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Paul Jones

Mrs. Quinn
November 15, 2010
Chapter 2: Reviewing and Using the Lesson
1. How would you describe the differences between classical republicanism and natural rights
philosophy? How are those differences important in thinking about the purposes and goals of
Classical republicanism is built around concepts such as civil society, civic virtue and mixed
government. John Locke, a natural rights philosopher, held that "All men are born equally free
and hold certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest
their posterity." These rights are most frequently cited as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness.” From this, it is evident that classical republicanism stresses the importance of the
“common good,” while natural rights philosophy stresses the importance of the rights of an
individual. This is significant in determining the purposes and goals of government because it
represents a “too hot, too cold” discussion: if the individual is deprived of natural rights, there
can be no common good, and if the people are deprived of the common good, there can be no
natural rights.
2. What is civic virtue? How is it fostered in small, uniform communities? In large, diverse
Civic virtue is defined as “the cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be
important for the success of the community.” In a small community, it is argued, people are
able to know and care for one another, making it easy to discern the common good. In a large
community, disparities in culture, religion, and morals cause dissonance within a people. This
has changed since the time of Aristotle, as the increasing speed and scope of communication
means that the concept of “small community” has broadened to what he might have considered
a “large community.”s
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the state of nature to explain society and
The hypothetical condition of human beings before the establishment of the state is a poor way
of explaining society and politics because the existence of society and politics mandates an
existence of a state, whether it is a tribal hierarchy or modern representative republic. Its
advantages lie in the fact it could lead to a more realistic view of human voluntary altruism.
4. What is meant by social contract? How is it connected to the idea that government derives its
authority from the consent of the governed? What is the significance of the idea that society and
government are based on agreements rather than occurring naturally?
The social contract is defined as “an implicit agreement among the members of a society to
cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state
protection.” It is the popular surrender of sovereignty to an authority in return for the enforced
preservation of social order and rule of law. The social contract relates to the notion that
government derives its authority from the consent of the government because it is exactly that:
it is an outline of the means by which the people will be governed. If one believes this process
occurs naturally, there is no need for government.
5. If you were asked to create a government that reflects principles of both classical
republicanism and natural rights philosophy, which elements would you use?
I would have mandatory “civil religion” and ethics classes to encourage civil society and civic
virtue. I would establish a constitutionally limited government which seeks to establish the
common good. The individual will fight for the rights of the individual, and the government is
to fight for the common good.
6. What might be the consequences for individuals and society of too great an emphasis on the
rights of individuals over the common good?
Should government place to great great an emphasis on the rights of the individual, the
commoners would suffer. Invariably, when there is no lobby for the commoners, there is only
the lobby for the wealthy. As the individual becomes rich, they acquire the means to become
richer. Consequently, as the individual becomes poor, they acquire the means to become
poorer. Should the right to take another mans life be given back to the individual, the common
good suffers.
7. Examine the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. What influences, if any, of classical republican
and natural rights philosophies do you find?
The concepts of “men are created equal”, “unalienable rights”, and “life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness” are clearly natural rights philosophies. The Declaration of independence also
reads as a call for a limited government – a mainstay of classical republicanism.