Agreements, coercion, and obligation

Ethics 103 (4):679-706 (1993)
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Typical agreements can be seen as joint decisions, inherently involving obligations of a distinctive kind. These obligations derive from the joint commitment' that underlies a joint decision. One consequence of this understanding of agreements and their obligations is that coerced agreements are possible and impose obligations. It is not that the parties to an agreement should always conform to it, all things considered. Unless one is released from the agreement, however, one has some reason to conform to it, whatever else is true. In this sense, one is under an obligation to the other parties. The relevance of these points to the issue of political obligation is discussed.

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Margaret Gilbert
University of California, Irvine

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