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social philosophy

Social Philosophy

Social philosophy is not ethics, because it is not concerned with identifying a norm of good conduct; nor is it politics, because it is not concerned with describing how power is expressed in institutions. Instead, it evaluates institutional power in terms of moral principles

Issues: how are individuals related to society?

how is State authority justified?

what is the role of government and law?

what are justice, civil rights, freedom?

thomas hobbes 1588 1679
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
  • Fear of others in the state of nature (apart from society) prompts people to form governments through a social contract
  • State power/authority (the sovereign) is based on the choice of subjects that there be one will. Since the sovereign determines what is right, rebellion against the sovereign is unjustified
  • As brutal as a State may be, it is always better than having no State or government
john locke 1632 1704
John Locke (1632-1704)
  • We have God-given rights to our lives, liberty, property (e.g., bodies)
  • We establish governments to clarify & protect our natural rights. State authority is thus based on the consent of the people, who can rebel against the State if it fails to respect our rights
  • Tacit consent is given by anyone who lives in a country and is protected by its laws
jean jacques rousseau 1712 78
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78)
  • I am obligated to obey the law only if it is self-imposed. Externally-imposed laws are based on force and are not morally legitimate
  • The social contract is our tacit agreement to abide by the general will, which is what we all will for ourselves as members of a community
    • Objection: consent is often uninformed and unavoidable (Hume)