Political philosophy entails the study of fundamental questions pertaining the state, government, politics, liberty, justice and enforcement of legal code by authority. These are the accepted code of conduct applied to groups of people and discuss how society should be set and how individuals opt to act within a society. Rights such as right to life, free speech states explicitly the requirements for a person to benefit rather than suffer from living in a society(Gad, 2003).
Questions such as ‘why the need of governments or when to legitimately overthrow it’ are asked by this philosophy. Some major doctrines in political philosophy include capitalism, communism, communitarianism etc. In reference to political philosophy, social contract theories have been put and have helped structure how people and government worked together. Social contract is an agreement between the ruled and the rulers outlining the rights and duties of each. It views persons’ moral and/or political obligations depending upon a contract among them to form the society in which they live.
Individuals within a social structure gain protection from outsiders who may seek to harm the and in return, they must contribute to making the society stable, happy and wealthy. These social contracts challenged both moral and political elements of traditional sources of power in Europe and in such cases rulers were expected to govern fairly and people were supposed to help improve the society.
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are the three enlightenment thinkers credited with the establishment of a standard view of this theory but they all had different interpretations with similar underlying ideas.
According to Hobbes (Leviathan, 1651), in a state of nature there were no enforceable criteria of right and wrong, individuals took all they could resulting to poor, nasty and short human life. Hobbes held a dark view of humans likely influenced by chaotic political events witnessed in England during his life. To him, state turned into a state of war and could not end until individuals agreed to give their liberty into hands of sovereign who would safeguard their lives.
Locke differed from Hobbes as he described state of nature as one in which rights of life and property were recognized under natural law. Inconveniences of the situation would arise from insecurity in the enforcement of those rights. He outlines his ideal for a modern society where people had to do things like pay taxes and in return, the government would listen to their desires and provide their needs. To him, obligation to obey civil government under social contract was conditional upon the protection not only of the person but also of private propertyRiley, 1973). He challenged the idea of kings having to rule unquestioned and argued that a sovereign could be justifiably overthrown in violation of these terms.
Rousseau held that in state of nature, man was unwarlike and somehow undeveloped in his reasoning powers and sense of responsibility. He wrote “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains” meaning that many European kings and queens ruled unfairly. People agreeing for mutual protection to surrender individual freedom of action and establish laws and government, they in return acquired sense of moral and civic obligation. The government must rest on the consent of the governed to retain moral character.
Within a social contract, human rights are inevitable (Riley, 1973). They are defined to as the basic rights and freedom to which all humans are considered entitled to. These rights represent entitlements of individual or groups as well as responsibilities of individual and the government authorities. Human rights can be grouped into either positive and negative rights and according to J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Biola University, “a negative right is a right for me to be protected from harm if I try to get something for myself whereas a positive right would be my right to have something provided for me”. Positive rights as proposed in 1979 by Czech Jurist Karel Vasak may include civil and political rights such as right to police protection of person and property in a state. Humans have the right to be provided with security by the state. Right to food, housing, national security, military, public education, healthcare, social security and a minimum standard of living are all positive rights humans are obliged to be given in a state(Riley, 1973).
Right to counsel is also a positive right which means that a defendant has a right to have assistance of counsel such as lawyers and if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, the government should appoint or pay the defendants’ legal expenses.
Within a social contract, it is hard to be in line with the laws as expected. The unwritten universal principles that underlie all ethical and legal norms by which humans conduct may be violated. Under such laws, humans have interpreted nature differently this makes determining the essential or morally praiseworthy traits of human nature hard(Falaky, 2014). Human behavior in a society may be solely reliant upon the environment that one is exposed to, which includes education, social classes and upbringing, this opposes such contract.
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