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Ancient Philosophy on Contractualism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 308
Contractualism/Ancient philosophy/Keyt/Miller: [what is] the relation of an original covenant to justice[?]. In the Crito the personified Laws of Athens point out to Socrates that he has had 70 years to leave Athens 'if his agreements [to live as a citizen under them] did not seem just to him' (Cr. 52e). >Social contract/Ancient philosophy.
Def Shallow contractualism: (...) if an agreement can be just or unjust, justice must be logically prior to the agreement; the agreement cannot be the origin of justice. This is what may be called 'shallow contractualism'. >Obedience/Principled disobedience/Ancient philosophy.
Def Deep contractualism: deep contractualism, on the other hand, is the view that a covenant or an agreement is the origin of the distinction between justice and injustice.
Glaucon and Epicurus (...) are deep contractualists. >Social contract/Ancient philosophy.
Aristotle: (Aristotle does not provide us with enough information about Lycophron to
classify him one way or the other.)
Modern philosophy: in modern philosophy Hobbes is a deep contractualist, Locke a shallow.
Gaus I 309
Deep contractualism/Republic/Plato: Glaucon's deep contractualism is based on views of human motivation, of human rationality, and of relative human equality (Rep. II.358e-359c). He supposes that people desire to get more and more, grabbing it from others if they can. But, being relatively equal, they lack the power to act unjustly and to avoid unjust treatment. Lacking such power but possessing what has come to be called 'strategic rationality', they decide that it is in their interest to make a covenant with each other neither to act nor to be treated unjustly and 'begin to make laws and covenants, and to call what the law commands "lawful" and "just"' (Rep. II.359a3-4).
Justice/Glaucon: on Glaucon's view of justice as a necessary evil and a shackle of natural desires, no one is just willingly: people practise justice 'as something necessary, not as something good' (Rep. II.358c16-17).
Gyges‘ ring: this is the point of the story of Gyges' ring, the ring that makes its possessor 'equal to a god among men' (Rep. 11.360c3) by giving him the power of invisibility. Glaucon claims that the possessor of such a ring would exploit its power to satisfy his natural desires unrestrained by justice. >Plato/Political philosophy, >Gyges/Ancient philosophy.


Keyt, David and Miller, Fred D. jr. 2004. „Ancient Greek Political Thought“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Ancient Philosophy
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-01-25
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