According to major philosophical thinkers, do we need social contracts to maintain order in society, or can we rely on human nature?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whether a given philosopher believes that humanity in a state of nature can construct a just and stable society depends on that philosopher's concept of human nature.

Thomas Hobbes can with some fairness be described as a Calvinist without a God. He considers humanity totally corrupt and fallen, and in its natural state constantly at war, living a life "nasty, brutish, and short." Only by having a strong absolute power enforcing social contracts can society function at all.

Jean Jacques Rousseau has a far more optimistic account of human nature, believing that we are inherently good and only spoiled by civilization, and thus do not need an authoritarian government.

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