Early political thinkers.
Early political thinkers
The emergence of the social contract theory was due to the work of early thinkers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes where its origination is the presupposition of legitimate political power. The social contract also emerged due to the philosophers’ need to advocate for equality and freedom as part of the laws of man as the belief was that these aspects were in the nature of human beings. Also, the emergence of the concept was based on the need to establish a state of social order where a man was able to live without quarrel. As noted by Hobbes, the three principles in man’s nature that lead to quarrel are competition, diffidence, and glory (Ebenstein and Ebenstein 172). The social contract tries to eliminate these aspects by defining the existence of a functional society after two or more people agree to live in harmony.
Since the social contract defined how humans interact in harmony and without fighting at any available opportunity, the adoption of the contract comes about when the expectations of a society are set and everyone agrees upon them. The social contract is transitive such that each individual has a contract with another individual and this binds the entire society under one contract. The society functions under a set of rules that ensure the upholding of the social contract and this means that the subscription to these rules and laws imply the adoption of the social contract.
The social contract is significance in the functioning of a state since it defines the rules and laws of interaction. As an example, the social contract defines the fundamental natural rights that are liberty, life, and property. The natural rights are seen as inalienable and this means that they cannot be delegated or given away. By defining such rights and the existence of man in society, the social contract becomes significant in reducing conflict and in defining the rules of interaction.
Aquinas and Locke are the point of focus in this comparison of the understanding of the common good between two thinkers of different periods. With regards to the common good, the two thinkers extend similar opinion on the purpose of the state. Both thinkers opine that the state’s purpose is the protection of the common good. Aquinas believes that the state should protect this common good by ensuring peace, harmonizing and organizing the citizens, and providing the resources needed to sustain life. Locke, on the other hand, sees the state’s role in the preservation of the right of life, liberty, health, and the citizens’ property (Ebenstein and Ebenstein 204).
Even though the two political thinkers offer a similar opinion on the end political purpose being the establishment of the common good, they have exhibit different views on how the political body is formed. Aquinas noted that man is social by nature but the common social life would not be existent without someone in charge of the common good. According to Aquinas, the formation of the government or a political entity to attend to this political end comes in a natural way and is willed by God. The willed and natural government exists to preserve the peace and defend the community. Although Locke does not argue against rulers being ordained by God, his formation of the society and the political process begins with the social contract. Locke’s argument is that individual have to subscribe to the social contract from where the civil society begins. While Aquinas argues that the political process comes naturally through a natural government, Locke differs from his social contract approach where the legislative power is established by the consent of the commonwealth (Ebenstein and Ebenstein 201). Regardless of the difference, both thinkers appreciate that the end-purpose of the political life is the protection of the common good.
Ebenstein, Alan., and Ebenstein, William. Introduction to political thinkers 2nd edition. London: Cengage Learning, 2001.
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