The Philosophy of Contracts

Modern society is constructed on the idea of contracts. This idea can be traced back to Judaism which instituted a “covenant” with God in which God will do certain things for Abraham if Abraham did some things for God. The first covenant of Judaism for instance says: “You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you”. God promised to make Abraham the ruler of the Jews and give him the land of Israel if he obeyed His commandments.

Contracts in Religion

This idea of covenants or contracts between God and man then carried forward in many successive religions, including Christianity and Islam. In Judaism, the people of Israel have a collective contract with God. In Catholicism, the people of this whole world (not just Israel) have a collective contract with God. In Protestantism, each individual person either has or must make a unique covenant with God.

The relationship to God in all these religious systems is not based on love; it is rather based on a contract. This means that if a man does certain things as ordered by God, then God will do certain things for man. This agreement of reciprocal exchange defines the contractual relationship to God.

The Western preoccupation with writing things down, history, and records are due to the obsession with contracts. It is also said that this way of thinking originated in the Babylonian civilization and Judaism borrowed it from them. Contracts were used for trade agreements, and that’s how people learned reading and writing—they had to negotiate contracts and write them down. The covenants that people drew with each other as trade agreements were then extended to a covenant with God.

Contrast this idea with the Vedic civilization in which things were never written down, and knowledge was transmitted orally. There was no trust deficit in people for things to be written. In fact, they were never negotiating contracts. They were discussing the principles of dharma or duty. They had language, and people were learned, but not out of the necessity to negotiate or write down contracts. When Western scholars look at Indian traditions, they wonder: How can a society exist without writing things down? It must not have existed. This is because their cultural upbringing accustoms them to view society using the lens of contractual documentation.

Contracts in Social Organization

The idea of contracts then leads to the Social Contract Theory in which morality is replaced by contracts. The government is now a legal entity that enters into a contract with the people. Since it is a contract, therefore, it can be revised. The people can replace the government because the ruler is contracted on some terms. Citizenship of a country is a contract that requires the citizens to obey the government’s laws. These contracts are drawn based on some principles—which is called a nation’s Constitution. Even the Constitution can be amended, so the contractual terms are not true for all times. Thus, the replacement of monarchy with democracy is the extension of contracts from religion to society.

The idea of contracts creates room for fictional legal entities called corporations, which can enter into contracts. When someone is employed by a company, he or she has entered into a contract. Either side of the contracting party—i.e., the corporation or the employee—can terminate their contract if they choose to do so. This is called “Equal Opportunity Employment”— employment is only a contract. A corporation is now not obligated to worry about the people’s welfare. It is only interested in its own welfare, and it is obligated only to follow the terms of employment offered at the time of hiring.

Contractual Human Relationships

Then, human relationships are also contracts. The relationship between husband and wife—which is the cornerstone of a family—is a contract, and it can be terminated if either party so decides. Even children can get legally divorced from their parents because the parent-child relationship is a contract. When all relationships are reduced to contracts, then humans are not obligated to care for each other unless documented by a reciprocal contract. Contractual marriages lead to an increase in divorces, single-parent children, and families are destroyed. Now, the government steps in to provide “social security”—i.e., care for the abandoned and old parents, divorced mothers, and parentless children. Why? Because people don’t have a binding contract with each other; only the citizenship contract is binding.

Due to the increase in divorces, most people don’t want to get married, or even if they get married, they don’t want to have children. This means that the tax-paying population declines, and the number of people dependent on the government for social security continues to be the same (or increases). Now, the governments are forced to open their borders to people who are very likely to produce many children, because these children will grow into tax-paying citizens to take care of the government’s social security obligations.

People may complain about interracial and interreligious conflicts resulting from the immigration of foreign people, but they have nobody else to blame. This immigration is an inevitable outcome of society advocating a sexual revolution, contractual marriages, leading to increased divorces, increased abortions, and reduction in birth rates; to continue to pay for social security, people who produce more children and are socially not inclined toward sexual liberation, divorce, or abandoning parents, are necessary as tax-paying citizens. Only such citizens will pay enough taxes with reduced social security liabilities to compensate for the social security needs of the others.

Interracial and interreligious mingling in society is now an inevitable consequence of the declining rate of childbirth. And the inevitability of this mingling forced by economic necessities then semi-ensures the conflicts between races and religions, semi-guaranteeing chaos.

Contracts of Scientific Theories

Even modern science evolved out of the extension of moral, social, and religious contracts into the idea of producing contractual laws about nature. Such contracts are drawn up between the theoretician and the experimenter. Curiously, nature itself doesn’t enter into the contract about natural laws.

Einstein explained this idea by the example of a person going to a ball dance. As you enter the ballroom, you give your coat to the gatekeeper, and he gives you a token in return. The token can be plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, etc. It can have any number printed on it. The only virtue in the token is that when you give it back, you get your coat back. A token is a contract between the dancer and the gatekeeper. This is how Einstein claimed science works. The theoretician is the gatekeeper and the experimentalist is the dancer. The theoretician can give you any token, and as long as you get your coat (i.e., the observation is predicted), that token is the mutually agreed upon “truth”. There is no such thing as reality or truth; it is merely a token agreement of exchange and reciprocity between the theoretician and experimenter.

As a result, different departments of academia can create their own token systems, and as long as the token works for them, it is called the truth, although tokens of one academic department cannot be exchanged in another department. Each department is permitted to create their own collectively negotiated tokens—i.e., they arrive at a contract about how they think of the world. This idea is then formalized as the “philosophies” of Instrumentalism, Operationalism, Pragmatism, Etc. In these philosophies, science is not about the truth; it is about how we like to think about nature with the only condition being that we get our coats back (we can predict and explain observations) by using whatever theory-tokens we happen to invent.

In all these laws, there is no moral consequence for actions because moral clauses don’t enter the contract. Why? Because such a moral clause is not needed between a theoretician and an experimenter. These two individuals have a contract about how a gun will work, but no contract about when and whether to use the gun. The use of the gun is a separate contract drawn up with others in a society, or with the government, but not within science and never with nature. Since nature never enters into the contracts about natural laws, therefore, nature cannot punish us for misusing the gun. Only society can punish people for gun misuse because the contract is only negotiated with society.

Postmodernist Contractual Thinking

A common thread about contracts unifies Western thinking from religion to social organization to human relationships to science. That thread makes several stipulations that remain obscure to most people (although they are well-known to the experts in a given field). For example, there is no love between soul and God; it is a contract. There is no love between humans; it is a contract. There is no morality in society; it is a contract. And there is no truth; our conceptions or theories about reality are contracts between scientists.

Postmodernism now takes this up a notch. In postmodernism, there is no such thing as truth; it is whatever people think the truth is. There is no such thing as morality; it is only a socially constructed set of agreements. There is no such thing as beauty; it is whatever people want to think beauty is. There is even no such thing as gender; you can create your own gender pronouns, and the pronoun (he, she, etc.) you call a person by is based on a contract between the caller and the callee.

On one hand, this leads to radical individualism—each person can decide what truth, right, and good means. On the other hand, this radical individualism now leads to problems even in further negotiating the contracts. With radical individualism, people lose the capacity even to sign contracts, because they cannot agree on what is truth, right, and good, and they cannot give up their own ideas of the same.

Religious people in the West may rally against the relativizing trend of postmodernism, but they have to look deeper. This relativization is a direct result of contractual agreements. And they begin in the contractual relation to God. How can there be love between people if the most personal and intimate relationship to God is a contract? How can there be morality in society if morality is reduced to a mutually beneficial contract? How can there be happiness in the people if their only connection to society is through a contract of material exchanges?

Anyone who has grown up in a traditional society where truth, morals, virtues, ideals, and goodness are upheld as non-negotiable principles, will find himself or herself as a fish out of water in a world where everything is based on a contract. And those who have grown up in a society where everything is governed by contracts can never understand a philosophy where truth, morality, virtues, ideals, and goodness are not socially constructed, not determined by contracts, or not accepted as absolute principles. This difference leads to many conflicts.

Vedic Philosophy is Non-Contractual

This is the sense in which Vedic philosophy completely overturns everything the West has thought and practiced over millennia. In Vedic philosophy, God doesn’t enter into contracts. We cannot give anything to God that He doesn’t already have. So, how can we have a contract with God? A contract is signed between two parties each of whom needs something from the other. When one of the signatories on the contract is God, there is nothing that we have to offer. But we can still love Him. That love is the only thing to offer, and it cannot be a contract. It has to be understood as an act of giving without the expectation of a return. Vedic texts state that God reciprocates that kind of love. All other ideas about contractual relationships with God based on an exchange of mutual benefits are false.

Similarly, moral principles of truthfulness, kindness, austerity, and cleanliness are non-negotiable. We cannot whimsically invent our moralities or ideas of right and wrong and produce temporary laws. These laws don’t mean anything, because natural laws of cause, effect, and consequence are based on unchanging moral principles. Indeed, all the socially constructed laws don’t save a person from immorality, even though we might say that they are legal. Legality doesn’t necessarily imply morality.

Likewise, you cannot create arbitrary token exchange theories about nature and call them “science”. And you cannot have different token systems across many disciplines. There is only one theory of nature that explains every single type of experience. Every other theory is false, delusional, and ignorant. The test of a theory is that you must be able to exchange the tokens of physics theories in the psychology department, the tokens of psychology in the economics department, and the tokens of economics in the religion department. And everything has to be exchangeable in the happiness department. If your tokens cannot be exchanged in this way, then they are not the truth.

Non-Contractual Societies

Social relationships are not contracts based on rights; they are social roles governed by duties. We have the right to perform our duty, and no other rights. When we enter the world, we don’t negotiate a contract about “I will do this if you do this”. This idea of human existence is a pure concoction. Even if we want to think in terms of a contract, the contract is: “Either you perform your duty, or you will suffer”. This so-called contract of duty performance without the expectation of a result is meant to give us the training to love each other and ultimately love God. If we can perform our duties without expectation of results, then we come to the point of understanding the nature of love. And the so-called lawfulness of nature is to bring us that understanding. Therefore, if we don’t get what we think is our right based upon a social contract with other people or the government, there is no need to be angry, because we never had any rights. We only had our duties.

The idea that we have “rights” is so central to Western thinking that everyone talks in terms of a right to education, right to employment, right to justice, right to equality, and so on. Who gave us all those rights? And the answer is that the social contract is negotiated on the premise of such rights. A contract has to be equitable; everyone must have the right to negotiate a contract and revoke a contract. All so-called rights in the modern world are based on the idea that we are free to negotiate contracts.

That this entire way of thinking about society, human relationships, and science began in a contractual relationship with God seems too distant now, but that connection lies hidden in plain sight.

How would our societies, human relationships, and sciences be different if we gave up our ideas about contracts? How will we reimagine the world, if our relationship with God was based on love?

Non-Contractual Religion

That alternative way of thinking about the world is Vedic philosophy. It is grounded in a loving relationship to God, and based on that love, social organization, professional employment, human relationships, and science, are defined non-contractually. This non-contractual way of thinking leads us to truth, morality, and goodness. If instead someone is lost in a world of negotiated contracts, arm twisting to get better terms, changing the contract when it suits a person, and giving up on the contract when it seems inconvenient, then they have completely misconstrued the nature of reality. Every theory, idea, principle, or system that follows from the contractual way of relating to God, is a false conclusion.

The contractual worldview is so radically different from the worldview about truth, love, and morality, that it is hard to overstate the incompatibility between the two, and the impossibility to bridge them. The contractual view is also self-destructive because it begins in the attempt to define everything as a contract, and it ends with the inability to negotiate any contract or innumerable conveniently betrayed contracts. The worldview based on truth, love, and morality is the only answer to this self-destruction.