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Catholic Dictionary




The theory that makes morality the same as civil legality. Accordingly there are no acts right or wrong of their very nature, but only because commanded or forbidden by the state. Built on the ideas of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), the theory assumes that the state is not a natural society, but the result of the social contract, a purely conventional agreement whereby men give up part of their natural rights in order to preserve the rest. Once civil society is formed, it commands and forbids certain actions for the common good, and this is the beginning of right and wrong.