The Robinson Crusoe Fallacy

Brian Underwood
Jan 3, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Robinson Crusoe

I'm sure you've all heard it -- the idea that man automatically gives up his rights by choosing to live with other men. That if we really wanted to be "left alone," we should go "live on a desert island by ourselves."

Though most of us are tempted to simply shrug our shoulders and say, "You can't fix stupid," that certainly doesn't mean that it can't be critiqued. This entire argument is unsound, as is the "social contract theory" from which it is derived.

In this essay, I examine this fallacy as offered to me by one of my former professors and reject, in entirety, the idea of the social contract theory:

As they are, man’s rights are not the product of societal invention. Instead, they are the product of reality – moral absolutes based on each man’s own life as his ultimate value and on the protection of those things which are universally necessary for all men if they are to pursue that value. Man does not get his rights from being in a society. Man gets his rights by being man. It is true that man would have absolute liberty if he lived alone a desert island – no one would be there to violate that liberty – but he is at no greater degree of individual liberty on a desert island than he would be (or morally should be) in a society. Does man become less of a man when he moves from a desert island into a society? No, and so too does the liberty to which he is entitled not diminish.