill of Rights The contract is applied unequally across economic classes and geographical regions

14 Safety First Hobbes believed that justice is served inasmuch as government keeps us safe; liberty without safety is worthless Hobbes is in favor of very big government, with lots of power, to ensure our safety – even at the expense of liberty. What do you think? Would you sacrifice liberty for the sake of safety? Why or why not? Think about this a moment before advancing.

15 Safety vs. Liberty The Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act are designed to keep us safe They dispense with certain liberties: the right to privacy and habeas corpus. Can we sacrifice liberty for the sake of safety? How much? One problem is that sacrifice of liberty creates a slippery slope; the more liberty is taken away, the easier it becomes to take away additional liberties Another problem is that when the government becomes very powerful, there is no one to protect a people from their government

16 Benjamin Franklin Founding father Benjamin Franklin said: He who would sacrifice liberty for the sake of safety deserves neither.

17 Another Perspective In contrast to Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau stressed the importance of the social contract in ensuring liberty. Rousseau ( ) was a philosopher, literary figure, and composer of the Enlightenment whose political philosophy influenced the American Revolution, the Constitution of the United States, the French Revolution, the development of both liberal and socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism.

18 Rousseau

19 When we enter into the social contract we take on a duty to set aside our private, self-centered inclinations in favor of rules that impartially promote the welfare of everyone alike. But we are only able to do so because others have agreed to do the same thing – this is the essence of the contract. Rousseau thought that we have an obligation to participate in establishing the terms of the social contract, and a duty to overthrow the government when it no longer represents us. This is reflected in democratic theory in general and in the provisions of the U.S. Constitution in particular.

20 Morality Defined by Social Contract Theory Whether you find yourself aligning more with Hobbes or Rousseau in terms of the social contract, morality, as defined by social contract theory, might be this: morality consists in the set of rules, governing how people are to treat one another, that rational people will agree to accept, for their mutual benefit, on the condition that others follow those rules as well.

21 A Return to Justice We began this module with demonstrating the contrast between Utilitarian and deontological notions of justice, and ended the module by contrasting Hobbes and Rousseaus notions of justice. Ethically speaking, which of the latter two presents a more defensible exposition of justice? That is, is safety or liberty of more importance in the social contract, and why? How can these positions be backed with either a Utilitarian or Kantian perspective? Consider these questions as you study this module.

22 Summary Hobbes asserts there are no moral truths, rather, morality consists in whatever pragmatic rules we adopt that allow us to reap the benefits of cooperative social living. In particular, Hobbes notes that human life in the absence of such rules is a dangerous life he refers to as the state of nature. We can escape the state of nature by formulating a social contract, the two basic terms and conditions of which are that we will not harm one another, and that we will keep our agreements. Hobbes believes that ensuring our safety should be the primary role of government, while Rousseau believes that ensuring liberty should be the primary role of government. We can ask many questions about the ethical implications of each theorists conception of justice. If the subject interests you further, you may download an e-book version of Hobbes Leviathan for free from Project Gutenburg by clicking here:

23 Congratulations! Youve just completed the presentation for Module 10. Once you have also completed the assigned reading from the textbook, please proceed to the Assignments and Discussion tabs in WebCT to complete relevant coursework for this module. If you have any questions please contact me

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