James Fieser


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Crito urges socrates to escape

Crito’s argument:

Socrates criticism: disregard the views of the many

General rule:

Particular application of this rule with justice:

Respect the view of the expert of justice

Argument of the Athenean laws

Athens like a parent to Socrates

Athens has been like a parent to Socrates insofar as Athens has raised him and seen to his education

Socrates owes his real parents a debt of gratitude and should thereby obey them

Therefore, Socrates woes Athens a debt of gratitude and should thereby obey their laws and decisions

Social contract between Socrates and Athens

If one chooses to take up residence in a particular area, then one is thereby agreeing to obey the laws and decisions of the lawmakers

Socrates chose to reside in Athens

Therefore, Socrates has agreed to follow the decisions of the lawmakers (regarding his execution)

Prospects for Socrates if he Flees



Justice and self interest

Whether might makes right

Thrasymachus: justice is the interest of the stronger

Socrates: Physicians, captains, and rules seek the interest of their subjects


Socrates: injustice is not more beneficial than justice

The advantages of injustice: the ring of Gyges

Glaucon: This shows that injustice is more profitable than justice

Socrates: two kinds of justice

Three social classes

The emergence of the tradespeople class

Societies are needed to efficiently provide for the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing

Other needs:


Need for the guardian class and censorship their education

Censorship: lies in literature need to be censored

Selecting the ruling class

Rulers should be selected among the best of the guardians show the greatest interest in furthering the good of their country

The nature of justice

The noble lie: staying within one’s class

Three types of metal

Justice as doing one’s own business

Justice is based on the principle that one person should practice one thing only, the thing to which his nature was best adapted

Four virtues of the state

More on the guardians and rulers

Selective breeding of the guardians

Communal lifestyle of the Guardian class

Secretly selected for breeding based on the best qualities

The philosopher-king

There can be no public or private happiness unless the rulers are philosophers

Knows the forms:



The state as a creation of nature

Rulers differ in kind

Natural rulers and subjects: families, villages, states

The state is prior to the individual

Parts of the household

Three relations in the family:

Household management:


Property in the household

Instruments in managing the household: some are living, others lifeless

In Defense of Natural slavery

“From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule”

Slaves and the rational principle:

Against slavery by law

Slavery by law: conventional laws that allow slavery, such as those captured in war

Three Criticisms:

The skill of slavery

Art of the slave:

Art of the master:

Art of justly acquiring slaves:

Women and children

Royal rule vs. constitutional rule



Different virtues for rulers and subjects

Different capacities of the soul




Different virtues for different capacities of the soul



The subject’s virtue is relative to that of the ruler


Forms of government

Ruling for the good of the governed

Purpose of the state:

True governments:

Despotic governments:

Rule of one, few, or many

One: kingship


Few: aristocracy, where it is ruled by the best men, or rule for the best interest of the citizens


Many: constitutional government, where fighting men possess the supreme power


Justice as equality

General view: justice involves equality


Possible qualities:

Problem: none of these is sufficient for determining equality and inequality in justice

Conclusion: justice is equality, but equality is relative to the advantage of the state, and the common good of the citizens


CICERO: NATURAL JUSTICE (from On the Commwealth)


Development of societies

Learning (philosophers) vs. experience (politicians):

Philus: against natural, innate and universal justice

Philus adopts the arguments of Carneades

Justice is a legal right, but not a natural right

Justice varies from place to place

Justice is inconsistent with worldly wisdom

Three scenarios:

Summary of Carnades’ position

“Men had established laws among themselves from considerations of advantage, varying them according to their different customs, and altering them often so as to adapt them to the times; but that there was no such thing as natural law”

Scipio and Philus: true justice vs. practical benefit

Scipio: The benefits of injustice outweighed by the disbenefits of remorse

Philus: human practice confirms the benefit of injustice

Laelius: for natural justice

Laelius: natural justice and virtue

Natural law:

Scipio: Justice the foundation of lawful government

Scipio: Democracy, Aristocracy, Monarchy

Criticisms of democracies

Aristocracy vs. monarchy


AUGUSTINE: THE EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY CITIES (from City of God and Contra Faustum)

The two cities

Differences between the two cities

Two cities formed by two loves



Peace through the eternal law

Two types of peace

Earthly city:

Heavenly city:

Both kinds of peace are connected with the eternal law

Principles of eternal law

Two precepts of eternal law:

Three loves:

Principles of civic harmony:

Principles of domestic harmony:


Servitude introduced by sin

In the state of innocence (Eden, before Noah)

After Noah

Domestic peace

Peace and discord between the two cities

Travelers’ use of earthly advantages:

Harmony between the two cities

The earthly city:


Discord between the two cities

Against extending one’s empire

The liabilities of acquiring too much

Case of two men:

Kingdoms without justice are like robberies

Good people should not wish to rule more widely


Language diversity, wars of unity, and the tragedy of even just wars

Three circles of society:

All wars aim at peace

God and war (from Contra Faustum)

God commands wars with just retribution, not cruelty

Moses wars should not abhor us:

The real evils in war:

Wars justified when in obedience to God

Soldiers who fights in an unjust war:

Turning the other cheek is consistent with divinely ordained wars

Old testament does not contradict new testament

Critics of the Old Testament point out how they contradict the New Testament


God’s reasons for justice are unknowable

Blaming God for ordering wars shows an ignorance of the timeless perspective of divine providence


AQUINAS: NATURAL LAW (from Summa Theological, and On the Governance of Rulers)

Four kinds of law

Whether there is an eternal law

Eternal law is god’s rational rule over the universe

Whether there is in us a natural law

All things partake in eternal law that is imprinted on their natures, which gives them an inclination to their proper end

Natural law is the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law

Whether there is human law

Human laws are the specific conclusions that we deduce from more general rules of natural law

Whether there was any need for a divine law

Four reasons for divine law

Natural and human law

Whether the natural law contains several precepts, or only one

Self-evidence: subject contained in the predicate

In itself:

In relation to us:

First principle of natural law: good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided

Our human goods are embedded in our natural inclinations

Six main natural inclinations and their natural law moral precepts:

Whether the natural law is the same in all men

Reason goes from general conclusions to specific conclusions

Three levels of principles (regarding rightness and knowledge)

The most general principles are the same for all, but not known by all (e.g., do good > be sociable > do not harm others)

Immediate deductions are the same for all, but may not be known by all (e.g., don’t steal)

Further deductions are not the same for all, and would not be known by all (e.g., return borrowed property)

Whether every human law is derived from the natural law

Human law has natural law to the extent that it is accurately derived from natural law

Two kinds of deductions from natural law



Natural servitude

Human inequality in the state of innocence

People are born unequal:

Man mastering over man in the state of innocence

Two meanings of “master”

State of innocence

The nature and duties of royal authority

What is meant by the name, king

People need something guide him towards his goal

Three unjust governments:

Three just governments

The community should be self-sufficient with all necessities

That a kingdom ought to be governed primarily with a view to creating happiness

How a king may institute a good life among the subject multitude

Two things needed for an individual’s good life

Three things to establish the good life for the multitude

How he may preserve what has been instituted

Three things that hinder the continuance of the public good

Three responsibilities of the king

How he may advance what he has preserved to a better condition.

Just war

Whether it is always sinful to wage war (three requirements of a just war)

Proper authority:

Just cause:

Rightful intention:

Wrong intentions:



Arguments for a single ruler of the world

Three questions concerning temporal monarchy

Temporal monarchy: the government of one prince above all men in time (i.e., one king of the world)

Three questions:

Is it necessary for the welfare of the world

Did the Roman people rightfully take to itself the office of monarchy

Does the authority of monarchy come from God directly or an intermediary

Needed for society to achieve its end

Aristotle (politics): one thing needs to regulate things to attain an end


Reflects the image of God

Parallels the prime mover

Needed to resolve controversies

Allows the most freedom

Is more just and less tempted by desires

Does things more efficiently

Principle of efficiency:

Harmonizes the wills of everyone

Confirmed by Augustus’s Peace of Rome

Monarch’s authority independent of church authority

Against the Sun-Moon Argument

The sun-moon argument: according to Genesis, God made the sun and moon to be the greater and lesser lights, where the sun illuminates the moon

Two ways of criticizing allegorical interpretations of the bible

Criticism 1 of sun-moon argument:

Criticism 2 of sun-moon argument:

No possible source of church authority over the king

Possible sources of such authority




Universal consent:

Separate domains of temporal and spiritual powers

People have two ends:

Two paths:

Two guides:



Geography and government

Layout of the island

200 miles across the middle, crescent shape, center of crescent a great bay

Founded by Utopus, dug a 15 mile trench separating it from the continent

54 large cities, with the same laws and customs

Amaurot, capital city; three senators from each city go there once a year

Farmhouses throughout the country; city dwellers are sent there in rotation

Families of forty people

20 family members sent to farms in two-year shifts; some voluntarily stay longer

Egg incubators


200 Lower magistrates (syphogrant/ philarch): 30 families vote for one lower magistrate for a one year term (can’t be re-elected)

20 Higher magistrates (tranibor/protophi): over 10 lower magistrates, can be re-elected

Prince: holds position for life, voted for by lower magistrates from a list of four nominated by the people

Magistrates can’t call secret meetings, which avoids conspiracies to change the government

Can’t debate a subject on the day it is proposed

Work and leisure

Everyone understands agriculture

One type of clothing, and they make their own clothes

Lower magistrates keep people from being lazy

Six hour work days, three before lunch, three after

Spare time: read, entertain with music and conversation, attend public morning public lectures

Game of virtue and vice

Efficiency of the utopians

Domestic issues

Family life

Houses contain several generations of people, with the males staying in place

When families get too large, some are moved to smaller families

Cities have a maximum of 6,000 families

The oldest male runs the family, wives obey husbands, juniors obey seniors

Products of family industries are made available at local markets where goods are exchanged for free

Slaves slaughter animals, not citizens, since it would compromise their feelings of pity and kindness

Meals for 30 families are held in large dining halls; people can eat at home, but usually don’t since the halls have better food

Public hospitals of high quality, with large bedding capacity for emergencies

There are no bars, houses of prostitution, or other private places of corruption

Slaves, euthanasia


Terminally ill

Marriage, divorce, adultery

Issues of justice


Handicaps, physical appearance



Religious tolerance


More disagrees with many of the laws and customs of the Utopians, but wish that many others would be adopted by modern governments



Republics and monarchies

Two kinds of government: republics and monarchies

Qualities of praise and blame in a prince (Ch. 15)

Imaginary vs. real virtues of a Prince

Alleged qualities of a good monarch.

Typical virtues of a monarch:

Generosity vs. stinginess (Ch. 16)

Better to be stingy than generous.

Problems with generosity

Reply to counter examples

Criticism: Caesar obtained his empire through generosity


Severity vs. mercy, being loved vs. feared (Ch. 17)

Severity in punishment better than mercy

It is better to be feared than loved

The severity of Hannibal

Hannibal was severe yet militarily successful; Scipio was humane, but a failure militarily.

Honesty vs. deception (Ch. 18)

Emulate both the fox and the lion.

Appearance of virtue

Being hated and overthrown (Ch. 19)

How to avoid being hated

How to avoid being overthrown



King made by the people

People elect kings

God establishes kings, people confirm the selection through election

Kings need to remember that the people put them in power to bear the burden of the commonweath

All kings are elected, either the specific king or the bloodline

People above the king

Kings are Servants of the People

Ministers of the king vs. ministers of the kingdom

Ministers of the king:

Ministers of the kingdom:

Why Kings were first established

Kings are under the law

Royal authority based on contract

Two contracts with the king

Two contracts:

The people stipulate the terms, the king follows

Allegiance forced on the people by the king is invalid

Opposing tyrants

Two types of tyrants

Tyrant without title:

Tyrant by practice:

Justification for opposing tyrants

Identifying a tyrant

The duty of officers to oppose tyrants

How to oppose tyrants



Natural law

Sociability and the principles of natural law

Humans have a desire to live in peacefully in society with others

Stoics called this “sociability”

Animals too have this inclination, but humans alone act based on general principles

Laws of nature flow from this tendency to preserve society

Natural law and reason

Natural law involves things that are right and wrong their rational nature

Even God can’t change natural law since it would involve a contradiction

Natural Law unique to humans

Roman view of natural law and animals

God and Natural Law

Just Causes for War

Public and private wars

Public wars are declared by a public authority, private ones by private people

Private are the oldest, and form the basis of the other

Defense of life and property

Derived from self-defense

We have a right to defend our lives by killing the attacker

We have a right to defend our property by killing the attacker

These two rights, which apply to both private wars and public wars

Reparation for damages


Unjust wars

Just Conduct in War

The just means and ends of war



Three justifications for destruction of property:



The natural condition (Chapter 13)

Equality of People

Slight inequalities in body and mind balance out



Three causes of quarrel




State of war

Proof of the natural condition

Even now with laws we protect ourselves

Crit: there was not general war of all against all


Nothing is unjust

Two cardinal virtues:

Three motivations toward peace

First and second laws of nature (chapter 14)

First law of nature

Definitions (all rooted in psychological egoism)

Right of nature:


Law of nature:

Law 1: seek peace as a means of self-preservation

Second law of nature

Law 2: contracts are reasonable

Mutually divest ourselves of hostile rights so to achieve peace

Other laws of nature (Chapter 15)

Law 3: Keep contracts that we make (justice)

Problem: selfish people will not always keep contracts


Law 4: Gratitude: toward those who comply with contracts

Law 5: accommodation (complaisance): accommodating oneself to the rest

Law 6: cautious pardoning of those who commit past offences

Law 7: against cruel punishment

Law 8: against showing contempt: avoid direct or indirect signs of hatred or contempt of another

Law 9: natural equality: avoid pride

Law 10: against arrogance

Law 11: equity: be impartial

Law 12: Possessions

Law 13: mediation and arbitration

Other possible laws which are less important

Causes of the commonwealth (Chapter 17)

Commonwealth needed for protection

Why people are unsociable

Creating a commonwealth

To ensure contracts (and peace) power must be given to one man, or one assembly

Definition of a commonwealth:



Need for society

Types of law




Unsociable human qualities

Foundation of natural law

Fundamental law of nature

“Every person ought to preserve and promote society, that is, the welfare of humankind”

Natural laws authored by God

Duties to god, self, and others arising from the natural law

The creation of society

Large communities not necessitated by human nature.

Disadvantages of living in large communities

Advantages of living in society

The Foundation of Government

Safety in numbers

Government needed to enforce the social contract

Two faults in human nature that keep prevent people from consistently agree to a public goal

Two covenants and a constitution

Covenant for people to come together and form a society

Constitution (or decree) to establish a form of government

Covenant to obligate the ruler to secure public safety, and the people to obey the ruler

Governments ordained by god


Treaties of peace: reinforce duties of natural law


Leagues: add something new to precepts of natural law




Against the divine right of kings (Ch. 1)

Robert Filmer’s view

Locke’s criticism

State of nature and its laws (Ch. 2)

State of nature

Fundamental law of nature (four natural rights)

Law-breakers: each person has the authority to punish those who break the law of nature

Right to life: We retain our right to life unless we forfeit it by violating the rights of others

State of war (Ch. 3)

The innocent have a right to wage war against law breakers.

Includes a justification to kill

State of war vs. state of nature

A state of war can also emerge when someone harms us and a corrupt political system prevents adequate redress.

Slavery (Ch. 4)

Natural liberty

We cannot contract ourselves into slavery

We may forfeit our life and liberty


The Jews’ condition of drudgery

Definition of drudgery

Property (Ch. 5)

Mixing labor with what is held in common

We create private property when we mix our labor with an object held in common.

Acquiring land

Land is also acquired by mixing our labor with common land

Beginning of Political society (Ch. 8)

We form larger communities for the benefit of mutual protection, but in exchange for this we give up some of our liberty.

Dissolution of Government (Ch. 19)

Two ways of dissolving governments.

Violation of public trust.

Criticism: perhaps people will always be dissatisfied with a government and thus continually overthrow and replace it.

Locke’s response:

Criticism: permissiveness regarding insurrections may lead to all out civil war, and this is not justified.

Locke’s response:




Against the original contract: allegiance based mainly on society’s necessity

Original contract in savage times

In primitive times, before writing, people formed governments through an unwritten contract for the sake of peace and order


The modern conception of an original contract

Standard modern (Lockean) view: all government, from earliest times, arose from the voluntary consent of the people who are in a natural state of liberty; their obligation to the government is conditional on the government’s fulfilling its role to maintain justice and protection, and revolution is justified when it doesn’t


No hereditarily binding contract

Standard response: the contract is an original one made a long time ago


Societies founded by conquest

Elections no foundation of governmental allegiance

Elections are done either by a few influential people, by a frenzied multitude under a ringleader

Consent of the governed is rare

Consent is rare, and when it happens it is mixed with so much fraud or violence that it cannot have much authority

Obedience through fear, necessity, and acquiescence

No tacit consent because no real choice

Standard argument for tacit consent: by choosing to stay in a country one tacitly agrees to follow the government


Allegiance an artificial duty based on the necessity of society

Allegiance does not arise from a primary instinct like the love of children, gratitude to benefactors, pity to the unfortunate

Allegiance is an artificial duty, like justice regarding property and promise keeping

Against natural justice: property based solely on usefulness

Justice regarding property based solely on utility

No need for private property with abundance

No private property with extensive benevolence

No private property with extreme lack of necessities

Suspension of justice in situations of great crime and war

Justice arises from utility

Justice does not arise from instinct

Five reasons



Advantages of small republics

Properties of republics

Small republics have a better chance of survival

Properties of a monarchy

Monarchies should be mid-sized

Properties of a despotic government

Large empire require a despotic authority to keep distant regions in line


The natural size of republics, monarchies, countries ruled by despotic princes

Protection through a confederate republic

Two disadvantages of republics:


Confederate governments work best with republics

What Monarchies and republics tend toward

Political liberty

The general idea of liberty

Two kinds of liberty:

Different meanings of the word liberty

Deposing a tyrant, choosing a superior, right to bear arms, governed by a native of one’s own country

Liberty is confined by the laws

Political liberty does not consist in an unlimited freedom

Different aims of different governments

Different aims of different countries


Separation of powers to preserve liberty

Three branches of government




No political liberty when the legislative and executive branches are united in the same person (he can both enact and enforce a tyrannical law)


Wrongfulness of slavery

Makes one man absolute master over the life and fortune of another


Three sources of slavery among Roman Citizens

Prisoners of war:


Selling oneself into slavery


Slavery from birth


Other criticisms of slavery

Origin of slavery from cultural differences

Cultural differences between conquers and natives led to slavery

Origin of slavery from cultural differences

Rulers conceded to slavery in part as a quick way to convert natives to Christianity

Absurd arguments for the slavery of the negroes

Other absurd arguments for slavery

Heat fatigue an absurd argument for slavery

Tasks of slaves performed by freemen



Intent of punishments (Ch. 12)

Prevention and deterrence

The purpose of punishment is to create a better society

Advantages of immediate punishment (Ch. 19)

Short imprisonment before a trial

Reason for swiftness

Association of ideas


The ideas of "crime" and "punishment" are best associated when punishment is swift

Mildness of Punishments (Ch. 27)

Certainty vs. severity

There is no need for severe punishments since swiftness of punishment deters the best

People adjust to increases of severity

Examples of cruelty:

The Punishment of Death (Ch. 28)

We don’t give up our right to life

Capital punishment is cannot be founded on the social contract

Forfeiture of rights is inconsistent with the view that we do not have the right to kill ourselves

Only one justification of capital punishment

Capital punishment does not deter

Advantages of perpetual slavery

Perpetual slavery combats religious repentance

Deters people from committing crimes when they are assured of eternal happiness through easy repentance

Harmful effects of the death penalty

It reduces people's sensitivity to human suffering

Overcoming the custom of the death penalty

Human history consists mostly of errors, with few truths



Benefits of free trade

Self-interest and bartering for necessities (1.2)

Humans need the cooperation for survival, unlike animals that live independently of each other

We get what we need “by treaty, by barter, and by purchase”

Domestic industry promoted through an invisible hand (4.2)

For the sake of their own security, people support domestic (as opposed to foreign) industry without intention or knowledge of doing so

Through self-interest, an invisible hand directs the betterment of society

Results of conscious efforts to promote domestic trade

Free trade and prosperity (4.5)

Carrying trade:

Britain’s prosperity does not owe to corn laws

First governmental duty: defense (5.1.1)

The military which protects “society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies”

Cost of military increases as civilization expands

Second governmental duty: judicial system (5.1.2)

The justice system protects every member of society from injustice or oppression by every other member

Rich vs. poor

Civil government isn’t necessary where there is no property (or none that exceeds two or three days labor)

Cost of justice system

Separation of judicial from executive branch

Otherwise people in power may sacrifice individuals’ rights to larger political interests

Third governmental duty: public works and institutions (5.1.3)

Unprofitable public works that are advantageous to society

Expenses differ based on different periods

Article 1: of the public works and institutions for facilitating the commerce of the society

Facilitating commerce in general

Good roads, bridges, navigable canals, harbors

Facilitating particular branches of commerce

Particularly government efforts to help protect British businesses (such as the East India company) in foreign places like India

Article 2: of the expense of the institutions for the education of youth

Educational institutions

Costs can be defrayed by fees that students pay their teachers, or through endowments

Article 3: of the expense of the institutions for the instruction of people of all ages

Religious instruction, which don’t make them better citizens but “prepare them for another and a better world in a life to come”

Publicly funded religion leads to religious persecution

Hume’s argument for state-funded religion

Criticism of Hume

Two state remedies to help block religious superstition in the many privately-funded religions




Federal union consistent with confederacy of republics (Federalist, 9)

Small republics waver between tyranny and anarchy

e.g., small republics of ancient and Italy

Advocates of despotism use these to criticize republican government and civil liberty

Improvements in governing have improved republicanism

New improvements in the science of government

Montesquieu’s view of confederated small republics

The benefit of confederacies in keeping the peace is not a new idea

Critics of confederacies often cite Montesquieu’s view of the need for a small republic

Hamilton’s response to critics

The true nature

Common distinction between confederacy and consolidation

Hamilton’s criticism:

Lycian Confederacy

Federal unions avoid faction (Federalist, 10)

The need for governments to control faction

A great advantage of a union is its ability to control faction

A common complaint about government is that it’s too unstable and “the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties”

Sources of faction

Definition of faction:

Two cures for faction

Property the main cause of faction

Several natural reasons for faction: e.g., “a zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government,”

But unequal distribution of property is the main cause

Controlling the effects of majority faction

Causes of faction cannot be removed; we can only remove the effects

Two ways of blocking majority faction:

Large republics control majority faction better than small democracies

A small faction cannot block majority faction, since the majority will be able to unite their ruling passion

Large republics can control faction through representation

Republics defer to elected representatives

Distinction between democracy and republic

Effects of having representatives

Republics have a better chance of avoiding factious representatives

Republics encompass more citizens and territory than democracies

In small democracies there is a greater chance of a majority forming with the intent of oppressing the minority

In large republics, a greater diversity of interests prevents the majority from oppressing the minority



Two approaches to liberty

Dangers of abstract liberty

Liberty in action

Liberty in action is all that we can know about liberty

Liberties as an inheritance

Inheritance conserves and transmits

British liberty preserves “an inheritance from our forefathers”, beginning with the Magna Carta

Social change analogous to natural change

Change in the natural world preserves the past


Pretended rights destroy real rights

Real rights include the rights to live by the rule of law, the right of justice between people, the right to the fruits of their industry

Abstract rights are too simplistic

When a government limits people’s full liberties (through the social contract), it must have “a deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities”

True rights balance social interests

Rights occupy a middle ground

Religion the basis of civil society

Against atheistic critiques of religion

Revisions of religious institutions should not be done by atheists

Benefits of an established church


Importance of tradition

Tradition brings stability to law and education

Radical changes in government breaks the continuity of the commonwealth, and one generation cannot link with another

Society as partnership with the past and future



Utility the standard of law

Reformation in morality

Knowledge is rapidly advancing

The principle of utility

“it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”

Distinguishing Good and Bad Laws

The Utilitarian Calculus

The principle of utility

Seven factors

(1) intensity; (2) duration; (3) certainty; (4) remoteness, that is, the immediacy of the pleasure or pain; (5) fecundity, that is, whether similar pleasures or pains will follow; (6) purity, that is, whether the pleasure is mixed with pain; and (7) extent, that is the number of people affected

Applying the factors

Against the Original Contract

The assumed binding nature of contracts

People get used to the binding nature of contracts in general, without inquiring about its authority

Problem determining the king’s violation of his promise

The people still need to determine whether the king acts in opposition to their happiness

The King’s promise to secure happiness is not simply a promise to follow the letter of the law, as seen by four counter instances:

Obligation to govern and obey based on utility, not promise

The foundation of all promise keeping is utility (the benefit or disbenefit of keeping promises)

Validity of promise based on utility, not on the promise itself

Defenders of social contract say that the promise itself creates the obligation

Bentham’s response:

Against natural rights

Only legal rights are grounded in legislative facts

Ambiguity with the word “right”

Natural rights do not come from natural laws

Only legal rights exist




Three classes of law

Divine law

Positive law:

Positive morality:

Two meanings of morality

Morality which is good or worthy of approval

Morality which is without regard to goodness or badness (e.g., the morality of an age)

Three elements of law

Three kinds of authors of positive law

Monarchs, or sovereign bodies, as supreme political superiors

Men in a state of subjection, as subordinate political superiors

Subjects, as private persons, in pursuance of legal rights.

Confusing Positive Law with Morality as it Ought to Be

The dogma of legal positivism

“The existence of law is one thing; its merit or demerit is another. Whether it be or be not is one enquiry; whether it be or be not conformable to an assumed standard, is a different enquiry. A law, which actually exists, is a law, though we happen to dislike it, or though it vary from the text, by which we regulate our approbation and disapprobation”

Blackstone: human laws invalid when in conflict with divine law

Blackstone: all valid laws derive their force from divine law; “human laws are of no validity if contrary to them”

Austin’s criticism:

Danger of this view: this urges us to disobey laws by more compulsory motives

Blackstone: no valid right to a slave’s labor

Blackstone: a master cannot have a right to the labor of his slave

Austin’s criticism:

Paley: civil liberty identified with non-restraint from law

Paley: “Civil liberty,” he says, “is the not being restrained by any law but which conduces in a greater degree to the public welfare;”

Austin’s criticism:

Grotius: identifying actual international laws with natural laws

Grotus: conflates international laws as they actually are with the natural moral laws as they ought to be

Confusing positive law with positive morality

Roman jurists: identifying jurisprudence with knowledge of justice

Digest of Roman Law: “Jurisprudence,” says this definition, “is the knowledge of things divine and human; the science which teaches men to discern the just from the unjust.”

Austin’s criticism:

Mansfield: moral obligation is sufficient for a binding promise

English law: a binding promise must be have a specific motive

Mansfield: a promise is binding simply by involving a moral obligation

Austin’s criticism:




Role of Government (from The Proper Sphere of Government)

Understanding the Natural Principles of Society

People don’t often question longstanding social policies, particularly political ones

Government needed for Protection, but Not for More than That

Government is there to defend our natural rights (protect person and property)

Definition of Government

Traditional definition of Government: to provide for the general good of society


True Definition of Government: the administration of justice, which involves preserving our natural rights

Agricultural Regulations and Protectionism

Argument for corn laws: restricting free trade with agriculture will reduce the trade deficit


National Religion

Argument for state religion: without the help of the state, the Christian religion would not spread in a selfish world


Poor Law





If the government’s role is restricted to justice (through preserving natural rights), then governments would have no power to declare war


If the government’s role is restricted to justice, then governments would have no authority to colonize other countries

Colonization is not in the interests of the mother country:

Colonization is not in the interests of the emigrants:

Colonization is not in the interests of the natives of the foreign country:

National Education

“A man can no more call upon the community to educate his children, than he can demand that it shall feed and clothe them”

National Health Care

Illnesses serve as a lesson that protects thousands

Argument against national health care from natural instincts:


A definition of the state is the starting point for any inquiry about the role of government

The Right to Ignore the State (from Social Statics)

A person cannot be compelled to continue in a political arrangement without violating his rights; he simply relinquishes the benefits of government



Against Natural Rights (“On The Jewish Question”)

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: natural rights to equality, liberty, security, property.





Two types of human existence

Egoistic being: individuals isolated from society

Species being: individuals connected with society

Natural rights do not move beyond egoistic being

French revolution and egoistic rights

Alienated Labor

Unalienated Labor according to our Communal Nature (“Comments on James Mill”)

Creative activity and exchange with others is part of our species-being

Unalienated labor is connected with our community-nature, not our ego nature

Four aspects of proper labor

Capitalist Economics and Alienation from the Product of One’s Labor (Economic Manuscripts of 1844)

Assumptions of capitalist economics:

The worker himself becomes a mere commodity, and “The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates”

The working conditions and pay are increasingly bad

Alienation from One’s Labor Itself

Two interrelated types of alienated labor: (1) the worker becomes alienated from the products that he creates, and (2) the worker becomes alienated from his act of labor

“The product is after all but the summary of the activity, of production”

Three elements of alienated labor

The Communist Manifesto

History and Class Struggle

Class struggle: throughout history societies have evolved through conflicts between social classes of those who do the work, and others who are in charge and benefit from that work.

Historical class struggles

Roman times:

Middle ages:

Modern times:

Bourgeoisie and proletariat division

Bourgeoisie: Marx’s term for a class of large-scale business owners that oppresses workers

Bourgeoisie Exploitation of Laborers

Revolutionary role of Bourgeoisie in past history:

Bourgeoisie Expansion

Features of Bourgeoisie expansion

Crisis of over-production:

Working Conditions of the Proletariat

Impact of division of labor and mechanization

Fate of small business owners and tradespeople:

Rebellion of workers:

Collision Between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie

The power of the unions increases, and unifies the proletariat

Some members of the bourgeoisie join with the proletariat when they see that the proletariat holds the future

The Path to Communism: Ten Planks

Distinguishing feature of communism:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2.  A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3.  Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4.  Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5.  Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6.  Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7.  Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8.  Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9.  Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.



Liberty in General (Chapter 1)

Tyranny of the majority

Political tyranny:

Tyranny of the majority:

The Principle of liberty

Governments may restrict a person’s liberties only when his actions harm other people, but not simply because that person’s actions harms himself.

Three kinds of liberty necessary for any free society:

Liberty of Thought and Discussion (Chapter 2)

Importance of controversial opinions

Benefits of allowing false opinions

Benefits of critiquing true opinion

Debates over true opinions are important to keep them alive (as opposed to a dead dogma)

Criticism: it makes no sense to say that truth prevails only when it is disputed


Four benefits of freedom of opinion (i.e., “the mental well-being of humankind”)

Liberty of Action (Chapter 3)

People should be free to act (as well as be free to think) so long as their actions don’t cause public disruption

Permitting Privately Harmful Conduct (Chapter 4)

Obligations to society

We have social obligations in exchange for the protection that we receive from society


Cannot coerce duties to oneself

When violating duties to oneself is punishable

Possible criticisms of freedom in private conduct



Responses to criticisms

Main principles and limitations

Main principles of this book

“The individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself”

Restrictions to self-regarding misconduct




The meaning of anarchy and state

Different meanings of “anarchy”

Proper meaning:

Different meanings of “state”

Precise meaning: government in its various institutions (political, legislative, judicial, military, financial)

Other meanings:

Anarchists should avoid using the word “state” and instead refer to the “abolition of government”

Typical justifications of governmental authority

The scope of governmental power

Government authority is based on a metaphysical illusion:

True governmental power

Exchanging liberty for protection

Main justification for government:

Governmental Oppression

Types of oppression



Creation of a ruling class

History shows that those in power create a privileged class to facilitate the economy, since the government cannot do it alone

Governments pretend to defend justice and equality

Governments assume the task of protecting society and providing essential services, but these tasks ultimately defend the rich

The “seesaw game”

Governments secure the conquerors the fruits of their victory

If there is always strife between people, then governments will always be necessary to secure to the conquerors the results of their victory

End exploitation by ending the government

The inevitable social conflict isn’t really between independence vs. social control, but, rather, a conflict involving one person oppressing another

Alternative to government

Social order through voluntary associations

The most important social functions take place without government

Public services best secured without government

Public services are first created by those with private interests, but then governments step in to control and exploit them



Thesis: if we ignore our actual advantages and disadvantages within society, we will arrive at two basic principles of justice that establish a base-level of equality and allow for unequal advantages only when they are to everyone’s benefit.

Different notions of justice

The fundamental idea in the concept of justice is fairness

Two principles of justice

Two principles stated

Two principles express the notions of “liberty, equality, and reward for services contributing to the common good”

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Some inequalities permitted

Principle 2.a

Principle 2.b:

Original position

Conditions of rationality, mutual self-interest, similar needs

Regarding the success of proving the above principles:

Mutually self-interested:


Similar needs:

Impartiality regarding one’s actual advantage

The people ignore their actual advantages and disadvantages within society when settling on principles of justice (veil of ignorance)

Motives to accept inequalities

In this situation, the people will arrive at the above two principles of justice

Several assumptions avoided

Regarding self-interest

Regarding constitutions

Regarding coming together the first time


Fairness is fundamental to justice: the right dealing between people who are cooperating with or competing against one another