What is the "state of nature"?
Bad world; nasty, brutish, short, poor, solitary
Better world: pleasant, nice, long, rich, communication
To get into the spirit of this theory, imagine what would happen tomorrow if the government,
police, courts, etc. all disappeared…
• Hobbes called such anarchy in the “state of nature”.
• He famously said life for a human being in a state of nature would be “solitary, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short.” (p.81)
According to Hobbes, what facts about human life can lead to state of nature?
For Hobbes, what produces such grim prospects in the state of nature are four facts about human
life and nature.
1. We all have equality of need.
2. There is scarcity of resources.
3. Humans are basically equal in power.
4. Humans have only limited altruism.
• Given these facts about human life and nature, Hobbes held that we must find a way to
cooperate, else we will suffer or die
According to Social Contract Theory, when is civil disobedience morally acceptable?
Break contract if not mutually beneficial: segregation
It is the most natural and reasonable means of expressing protest. For when the disadvantaged
are denied the benefits of social living, they are released from the contract that would otherwise
require them to follow society’s rules. This is the deepest argument for civil disobedience, and
the Social Contract Theory presents it clearly and forcefully (p. 92).
What are some advantages of the Social Contract Theory?
Create a set of rules and justifications that are suppose to improve quality of life
1. It suggests what moral rules we should follow and how those rules are justified.
• Rules are justified if they promote living harmoniously together for mutual benefit.
Question: How do you think a Social Contractarian would view laws opposed to same-sex
2. It tells us why we should follow the rules: mutual benefit and fear of punishment.
Question: How would a Social Contractarian view laws against littering?
3. It indicates when it is rational to break the rules: namely, we agree to obey the rules on the
condition that others obey them as well.
N.B. Consider Martin Luther King’s reasons for non-violently breaking the laws.
4. It preserves the distinction between dutiful acts and supererogatory acts.
• As we will see, not all moral theories do this (e.g. utilitarianism).