Skip to main content

Social Contract Theory



"Why should I obey the laws?"

"Because you'll be punished if you don't."

"Assume for the moment that I expect to get away with a particular violation. Or that the odds are fairly good and I am willing to run the risk of capture. Should I obey the law anyway? And, if so, why?"

"You should obey the law, because in doing so you abide by the social contract."

"Show me that contract and my signature thereon."

"If your signature were on it, it would be a contract without adjective. The social contract is only implicit."

"From what is it implied?"

"From the fact that you use the roads."

"Roads could be privately constructed and run."

"Yes, but they usually aren't, and you use them."

"So a government deserves my allegiance because it can create and in fact monopolize certain necessary avenues of transportation and because I am so unfortunate as to use them? I'm not sure why it deserves anything more than what I'm charged at the toll plaza for that. If I run into a pothole, am I allowed to break a law that day as a sort of rebate on my bargained-for allegiance?"

"No. Consider this. You are not actively in rebellion against the sovereign where you live. Am I right there?"

"Yes."

"Then you have submitted to its authority. It is only logical to follow through on the consequences of your submission by acting as a good subject."

"Hmmm. let's think about that. Suppose a robber stops me in a dark street one night. He holds a gun against my ribs and demands I hand over all my money. Fortunately, I have thought about this possibility before hand and I have two wallets in my suit. I think of them as my real wallet and my pseudo-wallet. One with most of my cash and all of my IDs, the other with just five one-dollar bills and an expired driver's license. I act submissive in the face of his superior force and hand him the pseudo-wallet. He runs off happy."

"This is relevant ... how?"

"Submission to authority does not logically require that submission be whole hearted. All that is required to avoid open revolt is ... the avoidance of open revolt. Surreptitious revolt remains a possibility, and not necessarily one that seems intuitively blameworthy."


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.



We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…