Social Contract Theory: Natural Rights and Personhood Within Democracy

Social Contract Theory: Natural Rights and Personhood Within Democracy

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Personhood is a central issue within ethics and natural rights debates. For any theory of ethics or system of declaring natural rights which purports how man should be treated and/or to what rights he is so entitled must begin with what ‘man’ is. There is no doubt man has an inherent value that entities such as flies and trees lack. This value does not come from mere physical form, but from what comprises personhood; because these things can be separated from our physical form they can fail to be developed or instantiated within man’s physical form. Natural rights, and the debate about what they are and where they come from, have been long-standing issues in the philosophical as well as political communities. One thing that does seem clear is that status of personhood within these debates. It is man’s inherent value, his personhood, which entails the possession of these natural rights. However, personhood is a term that desperately needs to be disambiguated.
Following the disambiguation of this term and identifying its necessary characteristics, it will be essential to discuss how and why these characteristics can fail to be instantiated to the full extent within man’s physical form. While it is possible that all men are born with the seeds of these characteristics from a divine creator; there remains the fact that it is possible for them to be taken away or separated from the physical form of a man. Therefore, it seems to follow that some environments, or societal systems, are favorable for the development of these characteristics of personhood, and by extension natural rights. For many reasons, which will be discussed in greater depth, democracy as it is implemented within the United States is the system that is best equipped t...


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...longer existent, or when the ruler becomes oppressive and begins to acts against the good of the people, they have a right, if not an out-and-out duty, to overthrow this authority.
Rousseau gives a more developmental account of the Social Contract while maintaining the centrality of property within his theory. The State of Nature was actually preferable in Rousseau’s theory as he believes the invention of private property was the main cause of what he refers to as humanities “fall from grace.” This progression started with population growth forcing man to live in closer proximity with one another. Formation of small communities lead to division of labor and certain inventions which made life easier but also inevitably lead to competition and comparison. Private property was the result of this, and began the pronounced inequality and development of social classes.

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