Event Title

Applying Gauthier's Social Contract Theory to Libertarianism

Session Title

Political Science

Document Type

Oral Presentation

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of Political Science

Honors Thesis Committee

Adolphus Belk, Ph.D.; Christopher Van Aller, Ph.D.; David Meeler, Ph.D.; and Michael Lipscomb, Ph.D.

Description

While Libertarianism is often portrayed in modern American politics as a form of radical conservatism that minimizes the influence of government as radically as possible – as seen through the Tea Party – this research will contend that it need not necessarily fall under the umbrella of conservatism. The question at hand is something along the lines of the following: what is the theory of Libertarianism? To address this question, the research aims to present a brief history of Libertarianism in American politics, specifically discuss the Libertarian theories proposed by Robert Nozick and Jan Narveson, and present the new idea for how Libertarian theory ought to be specifically understood through the lens of David Gauthier’s Morals by Agreement – a contractarian philosophy that replaces Hobbes’s Leviathan and Locke’s God as enforcers of the social contract with individual reason, arguing that one chooses to engage in the social contract because it is individually beneficial. Specifically, the goal is to discuss how Gauthier’s view of the social contract may allow for a broader discussion on what Libertarianism is. Furthermore, the hope is to apply these understandings of Libertarianism to a specific issue and ask where they are in these conversations – are they not involved, not loud enough, or simply ignored?

Course Assignment

PLSC 490 – Van Aller and Belk

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Apr 24th, 12:00 AM

Applying Gauthier's Social Contract Theory to Libertarianism

While Libertarianism is often portrayed in modern American politics as a form of radical conservatism that minimizes the influence of government as radically as possible – as seen through the Tea Party – this research will contend that it need not necessarily fall under the umbrella of conservatism. The question at hand is something along the lines of the following: what is the theory of Libertarianism? To address this question, the research aims to present a brief history of Libertarianism in American politics, specifically discuss the Libertarian theories proposed by Robert Nozick and Jan Narveson, and present the new idea for how Libertarian theory ought to be specifically understood through the lens of David Gauthier’s Morals by Agreement – a contractarian philosophy that replaces Hobbes’s Leviathan and Locke’s God as enforcers of the social contract with individual reason, arguing that one chooses to engage in the social contract because it is individually beneficial. Specifically, the goal is to discuss how Gauthier’s view of the social contract may allow for a broader discussion on what Libertarianism is. Furthermore, the hope is to apply these understandings of Libertarianism to a specific issue and ask where they are in these conversations – are they not involved, not loud enough, or simply ignored?