Tuesday, February 7, 2017
A Hobbesian Take on Disease Pandemics
The English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ social contract theory of society, very simply, states that humans form a contract with other humans, giving up EVERY natural right that they have in order to preserve their own life and stay out of the natural state of war that human kind has a strong affinity for. The only natural right that they cannot give up is their right to preserve their life as best they see fit.
So how does this tie in to disease pandemics? As discussed in the book, the tricky part of preventing and controlling disease outbreaks is having to balance how much personal freedom you take away from an individual so as to protect the rest of society. For Hobbes, it would appear that because you entered into a society and “signed” the social contract, you forfeited all of your rights in order to stay alive, just as everybody else did (theoretically at least), so you must submit to the quarantine in order to protect the lives of everybody else in society.
However, I feel it is important to note here that Hobbes might say that this only applies so long as your life is not being threatened (more than it already is, considering you have some sort of a highly contagious disease). This means that a government could not tell you “Unfortunately you have the Bubonic Plague, so we are going to have to shoot you and burn your body.” I feel as though Hobbes would say that you now have the right do anything necessary to protect yourself, as your one unalienable right has been infringed upon.