Justice and the Social Contract
Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all end up with a version
of the Social Contract, but Hobbes starts with a very threatening
“state of nature” in which all men are at war against other men.
is an updated version of Hobbes theory:Imagine you washed up on a
deserted island, and after a few hours of exploring, you realize the
only food on the island is a somewhat limited supply of coconuts. After a
few days, another person washes up on the beach. Since you were not
sure that there were enough coconut trees on the island to feed you for
the rest of your life if no ship came to save you, both you and the new
person immediately start gathering up as many coconuts as you can find,
and you both carry your coconuts to opposite ends of the island.
to each other, both of you also start gathering rocks so you can defend
yourselves if the other person tries to sneak over to steal your
coconuts. Neither of you can sleep, because you both are afraid that the
other will attack in the middle of the night.
After a few days
of not sleeping, you guys meet on the beach and both agree that there
will be no night attacks. But, even in your exhaustion, you suspect that
the other guy is lying and will not keep his word, because you were
fully aware that you were lying since you needed his coconuts to
Another week passes, and the two of you crawl out on the
beach—too tired from lack of sleep to walk. Again, you both swear
emphatically that you will not bash in the other person’s head in the
middle of the night and steal the other person’s coconuts. But, both of
you are still lying. At the first chance for either of you, rocks will
slam down on the other person’s head, and coconuts will be stolen.
few days later, a third guy washes up on the beach. In is surveying of
the island, he has found both of you guys and requests a meeting.
Clearly, you and the other guy are too exhausted to even protect the
coconuts you have, but what else can you do?
So, the third guy
(let’s call him the Leviathan) tells you and the second guy that he will
stay up at night and protect you from each other while you are both
sleeping. But, it would cost you both two coconuts a week for him to do
this. And, he also wanted all of the rocks.
By now, the two of
you are so tired that you both agree to the offer and immediately sleep
for five days straight. Now refreshed, you and the second guy sit down
and start planning on how you can grow more coconut trees and increase
the amount of food on the island. With the Leviathan keeping the peace
for the price of a couple of coconuts each week, the two of you can
cooperate and work together rather than constantly be at war. And, with
the arrival of the Leviathan (a.k.a., the government), you have entered
into a Social Contract in which there can be laws, justice, protected
personal property, and restful sleep. Of course, you have to keep
feeding the Leviathan—the monster.
One significant difference
between Hobbes and other Social Contract theorists is that Hobbes
thought it was alright to overthrow an unjust government or even kill an
unjust monarch. If the Leviathan is eating all of your coconuts but the
people are getting no benefits from the arrangement, it might be
prudent to kill the monster. Not surprisingly, the British monarchy was
unhappy with Hobbes’ theory.
Developed a well-organized argumentative essay which addresses all of the following questions:
- What is your definition of justice?
one of the political approaches (Libertarianism, Liberalism, or
Communitarianism) and demonstrate why you believe it would be the most
unjust of the three approaches for a centralized government,
- Depending on your viewpoint, demonstrate which aspects of our current American society make it a just (or unjust) society?
people believe that property ownership is an entitlement while others
believe it is privilege but not a right. Explain what you believe is the
best way to handle property ownership in a way to insure that equality
can be guaranteed.
- Who do you think should rule in a truly just society?
ensure that your essay addresses each component of the assigned
questions and that your answer is well-organized, uses excellent,
college-level prose, and makes judicious use of textual evidence. Your
essay must follow APA formatting and should be 500-750 words long.
you quote, paraphrase, or summarize from the textbook or any other
source, you must include in-text citations and a References page.