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Unformatted text preview: language, much less the complicated legal concepts that are essential to contracts. Presocial humanity was both remarkably sophisticated and, it seems, only grudgingly cooperative. The state of nature is one of those grand ancient myths with which people have always proved to themselves both how clever we have always been and how much better off we are now. AMERICA DOESN'T PROVE THE VIABILITY OF A PRIMITIVE SOCIAL CONTRACT Robert Solomon, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas, A PASSION FOR JUSTICE, 1990, p.57. We do, of course, have an inspiring example of a society actually formed by virtue of such a contract, and that is our own. The "contract" is our Constitution. But, needless to say, it was not presocial savages who gathered together in Philadelphia two centuries ago. They were well-trained, highly skilled, and well-read lawyers and statesmen. (Some of their favorite reading was precisely the philosophical literature on the social contract.) And the society they "founded" was by no means society as such, society built up from the ground up, but a considerably improved version of the Western European (especially British) type of society that already existed in the colonies, in which property was already established, in which local laws against theft and murder and a thousand other crimes were already in place together with a system of punishment to enforce them. The social contract metaphor, on the other hand, presumes an outrageous pretension, that we can build society from scratch, and may have actually done so. The myth of the state of nature is an analysis of the raw ingredients we used to do this. THE SOCIAL CONTRACT IS MYTHICAL Bertrand Russell, A HISTORY OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY, 1945, p.633. The social contract, in the sense required, is mythical even when, at some former period, there actually was a contract creating the government in question. The United States is a case in point. At the time when the Constitution was adopted, men had liberty of choice. Even then, many voted against it, and were therefore not parties to the contract. They could, of course, have...
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This document was uploaded on 11/20/2013.
- Fall '13