Our Archives

Call 08068929770 or 08122972656 for any enquiries.

Project Topic:

A CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF HOBBES’ IDEA OF SOCIAL CONTRACT

Project Information:

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 83 ::   Attributes: documentation ::   4,667 people found this useful

Project Body:

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

Hobbes’ political philosophy came at a point in time when vast changes in the intellectual outlook of Europe, in Philosophy and in science, demanded equally drastic changes. More than a Century before the beginning of the English civil wars, Machiavelli had stated with brutal clearness, the fact that European politics rested, in the main, on force and selfishness, either national or individual, but he had supplied little interpretation of the fact.1 Nonetheless, towing an historical lane, some fifty years after Machiavelli, Bodin, writing in the midst of the French wars of religion, had stressed that the outstanding characteristic or attribute of a state is the need to have a sovereign power to legislate. It is noteworthy to observe that all these strains of European thoughts met and crossed in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’ political writings were occasioned by the civil wars of his time. They were designed to support absolute government, which Hobbes simply implies for absolute monarchy. How then did Hobbes settle for the idea of absolute sovereign? This notion was remarkably arrived at through his idea of social contract; a typical analysis of the evolution of the state. And what strikes one first about Hobbes’ theory of state is that he approaches the subject not from an historical point of view, but from the vantage point of logic and analysis. Commenting on this, S.E. Stumpf observes that Hobbes did not ask, “When did civil societies emerge? But asks rather, ‘how do you explain the emergence of society?’ He is concerned to discover the cause of civil society”.2 To provide an answer to this, Hobbes gave a rational approach to it. This he did by positing the idea of a social contract. Before Hobbes, several philosophers had put forward such similar theory. Socrates had noted that no one forces the other to belong to a society. The laws are made, which govern the citizen. When a person reaches the age of reason, he can then decide whether or not to stay in such environment. To stay means to abide by the set rules. This is the agreement or put more scientifically, the social contract. Plato, on the other hand, gave a preceeding version of natural inclination of man before the contract. Man, for him, acted ‘beast’ unto the other till they thought it wise to agree to live together and in peace. The major philosophers of modern social contract school however include: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Rousseau. We shall later see their views briefly before dwelling extensively on Hobbes idea on social contract. Willmore Kendall wrote that it is either that all the above named three were pupils of Niccolo Machiavelli or that they wrote as if he influenced them.

All three, if not avowed pupils of Niccolo Machiavelli, at least wrote as if they had been influenced profoundly by Machiavelli.3

 

On the other hand, Hobbesian contract marked a turning point and in some respects, a genuine innovation in the history of political philosophy.4 Hobbes began his analysis of his idea of social contract by giving out the condition of man in the state of nature, as a state of ‘war of all against all’. A condition where man becomes beast unto the others.  This is brought about by human desire for what is good. This sort of condition would be fraught with conflict and danger. In order to escape these inconveniences and unwarranted and uncalled-for state of affairs, people would agree to give up some of their freedom through a contract that instituted a government. This government, they all consent willingly to obey. This is why Ernst Cassier, in his book, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, asserts, “rule and submission are the only forces which can transform politically into one body, that which by nature is divided and which can keep this body in existence.”5 By this justification, it is implied that, it is by instituting the sovereign authority through the mutual contract, would a peaceful society be arrived at. Nay, Thomas Hobbes is an example of a philosopher who preferred the evils of absolute power to the evils of life in a society that did not have such authority.6 We can rightly say here that Hobbes was negligent of the implications of enthroning the sovereign as an absolute authority. Hobbes was more distracted and disturbed by the seeming disorderliness of a society without the rulership of an absolute sovereign. He was afraid of a chaotic society. It is against this background that R. Popkin and A. Stroll noted that, “it is understandable that what Hobbes feared most of all was a chaotic society.”7 Such type of society exists where there is no absolute sovereign. Also, in such a society, no one’s life or property could be safe. The only way to assure domestic tranquility lay in compelling people to obey the laws of the society. Morestill, punishment is pronounced on defaulters. All these and more are what we shall critically examine in detailed expose of Hobbes idea of Social Contract.

 

A SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF THOMAS HOBBES

The 17th Century English Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, was born at Westport, near Malmesbury, on the 5th of April 1588 in England. He was the son of an eccentric vicar. His education at Oxford stirred in him a fascination for classical literature, whereas his exposure to Aristotelian logic left him bored. In 1608, after leaving Oxford, he had the privilege of becoming the tutor of the Earl of Devonchire, William Cavendish. This association with the Cavendish family had a great influence on him, because he had a great opportunity to travel wide. In Italy, he met Galileo and in Paris, formed a lasting friendship with Descartes in person. However, his carefully reasoned objections to the meditations indicate Hobbes’ close familiarity with Descartes’ philosophy. Nonetheless, historians have pointed out that for all his labours, Hobbes was never able to acquire that degree of mathematical knowledge and insight, which Descartes had attained at a far earlier age.8 This not withstanding, we can see the influence of geometry as manifest in his ideal of scientific method. In England, Hobbes was much admired by Bacon, who, as Lord Chancellor, enjoyed conversation with him and frequently dictated his thoughts to Hobbes. Hobbes’ early interest in classics led him to translate ‘Thucydides’, but his discovery of Euclid’s Elements in his early 40s, shifted his interest to mathematics and analysis. The central point of Hobbes’ political writing is encapsulated in his famous work – “The Leviathan”.  This is our chief source in this our academic expose.

 

  1.    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

In the human society, we find man enshrouded with envy, unbefitting competition, arrogance of power, egoistic desires and numerous other social vices. These are all unsocial inclinations of man, which end up involving man in continual clash of interests or even war. Against this backdrop, Hobbes began his political philosophy by his analysis of a pre-political state of nature. In a summary form, he acclaims that in the state of nature, man is a beast unto the other. Now, to avoid this condition, Hobbes propounded his famous idea of a social contract; the agreement by individual to submit their wills to a sovereign. How plausible is this idea of social contract in establishing the demanded or expected quiet? In trying to give a sound solution to the condition of man in the state of nature, Hobbes enthroned the absolute sovereign as the best alternative. However, this seemingly attractive solution has its attendant problems, especially when we consider residing absolute power on a sovereign. In the end the idea of social contract appears not to be the salvaging power since Hobbes gave room for revolution against the sovereign. This makes the individual to return to the much-dreaded state of nature.

 

  1.    PURPOSE OF STUDY

The purpose of this project is to see how Hobbes came about his idea of social contract, to explore the intricacies, which are remarkable in his idea of social contract to view critically the pros and cons. It also seeks to find the extent to which Hobbes had used this theory to ratify the “war of all against all,” simply put, the state of nature.

 

   iii.          SCOPE OF STUDY

Despite Hobbes’s approach at other philosophical areas, we are more interested in his political philosophy. In it, we shall dwell mainly on his idea of social contract, after establishing what led to the contract.

 

   iv.      DIVISION OF WORK

This work is divided into five chapters. The introduction gives us the inkling of what we shall dwell on in details in the main work. Chapter one exposes some philosophers’ notion about social contract, after giving a general definition of what social contract is all about. The second Chapter deals with what Hobbes considers as the nature of man in the state of nature. Chapter three gives out the position of Hobbes on social contract while chapter four, on the other hand, critically deals with the critical judgement of Hobbes’ idea of social contract. The essay is then concluded with a critical evaluation and conclusion.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

  GENERAL IDEA OF A SOCIAL CONTRACT

The social contract theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that person’s moral or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement between them to form a society.1 On the mention of the term contract, then, what comes to mind immediately is agreement. The New Webster Dictionary of the English Language defined the term ‘contract’ as “an agreement or a covenant”.2 On the other hand, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines social contract as a basis for legitimate legal and political power in the idea of a contract. Contracts are things that create obligation.”3 Hence, if we can view society as organized, i.e., a situation where a contract had been formed between the citizen and the sovereign power, this would necessarily ground the obligation of each to the other. The idea is one of a contract between citizens as a result of which power is vested in government. Traditionally, the term has been used in arguments that attempt to explain the nature of political obligation and or the kind of responsibility that rulers have to their subjects.4 Philosophers such as Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant, had a varied but similar positions that life in a prepolitical “state of nature” would be very difficult such that it would lead them to agree either with one another or with a prospective ruler, which eventually leads to the creation of political institutions. Such individuals believe that such a creation would necessarily improve their lot.

 

Despite the fact that many of the social contract theorists admit that there is almost never an explicit act of agreement in a community; however, they maintain that such an agreement is implicitly made when members of the society engage in certain acts through which they give their explicit consent to the ruling regime. Now, how do we definitely understand the terms of a social contract, which establishes a state? Are we to judge it as when the people agree to obey the ruler? Do they surrender their power to him as Hobbes would have us believe? Or do they lend him that power, reserving the right to take it from him, if and when they see fit, as Locke maintained? What really are the terms of a social contract posited by its theorists? It is worthy of note to state that amidst controversies surrounding their interpretation:

Social contract arguments have been important to the development of modern democratic states: the idea of the government as the creation of the people, which they have right to overthrow, if they find it wanting, contributed to the development of democratic forms of polity in the 18th and 19th Centuries.5

 

In this chapter, we shall critically, but in a lighter form, expose the idea of some major theorists on social contract, excluding Hobbes who we shall, later in this work, critically examine his detailed approach on the idea.

 

1.1        MAJOR PROPONENTS OF THE IDEA

The idea of a social contract could be traced back to the time of Socrates. Plato and Aristotle, on the other hand, represented their individual views on a social contract. However, these views came to be modified and moreso, the Hobbessian contract marked a turning point in some respect, a genuine innovation in history of political philosophy. Let us now briefly run through the ideas of some major proponents of a social contract.

 

1.2      SOCRATES’ ARGUMENT

Socrates here was so much indebted to the laws of Athens. He personified these laws and appreciated so much the privilege, which the law granted him, especially for his existence. For him, it was the law that made his father and mother to marry each other and beget him. It is believed that there is no force or coercion between the laws and the citizens. One willingly chooses to be part and parcel of the city, thereby accepting the codes of the laws. The citizens on growing and “once they see how the city conducts itself, can choose whether to leave, taking their property with them, or stay.”6 According to Socrates, “staying implies an agreement to abide by the laws and accept the punishment that they met out.”7 Herein lies the terms of the contract. For one to stay in such a society means that the individual accepts the terms laid down by the laws. This invariably hooks the person in a mutual contract with the state and the ruling authorities. The contract described by Socrates is an implicit one. It is implied by his choice to stay in Athens, even though he is free to leave.

 

1.3        PLATO’S IDEA

Plato, in his Republic, and representing his thoughts in Glaucon, noted that each man thought it good to inflict injustice upon others and had to suffer injustice at the hands of others. For him, all men behave in like manner. This means that it is in the nature of man to inflict injustice upon the other. This is because man sees injustice as something good and then works towards inflicting injustice upon the other.

 

However, “in due course, men came to consider the resulting state of affairs intolerable and proceeded to agree to covenants and laws that obliged them to behave less rapaciously.”8 This is the view of Plato as represented by Glaucon in the book II of Plato’s Republic. Going further, Plato noted that men accept such laws because it is in their interest to do so. By the very fact of the acceptance of the terms of that agreement, men have entered into a social contract. Plato notes that this is the origin of justice, which is merely what agreed-upon laws command. He further stressed self-interest as the central motivating factor in political behaviour. This invariably leads to the formation of a new society.

 

1.4    JOHN LOCKE’S IDEA

The English Empiricist and moral and political philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704), is renowned for his political thought and especially his social contract theory. Locke’s “state of nature” was meant to be harmonious and peaceful. Men are bound to preserve peace, mankind and even avoid hurting the other. The well keeping and execution of the law of nature is meant for every member of the society. The actual violation of this law by the individual in the society leads to an eventual state of war between the person and others. The power of a man against the other is neither absolute nor arbitrary and must be proportionally restrained. According to James Gordon Clapp, in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “the state of nature was for Locke, a society of men, as distinct from a state of government, or a political society.”9 Before his view, however, on the state of nature, Locke had analysed property to be prior even to society. He then proceeded to derive society from the consent of its members. According to George Sabine and Thomas Thorson, Locke defined civil power as:

The right of making laws with penalties … for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing force of community in the execution of such laws… all this only for the public good.10

 

We must remark here, that such a power would only be arrived at when there is consent, and though it may be tacitly given, it must be the consent of each individual for himself. This is a natural entitlement. It is the very fact of the existence of certain inconveniences in a state of nature, such as men’s partiality and inclination of some men to violate the rights of others.11 This is Locke’s view of man in the state of nature. To escape these ‘inconveniencies’, Locke notes that men now consent to a civil government. Thus, it is by common consent that men form a social contract and create a single body politic. The aim of the contract “is to preserve the lives, freedom and property of all, as they belong to each under natural law.”12 This is the basis of the state. The general reason for its establishment is for the protection of the lives and property of the individuals in the state.

1.5     THE SOCIAL CONTRACT ACCORDING TO JEAN JACQUES

ROUSSEAU:

 

Rousseau (1712-1778) developed increasingly deeper and more sophisticated ideas about the origin and nature of the condition of man in the society and what ought to be done to ameliorate this condition. Rousseau regrettably announced that increasing scientific knowledge and refinement of arts and letters, instead of leading to a peaceful and harmonious society, was in fact, the bane of the civilized society. He notes that such sophistication is the offshoot of luxury and idleness and has developed to feed people’s vanity and desire for ostentatious and aggressive self-display. N. J. Dent, in his commentary on Rousseau remarks that:

Rousseau allows for the fact that there are a few people of genius who genuinely enrich humanity by their ideas. But the majority are not improved but harmed, by exposure to the higher learning.13

 

In his work, “Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of Inequality”, Rousseau gives an account of the fall of humankind. For him, natural man, left alone in his natural environment is self-sufficient. In this state, man is peaceable. Later on, increase in population forces people to live together. Jealousy and envy became the order of the day as “men come to demand esteem and deference.”14 This leads men to compete for precedence, which makes life to be tainted by aggression and spite.

 

Lack of individual self-sufficiency, Rousseau argues, requires the individual to associate together in the society. He however does not support a condition of enslavement as the price of survival for those who embark on this contract. Freedom is seen as an essential human need and the mark of humanity. Rousseau holds that freedom and association can only be combined if all the persons of the association make up the sovereign body for that association. In other words, in this contract, there ought to be a mutual consent, freedom and choice made by the individuals as they submit their general will to be ruled by an established authority. Rousseau, however, made it clear that the terms of the contract holds that governmental function must be thoroughly subordinate to the sovereign judgement of the people. Generally, Rousseau’s idea of social contract depicts the union of free and equal men who devise laws under which they shall now proceed to live their lives as citizens of a state.

This now brings us to where our beam light heads: Hobbes’ idea of social contract. Before then, let us first of all see what really lead Hobbes to posit his idea of social contract.

                                     

 


1 G. Sabine and T. Thorson, Thomas Hobbes,A History of Political Theory. (U.S.A: Harcourt Brace

   Jovanovich, Publ. 1978.), p. 422

 

2 S. E. Stumpf; Philosophy: History and Problems, (U.S.A: Mc Graw- Hill, Inc, 1994) p.231

3 Willmoore Kendall, Social Contract, International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, ed. David Sills,

  (U.S.A: Crowell Collier and McMillan, Inc. 1968), p.376

4 Ibid. p.377

5 Ernst Cassier, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, (USA: Princeton University Press, 1951), p.256

6 R. Popkin and A. Stroll, Philosophy Made Simple, (USA: Doubleday, a div of Bantam Double Dell Publ.   

  Group Inc., 1993), p.66

7 Loc. Cit.

 

8 F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy; British Philosophy,(London: Continuum, 2003) p.1

1 Social Contract Theory, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005.

2 The New Webster Dictionary of English Language, (New York: Lexicon Publishers Inc. 1995), p.212

3 Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, (London: Oxford University Press, Inc. 1996), p.354

4 The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, ed, Robert Audi (USA: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

  p.855

5 Ibid. p.856

6 Hobbes, Social Contract Theory, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

7 Loc. Cit.

8 W. Kendall, Social Contract, Internet Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed, David Sills. (USA: Crowell

  Collier and McMillan Inc, 1968), p. 378

9 G. J. Capp, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 3 and 4 (London and New York: Macmillan Publ, co., and                      the Free Press, 1967), p.499.

10  G. Sabine and T. Thorson, A History of Political Theory, (USA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers,

    1973), p.490

11 Loc Cit.

12  G. J. Clapp, Op. Cit. p. 499

13 N. J. Dent, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed, Edward Craig. Vol. 8

    (England: T. J International Ltd, Padstow, Cornwall, 1998), p.370

14 Loc. Cit


Get The Complete Project »

Project Department:

MORE HISTORY & INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS FREE UNDERGRADUATE PROJECT TOPICS AND RESEARCH MATERIALS

Instantly Share this Project On Social Media:

CLOSELY RELATED HISTORY & INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS FREE UNDERGRADUATE PROJECT TOPICS AND RESEARCH MATERIALS

THE INFLUENCE OF WESTERN CULTURE ON THE NIGERIAN YOUTHS (CASE STUDY OF TAKUM L.G.A)

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 69 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis  ::   1664 engagements

ABSTRACT This study probes the influence of western culture on our Nigerian youths. It specifically tackles the impact of western Tvprogrames on the cultureal value of Takum, LGA youths. The researc...Continue reading »

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE NIGER DELTA (A CASE STUDY OF THE AMNESTY PROGRAMME)

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 102 ::   Attributes: historical background

agitation by the people of the region. The project work takes as its baseline, the examination of the Niger Delta people and pre-modern conflict era, oil exploration and conflict in the region, the ...Continue reading »

THE EXAMINATION OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION AS A TOOL FOR EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT IN SSABML

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 56 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis  ::   1048 engagements

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Background of the Study Conflict is inevitable in every society as well as organization. It occurs within groups individuals, organization, government and even among family m...Continue reading »

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE NIGER DELTA (A CASE STUDY OF THE AMNESTY PROGRAMME)

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 97 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis

INTRODUCTION The Niger Delta area is the most fragile region in Nigeria. The presence of oil and gas in the region makes it the goose that lays the golden egg, thus making the region the center of e...Continue reading »

UN PEACEKEEPING IN AFRICA: EFFECTIVENESS AND PROBLEMS

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 55 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis

ABSTRACT The research provides an appraisal of UN PEACEKEEPING IN AFRICA .It investigates the effectiveness and problems of the mission with a possible aim of proffering recommendations. The study ap...Continue reading »

FEDERALISM AND THE PROBLEM OF MINORITY QUESTION 2007-2014

 Format: MS WORD ::   Chapters: 1-5 ::   Pages: 77 ::   Attributes: Questionnaire, Data Analysis  ::   1177 engagements

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY The Nigerian federalism is a creation of the British. Before the arrival of British colonialists, the area now known as Nigeria was inhabited b...Continue reading »

What are you looking for today?

TESTIMONIALS:

  • 1. Michael G. from FUTO said "Good job boys!!! Great content. You guys just saved me. God bless u...".
    Rating: Very Good
  • 2. Favour from Ui said "I must say a job well done...Thanx so much for being honest..I will surely introduce your platform to my friends...".
    Rating: Very Good
  • 3. Anderson from ABU said "thank you so much for great delivery. God will continue to bless you business. your website will always gain favour and growth from God...thank you".
    Rating: Excellent
  • 4. Adegboyega from ridwan said ""i like the confidence you guys installed in me. i never knew there are still some good people in Nigeria; my job was delivered on time as promised ".
    Rating: Excellent
  • 5. Oreokuwa Seun from KSU said "thank you for delivering as promised. though there was a one day delay but I got my work and it has great quality. Thank you Mr Donald. Thank you miss love. God bless you".
    Rating: Very Good
  • 6. Danladi Isa from ABU said "thank you uniprojectmaterials.com, all I can say is thank you for being reliable. I appreciate.".
    Rating: Excellent

Paper Information

Format:ms word
Chapter:1-5
Pages:83
Attribute:documentation
Price:₦3,000
Get The Complete Project »

Best Selling Projects

Our Archives