Hobbes and ContractariansCindy Ching
Cal Poly Pomona
In the book, it talks about the state of nature. The state of nature is when there are no authorities or any kind of government. There are also no rules, and everyone would be competing against each other. Hobbes also mentioned a way to get out of such state. We would need rules and someone to act as an enforcer. In addition, contractarians show us why standard moral evils are bad, rather than letting us assume it. Moreover, Hobbes’s character, The Fool, does present an issue to contractarianism since The Fool can do whatever he would want to do. Hobbes came up with the solution to this. He believes that we should not act rudely in a society and I feel like that is convincing.
Hobbes’s State of Nature
The Life of it and the Solution
Thomas Hobbes is the founder of the modern contractarianism and was concerned about the prisoner’s dilemma. In the book, Hobbes mentioned the state of nature. He means that if you imagine a situation where there is no government, no authority, or any group to enforce its power on others, then this is called the state of nature. “In his words, the state of nature is a ‘war of all against all, in which the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'” (Shafer-Landau, 2010, p.197). Hobbes imagined that the life would be like competing with one another for whatever is available to them. In addition, he believes that trust would not exist in the life and there would be no such thing as cooperation. It is mentioned in the book that Hobbes used to live through a state of a nature back during the English Civil War and understands what it is like to be miserable. “This situation may be more or less hostile, and more or less social, depending on how the theorist characterizes human life in the absence of rules of morality or justice”. (2017). There are many people around the world that experiences this. Everyone would try to maximize their self-interest that everyone is going to be worse off. However, there is an escape to this. Hobbes suggests that the exit to this situation is the same for all prisoner’s dilemma. There are two things that we would need. The first one is some kind of rules that would require cooperation and to punish betrayal. Second thing we would need is someone to act as an enforcer, to make sure that everyone obeys the rules, and that the rules are kept. The state of nature can come to an end once everyone agrees to cooperate with one another.
According to the book, contractarianism is the view that morality is based on a social contract. It is also known as the social contract theory. Morality is a set of rules that people would obey, assuming other people would also obey the rules. “On a contractarian account, the moral rules are ones that are meant to govern social cooperation” (Shafer-Landau, 2010, p.199). Contractarians seek to justify moral rules by seeing whether certain actions are wrong or right. They try to tell us to think about whether the free, equal people would agree to the rules. “Principles of social justice and moral behavior are chosen in an original agreement” (The Social Contract). In addition to that, contractarians show us why the standard moral evil would be considered bad, rather than just assuming it is bad. It was mentioned in the book that they believe assuming it was bad and irrational. Furthermore, I do find contractarianism to be an attractive moral theory because on how it explains the meaning of morality. Generally, contractarians do not believe that the moral rules are true.
“The classic statement of the contractarian aim is given in Hobbes’s Leviathan” (Shafer-Landau, 2010, p.206). He discusses the views of the amoralist, whom he terms The Fool. In the book, Hobbes’s character, The Fool, admits that breaking promises is not right, but does not care for his actions and what he is doing. The Fool only cares about his own self-interests and himself. He would only keep his promises, if, and only if it benefits him. If it does not benefit him, then he would not keep the promise. “Individuals who deliberately break their valid covenants for the sake of personal benefit run the risk of acquiring the vice of injustice” (Corsa, A., 2011). I believe that The Fool does present a problem for contractarianism because since it is under the social contract theory, The Fool can do whatever he like. In other words, he can maximize his own self-interest. The solution that Hobbes came up for this problem is that it is never rational to act rudely in a society. You should care more about others and keep promises. For example, it would not be irrational to cheat on your taxes, if the penalties are bad. I think it was convincing because everything made sense in its own way. It made sense that The Fool would cause a problem for contractarianism because he only thinks about himself and not others.
In conclusion, Hobbes talks about the state of nature and how it means that there is no enforcer or government to make up the rules for the people to follow. He also mentions that if they want to escape from this situation, they would need to someone to enforce the rules, as well as someone to make the rules. Furthermore, Hobbes talks about how The Fool can cause a problem for contractarianism. The Fool would cause a problem because he only cares about himself and his own self-interests. He also does not keep a promise if it does not benefit him. I find it convincing that The Fool would cause a problem for contractarianism if he only thinks about himself and not others.
Shafer-Landau, R. (2015). The Fundamentals of Ethics. New York, NY: Oxford
The Ethics of Duty. (2016). Lawrence M. Hinman. Retrieved from https://blackboard.cpp.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-4223529-dt-content-rid-38392800_2/courses/18F_CAG_AG4010.07/SocialContract.pdf
Thomas Hobbes’ Response to the Fool. (2011). Andrew James Corsa. Retrieved from https://surface.syr.edu/phi_etd/67/
Contractarianism. (2017). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/contractarianism/