Lesson Plan - Get It!
Wouldn't it be great to be able to do just what you want without any laws? Of course, everyone else would live lawless lives as well, and that just might affect you in a way you wouldn't like! There has to be some solution to the world's problems — meet a couple thinkers with different ideas and see what you think!
The great British thinker, Thomas Hobbes, once said that without civilization, our lives would be “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Civilization and strong government help solve some of the worst of life’s problems. By settling down, growing their own food, and creating a regulated way of life, humans found that they could build a better and longer life. Still, there would be challenges.
Civilization made it possible to create more food and wealth than ever, but it also caused a greater gap between rich and poor. Societies became much more complex as populations increased and people competed for wealth, position, and power.
- How would it be possible to deal with these and other problems?
- How would it be possible to bring about justice in these societies?
There are a few possible solutions
The first is to develop a government that enjoys complete control over society. The ruler, or group of rulers, do as they please; they own the entire realm and they decide how wealth and resources will be spent. Anyone who disagrees could simply be imprisoned, tortured, or killed.
Another possible solution would be to create a system of laws — still enforced by the rulers — that tries to keep balance in society. These laws would provide basic protections to all citizens. They would define acts considered to be crimes and outline the punishments for those crimes. This way, the wealthy could still retain power, but the rest of society would enjoy a level of fairness.
A third way would seek to make civilization more fair by changing the way people feel about their fellow human beings. If we could get everyone to feel what it’s like to be poor, unfairly treated, or oppressed, then everyone —including the wealthy ruling class — would be more likely to act fairly and justly towards all.
Go back over those three ways of building a stable civilization. As you read, reflect on the following questions and record your reflections in your notebook or journal:
- Which of these three solutions do you like best? Why?
- Which of these three do you think is the most likely long-term solution to the problems of civilization? What makes you think so?
- Do you think the problems of crime and injustice in society will ever be solved? Why or why not?
This is a tough set of problems to solve. In fact, the question of how to make society safe, balanced, and just is as hard to answer today as ever! Some people nowadays believe that we need strong governments that can enforce order without question, even through violence. Others feel that we need to patiently spread a sense of cooperation in a completely non-violent way.
In the Got It? section, read about two thinkers at opposite ends of history who represent some of these ideas.