The Social Contract

Edward Hicks William Penn's Treaty with Indians

In CHAPTER VIII: “Of The Beginning of Political Societies” of John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, he explains that:

Sec. 95. MEN being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.  The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it.  This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.  When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.

And CHAPTER XI: “Of The Extent of the Legislative Power” states how we accomplish that:

134. THE great end of men′s entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety, and the great instrument and means of that being the laws established in that society

It is because of laws that we can have a society.

Now in Book X of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics he writes that:

..what remains is to discuss in outline the nature of happiness, since this is what we state the end of human nature to be..

And under heading B. Happiness is:

9. Legislation is needed if the end is to be attained.

This is the reason why I’m confused as to why I didn’t have a teacher who stressed the value of Philosophy or Aristotle.  If the father of classified knowledge considered legislation for happiness, I would think that he was someone I had to learn about.  Because does anyone want to be unhappy?

Arabic Aristotle Alexander The First Teacher المعلم الأول‎Then Aristotle expresses in Book VII of Politics:

Returning to the constitution itself, let us seek to determine out of what and what sort of elements the state which is to be happy and well-governed should be composed.

And in Book VIII of the same work:

No one will doubt that the legislator should direct his attention above all to the education of youth; for the neglect of education does harm to the constitution.

So how many of our legislators believe that?  And how many of us private citizens also believe that?

Since we citizens are “united into a community” by means of the law, hence The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau discusses the articles of this contract in his book with the same name:

These articles of association, rightly understood, are reducible to a single one, namely the total alienation by each associate of himself and all his rights to the whole community.  Thus, in the first place, as every individual gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all, and precisely because they are the same for all, it is in no one’s interest to make the conditions onerous for others.

So if everyone just wants to be happy, why oppose another’s happiness?

Edward Hicks Peaceable Kingdom Society of Friends Quakers

Now to recap, without laws society cannot exist, and in order to achieve the goal of happiness the legislation of education should be our biggest concern.  Again, this reinforces the Immanuel Kant maxim: progress can be expected to follow from the top downwards.  It is through law that we can effectively reform society and reach “the state of happiness.”

My ideas for that will be published in future posts.

Friedrich August von Kaulbach In Arcadia

Photo Credit: http://www.artrenewal.org/asp/database/image.asp?id=8504

 

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