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POLS 2000 nov 7.docx

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Political Science
Course Code
POLS 2000
Frank Cameron

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POLS 2000
November 7, 2013
Social Contract Theorists
Use state of nature to explain how human beings went from a pre-social condition to
forming a political society. State of nature is a thought experiment, if you take an
individual and strip them of any social attachment/group and look at the individual in
abstraction, what is the individual like? State of nature is also of the absence of any
binding authority. What happens when there is no particular authority? Example: civil
war (Hobbes).
Hobbes-state of nature is one where the individual is self interested, egoistic, sort of
rational calculator of what is in his best interests. He explains how we go from a state of
nature to society.
Different from the ancients because of the distinction between phusis and nomos (nature
and convention/agreement). Ancients say nomos is secondary and that society is natural.
Moderns say that it is a matter of convention, there is nothing natural about society.
Hobbes says in fear of a violent death that human beings in a state of nature decide they
want to form society. The only reason they want to join a society is fear of a violent
death, you have natural rights because there are natural rights in the state of nature.
Living in this condition, you live in fear for your life everyday, as there is no right or
wrong. Everyone must agree to give up their natural rights and choose a sovereign to
rule over them, entrusting power to an absolute ruler, once an agreement is formed. The
ruler can do whatever they want because justice=obedience to the sovereign, but they will
not abuse this power because they are giving the ruler a mandate, provided that the ruler
provides peace and security. Is peace the highest virtue? Hobbes believes so. Criticism:
peace is the highest virtue and it is a means to self-preservation and life, not the good life
but just life. Hobbes does not discuss the higher virtues in the Leviathan (honour,
courage) but the paradox is that this commitment that he has peace relies on the
individuals in society who value something besides their own self interest, who are
willing to sacrifice their lives for something of greater significance and glory. The only
way that peace can be achieved is for these individuals to go beyond peace, therefore it is
not the highest virtue.
His approach is completely scientific in the sense that he wants to start with the
individual-what is a human being? He says the human being is nothing but a body, a
machine in motion. Hobbes is therefore a materialist. He thought science could be
applied to politics, that there was a science of politics.
Honourary founder of America
oHe gives us the modern state, there are many references to Locke in the
Constitution of America, Declaration of Independence
oHe is Canada’s founder, he is the father of modern liberalism
What does he defend?
oNatural liberty
oEquality of human beings
oNatural rights
A state-property
oLegitimate government
What legitimizes it and justifies it?
Government by consent of the people
oRequires separation of powers
oLimited government and if government ever abuses
natural rights then the people have the right the
revolt (revolution)
Ancients disagree
Also associated with liberal constitution and religious tolerance
Wants to create a different state to Hobbes
oA more constitutional state
oHobbes theory of absolute authority is far too harsh
oThe conditions of their own day speak to their political affiliations
1688-Glorious Revolution
James the Second was Catholic and English
Feared he would associate with the French and the people
wanted him replaced
Led to 1689-Bill of Rights and Parliamentary democracy
Locke was anti-monarchial and associated himself with the Shaftesbury Circle
oForced to flee England due to persecution
oHobbes recognized that civil wars in its own day were due largely to
Cromwell’s republican army
He thought they should not usurp the rule of an absolute monarchy
Hobbes transformed Machiavelli’s Prince into the Hobbesian sovereign
oRepresentative government insofar that the people choose the sovereign
Result of the social contract
Ensuring peace, order, justice
Main difference between Locke and Hobbes
oLocke-defended natural law
More than any other natural thinker
Core of his political thought
To understand natural law, you must begin by observing nature, the
state of nature
Without civil authority or civil obligations
oHobbes says that the state of nature:
When civil authority breaks down what is the state of nature like?
All against all
Locke: a moral condition
oGoverned by moral law that dictates peace and
oMoral law of nature determines that no one should
harm another person in their life, liberty or their
oCivil authority founded on law of reason
oKnowable by our virtue of knowable capacities
o“Law of nature declares we are the workmanship of
one omnipotent and wise maker”
Humans are a creation of this divine being
oLocke’s natural law: peace and preservation of mankind
But he turns to the right of self preservation
Is the theory of natural law like that of moral duty to preserve
others obligations? Concern for wellbeing of others.
Is it the right that mandate be given to highest priority of
individual self-preservation?
oSounds really close to Hobbes
Mutual distrust in a state of nature
Condition of no civil authority, where every individual
serves as judge and executioner
oHobbes says this too
oAbsolute right to defend yourself
Locke previously said we are peace seeking creatures who
should not harm others based on the state of nature
oContradicts his statements
oHarm or protect?
Is the natural condition overseen by a moral law (peace and
security) is there some sort of moral law that propels us to this or is
his state of nature simply a veiled description of the Hobbesian
description of all against all?
Locke=Hobbes in sheep clothing?
oYou have traditional natural law, you have duties to others
Duty to others is what is primary for most natural law theorists

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