Social Contract: Definition

The social contract theories – Quick Overview

The social contract is, in philosophy, an agreement between individuals, or between individuals and a governing power, in which some liberties are freely surrendered in return for advantages of having a well-organized society, or good government.

This concept can be traced back atr least as Plato’s older contemporary, the sophist Lycophron, and it is, after a fashion, discussed in both Gorgias and the Republic. It has been offered both as an explanation of the origin of the state, or a human society, or of particular social arrangements as against all others.

Social contractualists

Those such as Locke, who have sought to use the social contract as a justification, have sometimes felt themselves required to defend the historicity of their postulated contracts. But others, such as Hobbes, Rousseau or Rawls, have been content with something purely hypothetical. Their contention has been that proper social, moral, or political norms can somehow be derived from a consideration of how, in certain circumstances, people would behave. They gave not contented that such norms can be legitimated only by reference to a contract allegedly made between a group of our most remote, woad-painted, primeval ancestors.

See also the following papers on the social contract :

Hobbes Philosophy

Locke Philosophy

Rousseau Philosophy

Locke vs Hobbes

Hobbes: Man is a wolf to man

Cite this article as: Tim, "Social Contract: Definition, May 15, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, May 15, 2012,

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