Social Contract and Equality

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  • Words: 527
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This paper intends to show that social contract, the bedrock of the civil society brings about equality among men. To this end, the paper will use the philosophical arguments of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Both philosophers argue that, social contract is the most practical source of all what is good and that which men depend on to live peacefully. Thomas Hobbes acknowledges the fact that human beings are exclusively self-interested: all men pursue and respond to things that they desire, and repelled by that to which they loath.

Even adults care for the small children out of their own self-interest, since by saving an infant an adult becomes the recipient of strong sense of obligation by allowing the child to survive rather than to die. In addition to being exclusively self-interested, human beings are reasonable (rational). Their reason acts as “Scouts, and Spies, to range abroad, and find the way in the things Desired. ” [Hobbes, 139]These two traits: self-interest and rationality, justifies the choice of submitting oneself to a political authority in order to live in a civil society that guarantees ones interests and hence equality. Hobbes hints that though men are exclusively self-interested, they are more or less equal to one another: even the strongest man can easily be killed while he is sleeping.

From another perspective, it the view of equality that shapes the nature of the contract in that, there are only few resources in the State of Nature, yet there is no power to coerce the men to cooperate.This makes life in the State of Nature unbearable and hence the need to form a civil society under social contract whereby people will be guaranteed of their equality. This civil society is based on two assumptions, that, the people collectively and reciprocally relinquishes the rights they held against one another in the State of Nature, and that, authority and power to enforce the contract is vested on one person or a group of persons. John Locke differs with Hobbes in his depiction of the State of Nature as a peaceful place governed by the Laws of Nature.

In the State of Nature people exist equally uphold sound morals. [Locke, par. 6] Therefore to Locke the State of Nature is not a state of brutality as Hobbes boldly claimed: it is a state of liberty. However, it can deteriorate into a state of war when two men or more harm one another. In such a situation the war is likely to continue since the State of Nature lacks a civil authority to settle such disputes.

This brings out the reason as to why men have to abandon the State of Nature and form a civil authority.Men recognize that civil society entails equality, and therefore through contracts they create civil governments in order to protect their property and themselves. Men also leave the State of Nature to form, and to submit themselves in “one body politic under one government. ” [Locke, par. 97] By forming and joining such bodies, men gain three things which they lacked in the State of Nature: laws, judges to adjudicate the laws, and the executive power necessary to enforce these laws.

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