Natural rights and why we should surrender them – Inside the Harvard classroom
In his closing prompt, Professor Manty asked us to pay particular attention to the social contract theory that Hobbes explicitly lays out in The Leviathan.
I can’t speak for others but I’ve approached my texts by putting on a pair of comparativist lenses, after all, it is often the case, that a concept is defined in opposition to another. For instance, it is hard to speak of the morally right decision as laid out by Walzer if we do not first first have a basis to which that morally appropriate decision can be contrasted with. Nietzsche provided us with an understanding of how the priestly class managed to rule the stronger, more dominant warrior class by inverting the concepts of what it means to be ‘good’. As such, he was calling into question the moral values (Christian) by which people evaluate themselves with. Even in the case of nation building, we see the importance of comparativism: nationalist sentiments often arise when its citizens define themselves and what they stand for against an other. Case-in-point: Philippines versus Spaniards; Vietnam versus China and thereafter France.
What about America? – Who is the other that American identity has been built against?
That said, I’m been a great fan of Academic Earth (since my high school days) and have found it most enlightening to be able to compare what I understand to be Hobbes’s notion of the social contract and his opinion of the anarchic state of nature with Locke’s view that human beings have natural rights and that their actions are governed by their moral demarcations (this is relative to Hobbes’ view). By being able to contrast their different philosophies endorsed by the various thinkers, it has, in my opinion, aided one’s ability to comprehend the nuances and distinctions in these political philosophies.
I think Michael Sandel of Harvard University does a good job at laying the groundwork for us, so enjoy:
– There are also some pretty interesting exchanges between the professor and his students.
Michael Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, Fall 2009. (Harvard University: Harvard), http://harvard.edu (Accessed January 5, 2011). License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0