PHIL 1050 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Montgomery Bus Boycott, African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–1968), Indian Independence Movement
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Chapter 6: The Social Contract Theory
6.4. The Problem of Civil Disobedience:
- Modern example of civil disobedience taken from the Indian independence
movement lead by Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)
- Another example is the American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther
King Jr. (1929-1968)
- Both were characterized by the public, conscientious, non-violent refusal to
comply with the law.
- 1930 Gandhi and his followers marched to the coastal village of Dandi, where
they defied British law by distilling salt from saltwater.
- British has been controlling salt production so they could force the Indian
peasants to buy it at high prices
- Dr. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began after Rosa Parks was
arrested on December 1st, 1955, for refusing to give her bus seat up to a
- Parks was defying one of the “Jim Crow” laws designed to enforce racial
segregation in the South.
- Both King and Gandhi were murdered by gun fire, but are seen as the two
greatest proponents of nonviolence in the 20th Century.
- Gandhi’s Goal: replace British power rule with an entirely different system.
- King’s Goal: objected the laws and social policies that they felt were unjust,
therefore they refused to comply with them. Wanted to change them (no
more racial segregation)
- Social Contract Theory: we are obligates to obey the law because we each
participate in a social system that promises more benefits than burdens.
6.5. Difficulties for the Theory:
- Two Objections against the social contract theory:
- 1) Said to be based on historical fiction:
- Asked to imagine that people once lived in isolation from one another, that
they found this intolerable, and they eventually banded together, agreeing to
follow social rules of mutual benefit
- None of this ever happened
- Critic said: the Social Contract “isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on”
- We are actually bound by an “implicit” social contract
- It is implicit because we become a party to it not by explicitly making the
promise, but by accepting the benefits of social living
- It is not a description of historical events, but a useful analytic tool, based on
the idea that we may understand our moral obligations as if they had arisen
in this way.