The Function of a Social Contract

Topics: Political philosophy, Social contract, State of nature Pages: 4 (1663 words) Published: May 11, 2005
What is the Function of a Social Contract?
Philosophers have been concerned with the theories of a social contract for thousands of years. Plato mentions the concept in Crito and in Republic. These theories have stemmed from the concept of justice and for our society to be just. I will look at the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and finally with John Rawls after which a overall view into the function of a social contract can be derived as well as any problems with the theory(s).

The basic concept of a social contract is for members of society to enter into a voluntary contract, which allows society to go from a state of nature to a state of civilisation. What is meant by a state of nature is quite similar to how the rest of the animal kingdom works. A person¡¦s security depends on his or her own personal power. The fittest survive and the weakest suffer. Every person is concerned with his or her own ends.

Plato outlined two types of contract within society. These were the contract of citizenship and the contract of community. The contract of citizenship was tackled in Crito. He regarded it as a contract made by each individual citizen with the state or law. If a man is to remain in a political society he will have to accept its obligations for he has enjoyed it privileges and benefits. The contract of community was covered in Republic Book II. This theory is based on the assumption the man is an egoist. With this assumption of ¡¥every man for himself¡¦ it is likely that he would either cause harm to others or sustain harm from others and therefore there would be a need to combat this.

Thomas Hobbes published his work, the leviathan, which included theories of a social contract. His view is very similar to Plato¡¦s in regards to contract of community. He felt that there was a need for members of a society to Curtail the war of all against all and without these theories this war would spiral out of control with everyone...

Bibliography: ľ Leviathan; Thomas Hobbes edited by Richard Tuck; 1991; Cambridge University Press
ƒæ Rousseau¡¦s Political Philosophy; Ramon M Lemos; 1977; University of Georgia Press
ľ The Second Treatise of Government; John Locke edited by Thomas P Peardon; 1952; Bobbs and Merrill company inc.
ľ Problems of Political Philosophy revised edition; DD Raphael; 1976; Macmillan Press ltd.
ľ The Social Contract and Discourses; Jean Jacques Rousseau translated by GDH Cole; 1973; JM Dent and Sons ltd.
ľ The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right second edition revised; Jean Jacques Rousseau translated by Henry J Tozer; 1898; Swan Sonnenschein and Co.
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