Philosophy 1020 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Implied Consent

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Philosophy 1020
Hume on the Social Contract
General
The truth in it:
“A man’s natural force consist only in the vigour of his limbs, and the firmness of his
courage; which could never subject multitudes to the command of one. Nothing but their
own consent, and their sense of the advantages resulting from peace and order, could
have had that influence” (Para. 4)
But philosophers want to claim more, namely:
“that, even at present, when it has attained full maturity [government] rests on no other
foundation [than consent].” (Para. 6)
To which Hume replies:
“[W]ould these reasoners look abroad into the world, they would meet with nothing that,
in the least, corresponds to their ideas.” (Para. 7)
To which he then imagines the reply:
“But the contract, on which government is founded, is said to be the original contract;
and consequently may be supposed too old to fall under the knowledge of the present
generation.” (Para. 8)
To which Hume replies:
1. ok, but even granting that, “being so ancient, and being obliterated by a thousand
changes of government and princes, [the original contract] cannot now be supposed to
retain any authority.”
2. “[T]his supposes the consent of the father to bind the children.” (Para. 8)
To which he then imagines the reply:
it is tacit consent, in the present, that does the work
To which Hume replies:
“Such an implied consent can only have place, where a man imagines, that the matter
depends on his choice.” (Para. 23)
but he does no (so imagine) and it does not (depend on his choice), for two reasons:
1. [W]here he thinks… that by his birth he owes allegiance to a certain price or
certain form of government; it would be absurd to infer a consent or choice.”
(Para. 23)
2. “Can we seriously say, that a poor peasant or artizan has a free choice to leave
his country, when he knows no foreign language or manners, and lives from day
to day, by the small wages which he acquires?” (Para. 24)
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