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PHIL215 Notes

by: Danielle Palmucci

PHIL215 Notes Phil 215

Danielle Palmucci

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These notes cover Social Contract Theory (for and against), Prisoner's Dilemma, Tale of the Slave, and Anarchy.
Right & Wrong in Contemporary World
Chad Vance
Class Notes
philosophy, contemporary moral issues




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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Danielle Palmucci on Sunday February 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Phil 215 at College of William and Mary taught by Chad Vance in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 8 views. For similar materials see Right & Wrong in Contemporary World in PHIL-Philosophy at College of William and Mary.


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Date Created: 02/14/16
Social Contract Theory—Hobbs Hobbs’ “State of nature”: hypothetical scenario where there is no law, no military, everyone’s equal-living for themselves, scarce resources people will live in continual fear of their life, everyone would be in war with each other. People need each other/ family to survive. Hobbes concludes that, in our natural state (pre-government), we humans would be in a constant state of war and quarrel with one another—everyone competing and fighting for the resources, which are not abundant enough for everyone to have everything they desire. This natural state of man is one where people live in “continual fear and danger of violent death” and life itself is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” **One explanation for why people are more likely to betray each rather than cooperate (i.e., as Hobbes predicts that they would in the state of nature) comes from game theory. Given that people are primarily motivated by self-interest. Nash’s “Prisoner’s Dilemma”: Method of getting prisoners to betray one another. Always selfishly better off betraying the other. Two Prisoners: Two people are brought in for a crime, but there is not enough evidence to convict either of them fully. Both detainees are offered the same deal: If they testify against the OTHER prisoner (i.e., accuse the OTHER person of the crime), they will go free, so long as the other person remains silent. ^analogous to the “state of nature” with limited resources; people will always betray one another b/c self; although it would be in best interest for everyone to not betray. What do we need to get out of a state of nature? (A form of government) 1. An agreement, or contract 2. Someone to enforce it Ex. For instance, in movies, people are always hesitant to hand over the money in a hostage situation until they have received the hostage. They are always afraid of being betrayed by the other party because there is no one to penalize betrayal. Or, a common modern example of this is ebay. If there were no penalty for dishonest sellers, or if buyers were not protected in any way, no one would use ebay, because fraud would be rampant. Hobbes’ claim is that we are obligated to obey the governing rulers because we have a contract with them; we are obligated to obey because we have consented to do so—and this is the basis of the government’s authority. The duty of allegiance to the government, then, is like the duty to keep a promise. Social Contract Theory—Locke Disagreement with Hobbes: John Locke also proposes that the government obtains its authority via social contract. However, he disagrees with Hobbes on the following:  The state of nature o Locke’s version of the state of nature is much less brutal. He says it is merely a state of “men living according to reason” alone, rather than subject to some higher authority. o It is very different from the state of war (where every man constantly takes away from others by force), which Hobbes seems to equate as the same thing as the state of nature. Though, Locke does admit that the state of nature more easily leads to a state of war than a political society does.  The law of nature o Hobbes’ view is more cynical because he believes that in the state of nature there is complete liberty. Hobbes believes that, in the state of nature, “every man has a right to everything; even to one another’s body.” That is, there would be no morality or law of any sort. o Locke disagrees, saying we would still subject to a ‘law of nature’ which governs people’s actions: “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone … [such that] no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”  Scarcity o Another reason that Hobbes believes that the state of nature would be more violent than Locke is that he believes the resources of the world are scarce. Since there is not enough (land, timber, fruits, vegetables, livestock, fuels, etc.) to go around for everyone, people will constantly fight over them. o Locke’s view compares the resources to an abundant, flowing river. His conclusion that the state of nature would not lead to much quarrel, then, seems to be a result of the fact that he believes there would be enough of everything to go around for everyone. Is this view of nature correct? Is selfishness bad? Even Locke admits that “every man is toward himself”—that is, motivated by self-interest. We tend to interpret this claim as the claim that “everyone is selfish”, and this a bad thing. But is it? Is it possible to act always out of self-interest and be a “good” person rather than a bad one? Perhaps the thing that makes Mother Teresa happiest is to help others. In that case, she helps others because she is motivated to make herself happy. But, then, is she a “bad” or “selfish” person? Locke says that mankind can only give up their liberties by consent. What he recommends is a democracy (as opposed to Hobbes’ monarchy) where we, by consent, establish a government to rule, and we consent to its laws and rulings by majority vote (either of the public, or of some publicly elected officials) Social Contract Theory—Counter Argument The Social Contract: Now, most will probably agree with the idea that IF there were some contract between the people and some ruler, then this would be the basis of the ruler’s authority and the people’s obligation of allegiance to that ruler. This is just to say that when people make agreements with or promises to one another, obligations arise. However, IS there such a contract? An agreement/ contract can be made explicitly or implicitly.  Explicit agreement: This occurs when you explicitly communicate that you agree to something. o If you say, “I will give you $5 for a hamburger”, and they bring you one, you have explicitly agreed to pay that amount for it.  Implicit agreement: This occurs when your actions or inaction implies that you agree to something. o If you ask a server at a restaurant to bring you a hamburger, it says “$5” on the menu, and they bring you one, you have implicitly agreed to pay that amount for it. Hypothetical Consent: Ex. Medical Objections Does the US have an explicit agreement?  Pledge of allegiance? Does the US have an implicit agreement with us?  Implicit consent via residence o Consent only valid if there is a reasonable alternative? Reasonable way to opt out?  Implicit consent via acceptance of good and services (roads, military protection, public schools, currency, judicial system, medical care, police, safety regulations, water)  Excludable: capable of providing to some but not to others  Non-excludable: not capable of providing to some but not to others o Consent only valid when:  Reasonable alternative  The services are only provided if you hold up your end of the contract  If you don’t use the services, you have no obligations Excludable vs. non-excludable goods: Some goods are excludable (i.e., can be offered to some, but not others) and other goods are not.  Military and police protection are examples of NON-excludable goods—the military cannot reasonably protect ONLY the taxpayers from foreign invasion, for instance.  Other goods ARE excludable (e.g., school systems, health care, subsidies, etc.), because they can be provided to some but not others. Does accepting either of these sorts of goods give rise to a valid contract?? Huemer’s Objection: claims that acceptance of services would give rise to an obligation to reciprocate ONLY IF the following are true: 1. There are reasonable alternatives to the services provided. 2. Providing of these services will only be given if you hold up your end of the bargain. 3. If you do not use the services, you will not be obligated in any way. Clearly, there is no reasonable way to opt out of receiving the non-excludable goods, simply because there is no way to opt out at all. So, acceptance of nonexcludable goods does not seem to create a valid contract. So, Huemer says, given that there are not adequate alternatives to many of the government’s services, and the fact that the government does not seem to link our political obligations to our use of them, there is no valid implicit contract between the state and its citizens (unless we have explicitly made one). Neither is it “only fair” that we all pay into the system (unless we have agreed to do so). Do you agree? Anarchy Robert Nozick tells a story in several stages, the first being obvious slavery, and the last being something very much like the state that we in the U.S. find ourselves in today. He asks the question, at which one of these stages did the situation change from slavery to non-slavery? The Tale of the Slave 1. Brutal Slavery 2. Fewer beatings, some free time 3. Kind masters, makes decisions in your interest 4. Work 3 days/week 5. Work when you want, pay master 3/7 th 6. The other 10,000 slaves vote about how to be treated, etc. 7. You can try to persuade others’ votes (but can’t vote) 8. You can vote, but only as a tie-breaker 9. You vote with everyone else The implication is that it did NOT change in this way, such that WE in the U.S. are slaves of a sort; and presumably this is unjust, such that government rule is unjust. Nozick’s argument might look like this: Argument Against Legitimacy of Government Authority 1. Slavery is unjust. 2. The rule that government places on us is slavery (evidenced by his story) 3. Therefore, the government’s rule is unjust. So… Argument In Favor of Premise 2 1. Stage 1 is clearly slavery 2. There is no clear cut-off point between Stage 1 and Stage 9 where the story goes from being about slavery to NOT being about slavery 3. If there is no clear cut-off point between slavery/non-slavery, then Stage 9 is slavery 4. Furthermore, stage 9 represents OUR current situation 5. Therefore, our current situation (under government rule) is one of slavery. Objections  Against Premise 3 o Sorites Paradox—many smaller differences collectively make a big difference, but at no particular point did it the situation clearly shift o Nozick suggests that, if a change (from slavery to non-slavery) HAS occurred, then we must be able to identify WHERE it has occurred. But, that isn’t true. For, the fact that one cannot identify the dividing line between where something changes from one extreme to the other does not entail that there is no difference between the extremes themselves. For, the increments between the two extremes may be so small that they are imperceptible. But, many small, imperceivable changes add up to big, perceivable ones. Consider: o Stage 1: I have 100,000 hairs on my head. Stage 2: I pluck one hair so that I have 99,999 hairs on my head. Stage 3: I pluck another hair so that I have 99,998 hairs on my head. Stage 4: I pluck another hair so that I have 99,997 hairs on my head. … Stage 100,000: I pluck another hair so that I have zero hairs on my head. Question: At what stage did I go from being not bald to bald? It may seem impossible to locate some specific point at which this occurred—but this does not therefore entail that I am still NOT BALD at Stage 100,000. (Note that we can conduct similar experiments with many other transitions; e.g., short/tall, rich/poor, young/old, etc.) This puzzle that arises out of the vagueness of some of the terms in our language is known as a Sorites Paradox. We must conclude that, just because we cannot identify where the sharp cut-off line is between slavery and non-slavery in Nozick’s story, this does NOT entail that Stage 9 is still slavery. That being said, whether or not Stage 9 is slavery must be assessed on its OWN merits (not in relation to the other 8 stages).  Against Premise 2 o Alternatively, we might reject premise 2. Perhaps there IS a clear cut- off point? Is it obvious to you that, between each of Nozick’s 9 stages, the situation does NOT change from slavery to non-slavery?  Against Premise 4 o Nozick believes that Stage 9 is the stage that WE are currently in. We might think that Nozick has mis-represented our current status, however, since WE have the ability to opt out, while the slaves in his story do not. That is, perhaps we HAVE in some sense CONSENTED to our present status by remaining here; and if we didn’t like it, we would be free to leave (whereas it is not stated that the “slave” in stage 9 of Nozick’s story is free to opt out of the system). But, recall our discussion of implicit consent during the social contract unit. Nozick might reply here that we are NOT really free to opt out, since it is very difficult to emigrate. Furthermore, even if we DID manage to go elsewhere, we would just be trading in one master for another (since every place has a government which makes demands of its citizens). Furthermore, similar objections apply to the idea that we have consented to being governed by accepting goods and services from our government. So, perhaps we have NOT consented to our present situation, and therefore Stage 9 DOES accurately represent our current status. Do you agree?


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