An Outline of Thomas Hobbes' Social Contract

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An Outline of Thomas Hobbes' Social Contract

By | November 2007
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Outline Hobbes' theory on the social contract giving details on what he believed was needed to maintain it.

I will attempt to answer this question by initially explaining what Hobbes' view on humanity was, since these views were what caused him to write his theory on the social contract, quote part of what he wrote regarding the subject and what it means in layman's terms

What Hobbes believed:

Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century British philosopher, had a rather pessimistic (but, in my opinion, not untrue) view on humanity. In a nutshell, he believed that humanity was born evil and needed society and law to keep it in order. Hobbes wrote that "during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man". In this state any person has a natural right to do anything to preserve his own liberty or safety, and life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." He believed that in the international arena, states behave as individuals do in a state of nature.

Within the state of nature, according to Hobbes, there is no injustice, since there is no law, excepting certain natural precepts, the first of which is "that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it"; and the second is "that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself". From this, Hobbes develops the way out of the state of nature into civil government by mutual contract.

Hobbes coins a Latin phrase, Bellum omnium contra omnes, meaning "the war of all against all", and this is the description that he gives to human existence in the state of nature thought experiment that he conducts in De Cive (1642) and Leviathan (1651). To prove that this...

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