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.
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 survive.
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?
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.
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.
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
a well-organized argumentative essay which addresses all of the following
What is your definition of justice?
Pick 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?
Some 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.