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- There is a very delicate balance between the freedoms thatindividuals enjoy in society and the authority that governs them.Benjamin Franklin (1755) addressed this in a now-famous quote: “Thosewho would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporarysafety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”Key ethical theorists Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-JacquesRousseau considered the relationship between individuals and theirgovernments and social institutions in terms of social contract theory. Thissuggests that a person’s ethical and political responsibilities arebased on understood agreements (with government, with socialinstitutions, with each other) that shape society. As you prepare forthis assessment, you will consider examples of the balance (andsometimes tension) between individual freedom and social institutionsand choose one to address in an essay.
Demonstration of Proficiency
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course Competency 1: Explain the nature of ethical issues.
- Explain the ethical basis for the relation of individuals to their government.
- Competency 2: Critically examine the contributions of key thinkers from the history of ethics.
- Describe the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.
- Competency 3: Engage in ethical debate.
- Assess the advantages and disadvantages of theories as they relate to a selected issue.
- Competency 4: Develop a position on a contemporary ethical issue.
- Apply traditional social contract theories to a selected contemporary issue.
- Competency 5: Communicate effectively in the context of personal and professional moral discourse.
- Communicate in a manner that is scholarly, professional, andconsistent with expectations for members of professional communities.
Larabee, L. W. (1962). The papers of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Political philosophy concerns itself with the formation andmaintenance of civil societies. Its central theme is the need to explainthe relationship between individual human beings and their governments.You have been considering several specific examples of the tensionbetween individual freedom and social institutions. From among thoseexamples, you have chosen one as the focus for your own views on freedomand authority.
Your assessment is to write an essay assessing the issue youselected, both in terms of versions of social contract theory proposedby Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and from yourown view of the proper relation between society and the individual.
Address the following concepts in your essay:
- Explain the ethical basis for the relation of individuals to their government
- Describe the theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau about how societies are organized.
- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the theories in justifying the imposition of authority over individuals.
- Apply these social contract theories to the issue you have selected.
Your instructor may provide video feedback on your work, as well as completing the official scoring guide for the assessment.