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Who has a more plausible and logical social contract- Jean Rousseau (Yes) or Thomas Hobbes (No)?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/5/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,198 times Debate No: 40039
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I am just a novice debater in high school needing a second opinion on this for my most recent case, and I am Affirmative for the resolution "Oppressive government is more desirable than no government'. I can understand both of these philosophers' theories, but I am having some trouble proving how natural man is largely good and that society is what corrupts humans... Help!



I did LD for four years, and I've been coaching for about 3 months. That was the last resolution I ever debated...and I'm willing to help you out. However, just for future reference, questions like this should be placed in the "Forums" section, not debate.

Social contract theory relies on a hypothetical model of the state of nature, or a condition in which there exists no government. Different ideas about how this model would function change philosophers" opinions of the extent of the social contract. Let me use the following analogy to explain. There is a peace tree somewhere in a field. It is the only peach tree or miles, and you and I are the only people in the vicinity. Both of us want peaches, and because there is no government to regulate access to the peach tree, both of us have equal claims to the peaches. Thomas Hobbes suggests that we would fight one another for the peaches. We both realize that because we cannot appeal to rights to solve the problem"both of us have nigh absolute freedom to do whatever we want"and we both don"t trust the other, because there is no outside coercive force preventing people from going back on their word. Moreover, if you are stronger than me, it would be easy to beat me up and take all the peaches for yourself. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, asserts that we would negotiate rather than fight. Why would we waste our strength and jeopardize our wellbeing, when we could haggle out a deal. Even if you are stronger than me, presumably you realize that there is always a risk of injury when it comes to physical violence. For instance, while you"re fighting me, you could slip, and twist your ankle, preventing you from walking for days on end. Thus, it is far more rational to just talk it out.

Hobbes"s point is that if the state of nature is truly that "nasty, brutish, and short," then people would be desperate to see it end. They would therefore be willing to surrender all of their rights to the sovereign"except their right to live"in order to bring order to the chaos. Rousseau argues that if the state of nature is characterized by negotiations over contentious issues, it is highly inefficient because every point must be debated, but it is not necessarily violent. Therefore, people would be less desperate to see order installed, and, consequently, would give up fewer rights to the sovereign.

If your goal is to prove that the state-of-nature is inherently good, check out David Gauthier, a contemporary social contractarian:

Remember, there are a lot of philosophers who have come up with social contract theories: Plato (In Crito), Epicurus, Locke, Nozick, Rawls, Gauthier, etc. Don't limit yourself to Hobbes and Rousseau--look into all of these philosopher and find which theory supports you contentions best. I hope you have good luck in your debate career!
Debate Round No. 1
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Flipz 2 years ago
From what I remember, Rousseau has a very narrow set of specifications for working his version of the social contract. Hobbes is far more practical, but has its own shortcomings - for example, the sovereign cannot draft men into the army without violating the social contract. In the end though, I would probably choose Hobbes, because there are way to many practical barriers to Rousseau's democracy.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by LtCmdrData 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This should have been in the Forums... >:( Conduct to Pro. As for arguments, since this was NOT a debate, it's an impossible category to evaluate. No points there. Sources to Pro--there's a link. S/g to Pro too. Anywho, this was a sad case of noob-sniping...C'est la vie.