Social Contract Theory Sample

Thomas Hobbes theory is that in the state of nature, the only thing that motivates an individual is self interest. The state of nature is essentially a state in which men and women are left to their own desires and can do whatever they want. There is no government to intervene or necessary laws and standards. In the state of nature, you will do whatever you have to do to fulfill your self interest. In the prisoner’s dilemma two people have been arrested, the one inmate is called Smith. In this situation the authorities are not interested in the truth, but only want to convict someone.

An interrogator lays out the consequences for Smith. If Smith does not confess, but the other guy confesses against Smith, they will release him and Smith will be put away for ten years. If Smith confesses and the other guy does not, Smith will be set free. If both men confess, each will receive five years. Still, if neither of the men confesses, there will not be enough evidence to convict either one of them. Each man will be held for one year, and then let go. Smith and the other man are being offered the same deal. One might assume that each man would confess against each other.

In this case, both men would receive five years and not obtain the minimum possible time spent in jail. If each man looked out for himself, both will end up worse off than if they had acted in a more benevolent manner. This is what makes the prisoner’s dilemma such a self-contradictory situation. Both men will be better of if they look out for each other or rather not look out for themselves. This is a situation that can be used in every day living. Any time there are peoples’ interests that are affected not only by what they do but what other people do, a dilemma may occur.

In some situations everyone will end up worse off if they individually pursue their own interests than if they simultaneously do what is not in their own individual interests. To leave the state of nature, “we must find a way to work together” (Rachels, p. 84). People must limit their rights and give up the right to other people’s belongings. Social contracts would have to be established where there would be a mutual agreement to give up some rights in exchange for peace. According to Hobbes we are all naturally fearful and that makes us aggressive in the state of nature.

This seems like the only valid reason why people would want to enter into a social contract. If we all live in a state of war of “all against all” then it only seems natural that we would seek peace through an established sovereign. We are driven to move out of that state in hopes of enlarging our freedom when we already have those rights. It only makes sense, which is Hobbes’ argument, that we enter a social contract because the state of nature provides us with no rights other than self protection.