Social Contract Theory by John Locke

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					John Locke
Second Treatise
 on Government
Locke’s Second Treatise
I. Liberalism
II. Social Contract Theory
III. Biographical/Historical Background
II.    Liberalism
   Ascendance of liberalism around the world
    today
   Much of the remaining reading in the course
    centers around this idea
II.      Liberalism
   Definition
       In United States,
        liberalism means:
         Jesse Jackson, Al
           Sharpton, Ted Kennedy
II.     Liberalism
     Historically, liberalism is
      built on 2 key ideas:
       Limited Government
           Historically, it was the
            political solution to the
            struggle for religious
            toleration
           Attempt to keep politics
            out of religion. The state
            should not worry about
            the state of men’s souls
           Give freedom of religion
            to the people
           Why is this a good idea?
II.         Liberalism
   A key component of limited government is:
       Rights
           Theoretical underpinning to the notion of religious
            toleration is that individuals have rights against the
            state
           We each have a right not to be interfered with by the
            government or by other people
           These rights are natural – they accrue to us simply by
            the fact that we are human beings
           Another prisoner example…
Suppose you are a District Attorney in
a community that is composed of easily
recognizable majority/minority
communities.

A member of the majority community
has been killed and witnesses have
reliably identified a member of the
minority community as the perpetrator,
but the police have been unable to find
the exact person

The majority community is screaming
for vengeance and on the verge of
rioting.

We know that in the course of the riot,
at least 10 people from the minority
population will be killed in mob
violence.

As the DA you suggest the following
course of action to the mayor:
   In order to avert the riot and save lives, you
    take a member of the minority community at
    random, accuse that person of the crime, and
    stage a very public arrest/execution
   As the mayor, what do you do?
II.       Liberalism
         Rights mean that no matter
          how good the consequences
          of a particular action may be,
          these consequences cannot
          override individual rights
     Why rights?
         Each individual possesses
          dignity
         Each of us is priceless
         Roots are in the rise of
          Christianity
             Secularized form – in lieu of soul
              premise – treat people as ends,
              not as means to an end
             Every human being has infinite
              weight, so can’t use any
              calculation to justify hurting
              some for the greater good
II.       Liberalism
   Side bar:
       Suppose superior beings
        from Planet Twylo descend
        to earth and tell us they
        have a food shortage
       To alleviate this shortfall,
        they plan on harvesting
        human beings
       Would we accept the same
        arguments from them that
        we offer to justify eating
        animals or otherwise using
        animals as means to an
        end??
       Just food for thought… we
        won’t pursue it now
II.      Liberalism
   So one component of liberalism is limited
    government
   The second component is capitalism
       By capitalism, we mean the idea that as long as a
        transaction has no negative diseconomies and is
        mutually advantageous, the transaction is
        permissible
       A deal made between two consenting parties and
        no one is getting hurt, the state should not get
        involved in the transaction
II.     Liberalism
   The market is a private place where people
    voluntarily dispose of their own property
   We each have a natural right to property
   Locke will present two arguments – one secular, one
    religious – to show where this right comes from
   The overall idea justifying these economic rights is
    roughly parallel to our political rights in that the state
    should not interfere with people doing what they
    want to do with their property
II.      Liberalism
   Note, the argument itself need not be limited
    exclusively to property and thus exclusively
    the purview of the (political) right wing
       E.g., sexual freedom, drug freedom arguments
        could work equally well
   Since the world is embracing variants of this
    view today, an examination of its historical
    evolution and philosophical premises is both
    warranted and educational
II.    Liberalism
   The key idea linking to the two strains is the
    primacy of the individual
   That is, the individual is the basis of power –
    political, economic, social.
   Political power does not come from divine
    right or the rule of the stronger, but the will of
    the people
II.         Liberalism
   2 Implications
       If individuals are basis, then we can’t treat others
        as means to an end… each is an end unto itself
           We are all individuals with separate and equally
            valuable lives (valuable at least to us)
II.       Liberalism
     Good political society is one which could have
      emerged from unanimous agreement by these
      individuals
         Locke is not trying to describe an actual historical
          situation; he’s not doing anthropology
         Nonetheless, the description of human nature in this
          prepolitical situation needs to be accurate otherwise
          we can reject the conclusions by rejecting the
          premises
II.    Liberalism
   Question we need to face at root of political
    philosophy concerns the necessity of the
    state
   That is, if the state did not exist, would it be
    necessary to invent it?
   In other words, is anarchy a viable option for
    organizing human society?
   Note: lots of other animal species are social,
    but they’re all anarchic
II.    Liberalism
   This question carries with it important
    implications for understanding the society in
    which we live in that if political philosophy
    could not address and satisfactorily rebut
    anarchist arguments, the state loses much –
    or indeed all – of its intellectual support
III. Contractarianism
   What do we mean by contractarianism?
   Key idea:
       Contractarian theory posits a theory of justice
        which holds that our political and social
        institutions are just to the extent to which they
        could have been the object of a hypothetical
        agreement among affected persons
       This is what we mean when we say that they sign
        or agree to a social contract
III. Contractarianism
   Basic Structure of Contractarian Argument
       Motivation Thesis
           An account of the emotional/psychological factors of
            the persons
       Environment Thesis
           Description of the pertinent features of the
            environment in which the people are obliged to
            interact
III. Contractarianism
    State of Nature (Non-Cooperative Outcome)
        An account of the non-cooperative interaction of the
         persons so motivated and so situated
    Laws of Nature
        Practical principles, the application of which marks
         each contractor as rational in coming to an agreement
         on terms of cooperation
    Social Contract
        The terms of the social and political cooperation on
         which the people would agree
III. Contractarianism
   So… on to Locke’s Second Treatise
   Reminders:
       Remember, the state of nature – the conditions of
        prepolitical man – need not be read so much as a
        factual account as a logical construct
       It’s part of the argument in that we are postulating
        prepolitical relations and people and then trying to
        discover what type of government would they
        agree to
III. Contractarianism
        We’ll address a number of questions:
    1.    What would cause these people to give up their
          anarchic relations and form a state?
    2.    What would that state look like?
            Remember, for the contractarian tradition, the just
             state is one that could have arisen by mutual
             agreement
            We can choose an institution and ask ourselves
             “would it have been the object of mutual consent of
             dissociated individuals?”
III. Contractarianism
   For example, slavery
    would not be chosen by
    mutual consent, so it
    was an unjust institution
III. Locke’s Second Treatise
   With the preliminary work behind us, we can
    dive into the Second Treatise

				
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