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Chapter

PHIL 240 Justifying the State - Social Contract


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 240
Professor
Adam Etinson

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II: Justifying the State
The State
Two essential features:
1) Maintains monopoly of legitimate violence
2) Protection of all citizens within its territories
However:
1) What is meant by “legitimate”? Is the monopoly ever actually maintained?
2) Do all states actually protect all citizens all the time?
How can the state be justified?
Negative vs. Positive justifications
one can imagine that life would be worse without a state: negative
justifications
consent & utilitarianism: positive justifications
Wolff: the goal of justification is to show that there are universal political
obligations
Social Contract Theory
These theorists place much weight upon personal autonomy/natural liberty. As a
result, political institutions must be justified in terms of the will, choices, or
decisions of those over whom they have authority.
Self-assumption principle: no one has duties unless they have “assumed”, or
voluntarily taken them
Voluntarism: political power created as a consequence of voluntary acts
-original document? Ridicule!
Tacit consent: Voting? Enjoyment of benefits? But not everyone has the option to
refuse benefits.
Hypothetical Consent: If we went into a state of nature, we would rationally want
to re-create the state. Can be used to show awareness that one has consented for
the whole duration of their lives.
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