The Social Contract

Modern Morality from Practical Need

Lesson Objectives

• Understand why Hobbes approaches morality in a new, secular way

• Appreciate how Aquinas & Hobbes differ on their views of Nature

• Understand how Hobbes' Social Contract Theory works

• Appreciate the disadvantage that SCT has on the vulnerable

Key Terms

Divine Right of Kings

Natural Rights

State of Nature

Social Contract Theory

Court of Public Opinion

The Modern Need for Secular Ethics

Goodbye, Medieval Ethics

• After 200 years of crises, plagues, and wars, the hegemony of the Catholic Church comes into serious question (cf. Protestant Reformation of 1517).

• Divine Command Theory: just do what God says – don't rely on your reason

     • But who speaks for God? (Medieval answer: the Catholic Church!)

• Natural Law Theory: the Church will guide you thru Seven Basic Goods

     • But now half of Europe is Protestant, and doesn't answer the Church

• Also, are we sure we want theologians to dictate our laws?

     • We all have different beliefs (even within the same church or mosque)

     • Half of humanity doesn't believe in the God of Abraham

• So then how do we arrive at our modern sense of ethics and laws?

Thomas Hobbes' Modern Approach | (vid on Hobbes 6min)

• Hobbes publishes The Leviathan at the end of the war (1651)

     • Deeply affected by nine years of (religious) English Civil War

     • Hobbes was a quiet, humble man who deeply desired peace

• His new, postwar modern approach to Ethics

     • Forget all previous assumptions about morality

     • Assume no God to give commands (cf. Relgious Wars)

     • Assume no natural purpose or law (cf. Religious Wars)

• What then could be the basis of our modern sense of morality?