Hobbes, Thomas

Start Free Trial

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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team