Daniel Brudney on The Idea of the Social Contract in Western Philosophy

All day


In the western political tradition it is often said that government rests on the consent of the people.  However, it has been surprisingly difficult to say precisely what this means.  What sort of consent do the people give?  How does such consent obligate citizens to obey the law?  The social contract tradition proposes answers to these questions, but here, too, there are difficulties.  Hobbes’s answer differs from Locke’s, and both differ from Kant’s or Rawls’s.  Professor Brudney sketched the underlying questions, looked at different approaches philosophers have tried and referred to key questions which remain unanswered.

Daniel Brudney is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the College, Associate Faculty in the Divinity School, Associate Faculty, MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and co-chair of the Human Rights Program.  He writes and teaches in political philosophy, philosophy, literature, bioethics and the philosophy of religion. He is the author of Marx’s Attempt to Leave Philosophy (Harvard, 1998).