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    which enlightenment philosopher presented the concept of a social contract, in which society agrees to be governed by its general will?

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    Social Contract Theory

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    Social Contract Theory

    Social contract theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Socrates uses something quite like a social contract argument to explain to Crito why he must remain in prison and accept the death penalty. However, social contract theory is rightly associated with modern moral and political theory and is given its first full exposition and defense by Thomas Hobbes. After Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are the best known proponents of this enormously influential theory, which has been one of the most dominant theories within moral and political theory throughout the history of the modern West. In the twentieth century, moral and political theory regained philosophical momentum as a result of John Rawls’ Kantian version of social contract theory, and was followed by new analyses of the subject by David Gauthier and others. More recently, philosophers from different perspectives have offered new criticisms of social contract theory. In particular, feminists and race-conscious philosophers have argued that social contract theory is at least an incomplete picture of our moral and political lives, and may in fact camouflage some of the ways in which the contract is itself parasitical upon the subjugations of classes of persons.

    Table of Contents

    Socrates’ Argument

    Modern Social Contract Theory

    Thomas Hobbes John Locke

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    More Recent Social Contract Theories

    John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice

    David Gauthier

    Contemporary Critiques of Social Contract Theory

    Feminist Arguments The Sexual Contract

    The Nature of the Liberal Individual

    Arguing from Care

    Race-Conscious Argument

    Conclusion

    References and Further Reading

    1. Socrates’ Argument

    In the early Platonic dialogue, Crito, Socrates makes a compelling argument as to why he must stay in prison and accept the death penalty, rather than escape and go into exile in another Greek city. He personifies the Laws of Athens, and, speaking in their voice, explains that he has acquired an overwhelming obligation to obey the Laws because they have made his entire way of life, and even the fact of his very existence, possible. They made it possible for his mother and father to marry, and therefore to have legitimate children, including himself. Having been born, the city of Athens, through its laws, then required that his father care for and educate him. Socrates’ life and the way in which that life has flourished in Athens are each dependent upon the Laws. Importantly, however, this relationship between citizens and the Laws of the city are not coerced. Citizens, once they have grown up, and have seen how the city conducts itself, can choose whether to leave, taking their property with them, or stay. Staying implies an agreement to abide by the Laws and accept the punishments that they mete out. And, having made an agreement that is itself just, Socrates asserts that he must keep to this agreement that he has made and obey the Laws, in this case, by staying and accepting the death penalty. Importantly, the contract described by Socrates is an implicit one: it is implied by his choice to stay in Athens, even though he is free to leave.

    In Plato’s most well-known dialogue, Republic, social contract theory is represented again, although this time less favorably. In Book II, Glaucon offers a candidate for an answer to the question “what is justice?” by representing a social contract explanation for the nature of justice. What men would most want is to be able to commit injustices against others without the fear of reprisal, and what they most want to avoid is being treated unjustly by others without being able to do injustice in return. Justice then, he says, is the conventional result of the laws and covenants that men make in order to avoid these extremes. Being unable to commit injustice with impunity (as those who wear the ring of Gyges would), and fearing becoming victims themselves, men decide that it is in their interests to submit themselves to the convention of justice. Socrates rejects this view, and most of the rest of the dialogue centers on showing that justice is worth having for its own sake, and that the just man is the happy man. So, from Socrates’ point of view, justice has a value that greatly exceeds the prudential value that Glaucon assigns to it.

    These views, in the Crito and the Republic, might seem at first glance inconsistent: in the former dialogue Socrates uses a social contract type of argument to show why it is just for him to remain in prison, whereas in the latter he rejects social contract as the source of justice. These two views are, however, reconcilable. From Socrates’ point of view, a just man is one who will, among other things, recognize his obligation to the state by obeying its laws. The state is the morally and politically most fundamental entity, and as such deserves our highest allegiance and deepest respect. Just men know this and act accordingly. Justice, however, is more than simply obeying laws in exchange for others obeying them as well. Justice is the state of a well-regulated soul, and so the just man will also necessarily be the happy man. So, justice is more than the simple reciprocal obedience to law, as Glaucon suggests, but it does nonetheless include obedience to the state and the laws that sustain it. So in the end, although Plato is perhaps the first philosopher to offer a representation of the argument at the heart of social contract theory, Socrates ultimately rejects the idea that social contract is the original source of justice.

    Source : iep.utm.edu

    Social contract

    Social contract

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    "Social Agreement" redirects here. For the Greek political party, see Social Agreement (Greece). For Rousseau's 1762 treatise on the concept, see The Social Contract. For other uses, see Social Contract (disambiguation).

    The original cover of Thomas Hobbes's work (1651), in which he discusses the concept of the social contract theory.

    In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.[1] Social contract arguments typically are that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority (of the ruler, or to the decision of a majority) in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order.[2][3] The relation between natural and legal rights is often a topic of social contract theory. The term takes its name from (French: ), a 1762 book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau that discussed this concept. Although the antecedents of social contract theory are found in antiquity, in Greek and Stoic philosophy and Roman and Canon Law, the heyday of the social contract was the mid-17th to early 19th centuries, when it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy.

    The starting point for most social contract theories is an examination of the human condition absent of any political order (termed the "state of nature" by Thomas Hobbes).[4] In this condition, individuals' actions are bound only by their personal power and conscience. From this shared starting point, social contract theorists seek to demonstrate why rational individuals would voluntarily consent to give up their natural freedom to obtain the benefits of political order. Prominent 17th- and 18th-century theorists of the social contract and natural rights include Hugo Grotius (1625), Thomas Hobbes (1651), Samuel von Pufendorf (1673), John Locke (1689), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762) and Immanuel Kant (1797), each approaching the concept of political authority differently. Grotius posited that individual humans had natural rights. Thomas Hobbes famously said that in a "state of nature", human life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". In the absence of political order and law, everyone would have unlimited natural freedoms, including the "right to all things" and thus the freedom to plunder rape and murder; there would be an endless "war of all against all" (). To avoid this, free men contract with each other to establish political community (civil society) through a social contract in which they all gain security in return for subjecting themselves to an absolute sovereign, one man or an assembly of men. Though the sovereign's edicts may well be arbitrary and tyrannical, Hobbes saw absolute government as the only alternative to the terrifying anarchy of a state of nature. Hobbes asserted that humans consent to abdicate their rights in favor of the absolute authority of government (whether monarchical or parliamentary). Alternatively, Locke and Rousseau argued that we gain civil rights in return for accepting the obligation to respect and defend the rights of others, giving up some freedoms to do so.

    The central assertion that social contract theory approaches is that law and political order are not natural, but human creations. The social contract and the political order it creates are simply the means towards an end—the benefit of the individuals involved—and legitimate only to the extent that they fulfill their part of the agreement. Hobbes argued that government is not a party to the original contract and citizens are not obligated to submit to the government when it is too weak to act effectively to suppress factionalism and civil unrest. According to other social contract theorists, when the government fails to secure their natural rights (Locke) or satisfy the best interests of society (called the "general will" by Rousseau), citizens can withdraw their obligation to obey or change the leadership through elections or other means including, when necessary, violence. Locke believed that natural rights were inalienable, and therefore the rule of God superseded government authority, while Rousseau believed that democracy (majority-rule) was the best way to ensure welfare while maintaining individual freedom under the rule of law. The Lockean concept of the social contract was invoked in the United States Declaration of Independence. Social contract theories were eclipsed in the 19th century in favor of utilitarianism, Hegelianism and Marxism; they were revived in the 20th century, notably in the form of a thought experiment by John Rawls.[5]

    Contents

    1 Overview

    1.1 The model of the social contract

    2 History

    2.1 Classical thought

    2.2 Renaissance developments

    3 Philosophers

    3.1 Thomas Hobbes' (1651)

    3.2 John Locke's (1689)

    3.3 Jean-Jacques Rousseau's (1762)

    3.4 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's individualist social contract (1851)

    3.5 John Rawls' (1971)

    3.6 David Gauthier's (1986)

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

    general will

    general will, in political theory, a collectively held will that aims at the common good or common interest. The general will is central to the political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and an important concept in modern republican thought. Rousseau distinguished the general will from the particular and often contradictory wills of individuals and groups. In Du Contrat social (1762; The Social Contract), Rousseau argued that freedom and authority are not contradictory, since legitimate laws are founded on the general will of the citizens. In obeying the law, the individual citizen is thus only obeying himself as a member of the

    general will

    philosophy of Rousseau

    Alternate titles: volonté générale

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    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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    Key People: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Related Topics: political philosophy will

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    general will, in political theory, a collectively held will that aims at the common good or common interest. The general will is central to the political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and an important concept in modern republican thought. Rousseau distinguished the general will from the particular and often contradictory wills of individuals and groups. In Du Contrat social (1762; The Social Contract), Rousseau argued that freedom and authority are not contradictory, since legitimate laws are founded on the general will of the citizens. In obeying the law, the individual citizen is thus only obeying himself as a member of the political community.

    The notion of the general will precedes Rousseau and has its roots in Christian theology. In the second half of the 17th century, Nicolas Malebranche attributed the general will to God. God, Malebranche argued, mostly acts in the world through a set of “general laws” instituted at the creation of the world. These laws correspond to God’s general will, in contradistinction to particular expressions of God’s will: miracles and other occasional acts of divine intervention. For Malebranche, it is because God’s will expresses itself mainly through general laws that one can make sense of the apparent contradiction between God’s will to save all of humankind and the fact that most souls will not actually be saved. Rousseau’s own understanding of the general will emerged from a critique of Denis Diderot, who transformed Malebranche’s understanding of the general will into a secular concept but who echoed Malebranche by defining it in universalistic terms. In his article “Droit naturel” (“Natural Right”) published in 1755 in the Encyclopédie, Diderot argued that morality is based on the general will of humankind to improve its own happiness. Individuals can access this moral ideal by reflecting on their interests as members of the human race. The general will, Diderot believed, is necessarily directed at the good since its object is the betterment of all.

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    constitution: Rousseau and the general will

    Whereas Hobbes created his unitary sovereign through the mechanism of individual and unilateral promises and whereas Locke prevented excessive...

    For Rousseau, however, the general will is not an abstract ideal. It is instead the will actually held by the people in their capacity as citizens. Rousseau’s conception is thus political and differs from the more universal conception of the general will held by Diderot. To partake in the general will means, for Rousseau, to reflect upon and to vote on the basis of one’s sense of justice. Individuals become conscious of their interests as citizens, according to Rousseau, and thus of the interest of the republic as a whole, not through spirited discussions but, on the contrary, by following their personal conscience in the “silence of the passions.” In this sense, the public assembly does not debate so much as disclose the general will of the people. Rousseau argued that the general will is intrinsically right, but he also criticized in some works (mainly in his Discours sur les sciences et les arts (1750; Discourse on the Sciences and Arts) the rationalist elevation of reason above feelings. This has provoked scholarly debate about the rational and affective dimensions of the general will. On the one hand, the general will reflects the rational interest of the individual (as citizen) as well as that of the people as a whole. On the other hand, the general will is not purely rational because it emerges out of an attachment and even a love for one’s political community.

    Rousseau assumed that all people are capable of taking the moral standpoint of aiming at the common good and that, if they did so, they would reach a unanimous decision. Thus, in an ideal state, laws express the general will. While citizens may be wrong and deceived, according to Rousseau, they will aim at justice as long as they pursue the interest of the people rather than follow their interests as individuals or as members of different groups. Seen from this perspective, the individual who breaches the law is acting not only against the instituted government but also against that individual’s higher interest as a member of the political community. In a famous passage of The Social Contract, Rousseau argued that requiring such an individual to abide by the law is thus nothing else than “forcing him to be free.” On this basis, critics including Benjamin Constant and Jacob Talmon have accused Rousseau of being an authoritarian thinker and, in the second case, a forefather of totalitarian politics. Talmon’s indictment has, however, been largely discredited.

    While scholars differ on the meaning of the aforementioned passage, there is wide agreement that Rousseau was concerned with preserving civil liberty and autonomy, not with giving free reign to government. In fact, the concept of the general will also implies a proscription against despotism. For Rousseau, government is legitimate only insofar as it is subordinated to popular sovereignty or, in other words, follows the general will of the people. Government loses all legitimacy the moment it places itself above the law to pursue its own interest as a separate political body.

    Source : www.britannica.com

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