Social Contract Theorists

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and David Hume are some of the most famous philosophers on the notion of the social contract and the ideal political society. Their arguments pertaining to the relationship between people and government have strong influences on politics and rights today. While all three philosophers deal with the social contract in some way, Rousseau and Kant argue that a social contract, or the idea of one, is a fundamental basis for society that enables man to enlarge their freedom, while Hume argues that there is no need for a social contract to create a successful political order. Over the course of this paper I will show how Rousseau and Kant use the social contract as a means to allow man to enlarge their freedom, while showing Hume’s disagreements with the social contract and his own ideal state. Finally, I will discuss why Hume’s conception of man as egoist undermines Rousseau’s argument. Rousseau argues that man enters into a social contract in order to live in a civil state where the government is designed to promote the public good, while at the same time, preserving each person’s individuality. A key concept in Rousseau’s argument is that of individuality. He believes that each individual is unique and has the ability to make their own contributions to society. Additionally, Rousseau brings up the concept of individual freedom in the state of nature. In the state of nature, man has essentially unlimited freedom where everyone has a right to everything. This unlimited freedom leads to chaos, violence, and uncertainty. As a result, Rousseau believes that a social contract and an ensuing political order is necessary in order to ensure civility and preserve individuality. The next phase of Rousseau’s argument deals with will. According to his theory, there are three wills present among mankind: individual will, the will
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