The Instigator
dave_rp2012
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
UnbiasedSymmetry
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points

Is there legitimacy to "social contract" theory (pro), or not (con)?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/15/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,866 times Debate No: 23630
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (0)

 

dave_rp2012

Con

Social contract theory is used to justify modern governments' use of violence against their citizens. The argument claims that each individual has surrendered most or all of their rights by implicitly agreeing to the "social contract". Therefore, when a citizen does not conform to the will pf their government, government claims the right to use violence to enforce the contract. For example, if a citizen is seen in possession of marijuana in the United States, the government claims the right to send armed men to apprehend that citizen at gunpoint. The US Constitution is said to be the textual embodiment of the social contract in the United States.

My issue with this theory is simple: the "social contract" is unlike any other. Normally, parties negotiate a contract, and both voluntarily agree to its terms and how to arbitrate any conflicts. Citizens did not have a chance to negotiate such a contract and did not agree to it. Furthermore, accepting a constitution as a form of social contract, every such foundational document leaves the government to decide every dispute about its meaning.

Of course, a supporter of the theory would argue that consent is 'implied'. My response is: doesn't an explicit rejection overrule implicit approval? If there really is implied consent, why can't a citizen publicly state "To clarify, I hereby REJECT the social contract, which I was never a party to in the first place." If anyone thought his consent was implied, surely that will clear it up. Yet of course one cannot: the "social contract" is not an agreement at all, but a psuedo-philosophical justification for theft and trespass on a grand scale.

I invite anyone to accept this challenge and make an argument in response. I look forward to debating with you.
UnbiasedSymmetry

Pro

My opponent insists that the Social Contract was written only so that the government can use justified violence against their own citizens, taking away most of their personal freedom and rights. But according to Rousseau, no one will give up his liberty without getting something in return. [1] Yet, Con believes that this certain agreement has caused more pain than gain in this particular generation. However I stand against his claim by saying that the Social Contract is indeed, more of a benefit than a burden.

The social contract was first created in 1762, by a former philosopher named Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As reported by said philosopher, he states, and I quote, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." In Rousseau's sight, people were born with external freedom and their own independency. However, man is also confined in society (Thus, the "chains"). In fact, we are all enslaved by society to some degree, especially through virtual and geographical location, political authority and dominant cultural expectations. [2]

As the philosopher thought at the time, society was in a "State of nature," a term specifically used to describe preceded governments. [3] Rousseau view of the social contract was that people were neither good nor bad, they didn't know each other well enough but did have normal value, and because of this, he believed that authority through rulers (in other words, the government) reflected the general will of the people. This is a relationship formerly known as a "social contract." [4]

Conclusion

Although this contract wasn't negotiated with little to none of its recipients, however; the social contract is something that is for the benefit but for the greater good of society, and not just for one's individuality. Furthermore, the social contract was not forced onto their citizens. The fundamental basis for government and law is the concept of the social contract. [5]

[1] http://www.gradesaver.com...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[3] http://www.sparknotes.com...

[4] http://www.chacha.com...

[5] http://constitution.org...

Debate Round No. 1
dave_rp2012

Con

Pro argues that the benefits of the social contract outweigh the costs. If this was the case, however, compulsion would not be required to force individuals into the contract. Who wouldn't enter into a cotragt where they gain more than they lose? However, this is not the case, so citizens must be forced to "agree" to the social "contract".

Pro also argues that slavery is part of modern society. This is true; however, that enslavement is seen as legitimate only because social contract theory is widely accepted. Cultural expectations, while they may influence our decisions, are not related to the social contract. Political power, however, rests upon the actual and credible threat of violence against those who do not comply, and social contract theory attempts to justify this.

Pro argues further that the social contract is not forced upon citizens; however, this is obviously false. Henry Thoreau notably withdrew his consent from the social contract, and therefore refused to pay taxes. He was imprisoned until an anonymous donor paid the balance for him. As no one ever signed the social contract, and one cannot withdraw, the "contract" is clearly forced upon all.

Pro concludes that government and law are based on the social contract. First, this does nothing to show the validity of the theory. But it's not correct either: while t's true that the concept of a state -- an organization which may use violence legitimately in a territory -- rests upon social contract theory. However, a government that does not threaten to initiate violence against its citizens need not be justified in such a way. Such a government may be called a volitional government, or one which is funded only by "user fees" and such and does not regulate peaceful actions of its citizens. Law, furthermore, can, has, and does exist independant of government, and does not need to rest upon a fictional social contract. Natural law may be enforced by anyone without the order of a coercive monopoly of criminal justice. For example, traditionally, Somalians bring grievances in local courts convened by a well-known and respected arbitrator not affiliated with any government. The arbiter rules in the case and the ruling may be enforced by locals. When law is only used to protect individuals' rights, and not in the positivist sense of controlling individuals' peaceful actions, it need not be based on an invisible and irrevocable "contract".
UnbiasedSymmetry

Pro

UnbiasedSymmetry forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
dave_rp2012

Con

dave_rp2012 forfeited this round.
UnbiasedSymmetry

Pro

UnbiasedSymmetry forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
dave_rp2012

Con

Debate cannot continue as pro has withdrawn.
UnbiasedSymmetry

Pro

UnbiasedSymmetry forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by UnbiasedSymmetry 4 years ago
UnbiasedSymmetry
I'm sorry for not posing my rebuttals, I'm really busy with school, so I'm not able to reply to anything. I give you my congratulations in advance for the future win of this debate :)
Posted by UnbiasedSymmetry 4 years ago
UnbiasedSymmetry
For my rebuttal, in the last paragraph, just remove the 'but' that's in between the words benefit and for. I really hate it when I notice these flaws after I post things D:
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 4 years ago
TheDiabolicDebater
Zaradi, I hated it too until I found one in particular that I liked.
Posted by Zaradi 4 years ago
Zaradi
I don't think saying us being enslaved and forced into the contract by law when we were born here is a good argument....

Still, a tempting one to do, regardless of the fact that I hate contractarianism.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 4 years ago
TheDiabolicDebater
Do I have to defend the general idea of a Social Contract, or can I use one by a specific philosopher?
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 4 years ago
TheDiabolicDebater
Hmm. I might accept this later.
Posted by SuburbiaSurvivor 4 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
I agree sooo... Yup.
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