Date of Award
Master of Arts
The social contract theory was used extensively in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries by political philosophers to popularize the belief that governments were obligated to the people . This theory maintained that the people had originally formed governments, had set their limits and were allowing them to continue to operate. Governments owed their existence not to God and not to kings, but to the people. The social contract theorists tried to explain how political obligations were formed by men in a pre-political state. In order to do this, they first had to describe this pre-political state and demonstrate how it would lead to a social contract. Therefore, they invented the "state of nature", i.e., man 's existence prior to civil or social laws. The state of nature described man as he would naturally appear on earth before formation of society. Man's true nature with no external input could only be viewed in the state of nature.
Donaldson, Sue Slate, "From the natural to the civil state : the evolutionary process as viewed by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau" (1978). Master's Theses. 415.