We discussed three thinkers who developed social contract theories – Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. How did each one imagine the social contract? What factors influenced their views?
A social contract means a silent agreement among the members of the society for the benefit of the whole society. This theory gained fame in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century through Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This essay will explore their views regarding the social contract theory.
Thomas Hobbes was not keen on the consequences brought by the social contract theory as he deemed the power of the masses to be horrific. The reason behind this was that he had witnessed the execution of King Charles the First in 1649. He thought that this theory gave people too much power to depose rulers whenever they felt a bit inconvenienced. He was horrified by the public execution of the king and wanted to prevent such an incident to occur again so in his book “Leviathan”, he presented an idea that combined social contract with absolute authority. He reminded people that in Stone Age as there was no government, there was only chaos. Only through proper government have the societies flourished so overthrowing them due to minor problems is erroneous.
John Locke was a wise and polite individual as such his essay “Tolerance” helped drive the prejudice against different out of Britain. So when Thomas Hobbes’s opinion about social contract surfaced, Locke wrote another book “Two Treatises of Government” in 1689 to provide his opinion. He disagreed with Hobbes’s opinion that the power of rule completely lied with the kings as it was the people that agreed to allow one person to rule over them in the first place. They gave this person such power so that he may work for their benefit so they had the right to choose their ruler. If the ruler was tyrannical it was within the people’s right to replace him.
Jean Jacques Rousseau’s arguments were controversial and he regarded the modern world as a shallow cage of distractions. In his opinion on the social contract, he stated that “Man is born free and is everywhere in chains”. He argued that the concept of kings being born with divine right to rule was completely false as this was just their way of providing the people with a reason so these people may accept the king as their ruler. The people allowed this as long as it benefited them too (Muldoon).
What is empiricism? Who were the empiricist thinkers we discussed in class and what were their theories?
Empiricism is a philosophical thought that presents the notion that all thoughts and concepts originate from the experiences of a person. Similarly, empirical knowledge is gained through the innate experience of humans when they interact with the world. In simple words, anything that can be experienced can be conceptualized as well. This essay will explore the theories of some empiricist theorists in detail.
John Locke was an empiricist theorist and he believed that every human was born as a blank slate. He did not believe the view presented by Rene Descartes that humans are born with innate ideas and information about good or bad. He stated that human beings are born without any prior knowledge about the world. They acquire knowledge by utilizing their five senses and building a mental library of information. Locke only agreed with one idea of Descartes which was a human cannot completely rely on his senses as it may not always be true. However; Locke, to figure out if the senses were accurately reflecting the object, presented a way to distinguish the accuracy of the senses through primary qualities and secondary qualities of an object. The physical attributes of an object like its weight, density, solidity, etc. were its primary qualities. The secondary qualities were the object’s color, taste, sound, etc. and these were in an individual’s mind. The difference in the primary and secondary qualities explained the difference in opinions that humans had about their perception of the object. Thus people could have a difference in opinion regarding the secondary qualities but not in the case of primary qualities.
Locke’s theory resonated with the Irish philosopher, George Berkeley and took empiricism to its logical conclusion. He presented the concept of perception and stated that one cannot perceive the primary qualities of an object without simultaneously perceiving its secondary qualities. For instance; take an apple; its primary quality is its shape and its secondary quality is its red color. You cannot observe the shape of the apple without noticing its color as well. He stated that both qualities were part of the object and helped in gaining complete knowledge about that object. His grand conclusion was nothing existed physically but existed only through our perception (Woolhouse).