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Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy$
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Karl Widerquist and Grant S. McCall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678662

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678662.001.0001

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The Hobbesian Hypothesis: How a Colonial Prejudice Became an Essential Premise in the Most Popular Justification of Government

The Hobbesian Hypothesis: How a Colonial Prejudice Became an Essential Premise in the Most Popular Justification of Government

Chapter:
(p.24) Chapter 3 The Hobbesian Hypothesis: How a Colonial Prejudice Became an Essential Premise in the Most Popular Justification of Government
Source:
Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy
Author(s):

Karl Widerquist

Grant S. McCall

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678662.003.0003

This chapter introduces the role of “the Hobbesian hypothesis” in social contract theory by discussing how Thomas Hobbes introduced it. It defines the version of “the Lockean proviso” relevant to social contract theory as the following moral standard: for a state to be justified virtually everyone must be better off under the state than they could reasonably expect to be in any stateless environment. The chapter defines the contractarian version of “the Hobbesian hypothesis” as the empirical claim that the Lockean proviso is fulfilled by the state: the state benefits everyone or at least everyone who prefers safety to a perilous environment devoid of security. The chapter argues that any plausible justification of existing states drawn from broadly Hobbesian or contractarian principles relies on this hypothesis as an empirical premise comparing the welfare of disadvantaged people in state society and people in stateless societies.

Keywords:   State of nature, Social contract (theory), Lockean proviso, Hobbesian hypothesis, Thomas Hobbes, Contractarian (-ism), Statelessness (stateless people), Consent (theory), Mutual advantage (theory)

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