Philosophers have long argued that duties to oneself are paradoxical, as they seem to entail an incoherent power to release oneself from obligations. I argue that self-release is possible, both as a matter of deontic logic and of metaethics.
This paper analyses the thorny interpretative puzzle surrounding the connection between humanity and the good will. It discusses this puzzle: if the good will is the only good without qualification, why does Kant claim that humanity is something possessing an absolute value? It explores the answers to this question within Kantian scholarship; answers that emanate from a commitment to the human capacity for freedom and morality and to actual obedience to the moral law. In its final analysis, it endorses Richard (...) Dean’s good will reading as the most reflective of Kant’s ethics. It claims that in order for a person to reach the moral ideal of acting rightly and giving priority to moral law, he must always honour his duties to himself. Accordingly, it argues that before a person can be deemed as an object of respect, he must first respect the right of humanity in his own person. (shrink)
Sensen analyzes Kant’s justification of duties to oneself. Why does Kant say that duties to oneself have priority over other duties? Sensen concludes that there is a common idea behind the different formulas of the categorical imperative: the idea that our human capacities have a high importance. Kant’s ethics needs anthropology to derive concrete duties from this general idea.
One of the principal aims of Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, especially of the Doctrine of Virtue, is to present a taxonomy of our duties as human beings. The basic division of duties is between juridical duties and ethical duties, which determines the division of the Metaphysics of Morals into the Doctrine of Right and the Doctrine of Virtue. Juridical duties are duties that may be coercively enforced from outside the agent, as by the civil (...) or criminal laws, or other social pressures. Ethical duties must not be externally enforced (to do so violates the right of the person coerced). Instead, the subject herself, through her own reason and the feelings and motives arising a priori from her rational capacities -- the feelings of respect, conscience, moral feeling and love of other human beings, must constrain herself to follow them (MS 6:399-404).1 Among ethical duties, the fundamental division is between duties to oneself and duties to others. Within each of these two main divisions of ethical duty, there is a further division between duties that are strictly owed, requiring specific actions or omissions, and whose violation incurs moral blame, and duties that are wide or meritorious, the specific actions not strictly owed, but deserving of moral credit or merit. Kant treats these latter as ‘duties’ (eschewing any category such as ‘supererogation’) because the actions in question are conceived as fit objects of self-constraint – things we can make ourselves do through the exercise of reason and the moral feelings arising from the application of practical reason to our faculty of desire. Regarding duties to oneself, this division is between ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ duty; regarding duties to others, the strict or narrow... (shrink)
Duties to oneself are allegedly incoherent: if we had duties to ourselves, we would be able to opt out of them. I argue that there is a constraint on one’s ability to release oneself from duties to oneself. The release must be autonomous in order to be normatively transformative. First, I show that the view that combines the division of the self with the second-personal characterization of morality is problematic. Second, I advance a fundamental (...) solution to the problem of the incoherence of duties to oneself, one that does not rely on any division of the self, temporal or otherwise. I build upon the prevalent idea that, in releasing others from duties, we exercise the power of consent. The transformative force of consent partly derives from our autonomy. Invoking a plausible characterization of autonomy, I argue that release from duties requires the right kind of mental state. (shrink)
_Moral Self-Regard_ draws on the work of Marcia Baron, Joseph Butler and Allen Wood, among others in this first extensive study of the nature, foundation and significance of duties to oneself in Kant's moral theory.
This paper investigates the nature and foundation of duties to oneself in Kant's moral theory. Duties to oneself embody the requirement of the formula of humanity that agents respect rational nature in them-selves as well as in others. So understood, duties to oneself are not subject to the sorts of conceptual objections often raised against duties to oneself; nor do these duties support objections that Kant's moral theory is overly demanding or (...) produces agents who are preoccupied with their own virtue. Duties to oneself emerge as an essential and compelling part of Kant's moral theory. (shrink)
Why is it that most among the relatively few moral philosophers since Kant who, like J. S. Mill, have discussed the question whether there can be moral duties to oneself, have answered it negatively? One reason is that those philosophers have supposed that all moral action must be, inter alia, social; and they may have thought so because of their commitment to what is here called a 'corporationist' moral view. But such a conception of morality as social is (...) objectionable because it does not square with ordinary opinion and because it introduces an artificial division between types of action which go together in real life. (shrink)
Recently some bioethicists and neuroscientists have argued for an imperative of chemical cognitive enhancement. This imperative is usually based on consequentialist grounds. In this paper, the topic of cognitive self-enhancement is discussed from a Kantian point of view in order to shed new light on the controversial debate. With Kant, it is an imperfect duty to oneself to strive for perfecting one’s own natural and moral capacities beyond one’s natural condition, but there is no duty to enhance others. A (...) Kantian approach does not directly lead to a duty of chemical cognitive self-enhancement, but it also does not clearly rule out that this type of enhancement can be an appropriate means to the end of self-improvement. The paper shows the benefits of a Kantian view, which offers a consistent ideal of self-perfection and teaches us a lesson about the crucial relevance of the attitude that underlies one’s striving for cognitive self-improvement: the lesson of treating oneself as an end in itself and not as mere means to the end of better output. (shrink)
A number of viable ethical theories allow for the possibility of duties to oneself. If such duties exist, then, at least sometimes, by treating ourselves badly, we wrong ourselves and could rightly be held responsible, by ourselves and by non-affected third parties, for doing so. Yet, while we blame those who wrong others, we do not tend to, nor do we think ourselves entitled to blame people who treat themselves badly. If we try, they might justifiably respond (...) that it is none of our business. This disanalogy might be thought of as a reason for skepticism about duties to oneself. It allegedly indicates that self-inflicted harm, while irrational, is not immoral. In this paper, I argue that this disanalogy is deceptive. First, it relies on the unjustified assumption that our response to someone treating herself badly consists solely in a judgment that she is being irrational or foolish, which is incompatible with leading views about what constitutes blame. Second, the objection fails to recognize that third-party blame is positional: in some contexts, it is inappropriate for a third party to express blame just because of her position as a third party. (shrink)
: This paper investigates the nature and foundation of duties to oneself in Kant’s moral theory. Duties to oneself embody the requirement of the formula of humanity that agents respect rational nature in them‐selves as well as in others. So understood, duties to oneself are not subject to the sorts of conceptual objections often raised against duties to oneself; nor do these duties support objections that Kant’s moral theory is overly demanding (...) or produces agents who are preoccupied with their own virtue. Duties to oneself emerge as an essential and compelling part of Kant’s moral theory. (shrink)
KANT is the foremost philosopher to have argued at length for there being moral duties to oneself, and he puts forward the most extensive list of such duties to be found in philosophical writings. Kant's most detailed statement of his views concerning duties to oneself is to be found in his late work, the Tugendlehre or Doctrine of Virtue, which forms the second part of his Metaphysic of Morals, that work for which the much more (...) famous Grundlegung was the foundational study. I shall confine my consideration of Kant entirely to the Tugendlehre, for his views there, at least concerning duties to oneself, represent only an amplification of ideas that he had expressed in earlier writings. (shrink)
Kant on Duty to Oneself and Resistance to Political Authority SVEN ARNTZEN in ms DOCTRI~tE OF Law and related writings? Kant denies the subject's right to resist political authority in the strongest terms. His argumentation to sup- port this denial is conceptual in character. The denial of a right of resistance follows from the relevant legal concepts of civil society, of the people as sub- ject, of the head of state as the supreme power in civil society, as having (...) only rights but no duties that he may be coerced to fulfill, and of a right as an authorization to use coercion. Civil society is the coexistence of persons as subject to a central authority, a supreme power, which is not itself subject to some other coercive authority. For the people as subject to have a right to resist the supreme power in civil society would be for it to have an authorization to use coercion to restrain that power, which would not, then, be the supreme power. In other words, a people's right to resist the supreme power would imply that the power is both supreme and not ' By Kant's Doctrine of Law I mean his Die metaphysische Anfangsgriinde der Rechtslehre, the first part ofD/e Metaphysik der Sitten, hereafter MdS . The other available translation of the Doctrine of Law is by John Ladd, and is rendered as The Metaphysical Elements of Justice (Indianapolis: The.. (shrink)
In “On duties to oneself,” Marcus G. Singer argued that, contrary to long established philosophical tradition, there are no duties to oneself. Singer observes that to have a duty is to be accountable to someone for that duty’s fulfillment, and while she to whom a duty is owed may release the person who has the duty from being bound to fulfill it, the latter cannot release herself from the duty. For releasing oneself from a duty (...) is no different from simply opting not to fulfill it, which would make the duty no more than a mere option and rob it of its categorical character. Singer thus argues that (a) A has a duty against herself; (b) if A has a duty against herself, then A is accountable to herself for the duty’s performance; (c) if A has a duty against herself, A can release herself from the duty; and (d) because a person is accountable to the individual owed the duty for its fulfillment, no one can release herself from an obligation, form an inconsistent set. (shrink)
In some cases, you may release someone from some obligation they have to you. For instance, you may release them from a promise they made to you, or an obligation to repay money they have borrowed from you. But most take it as clear that, if you have an obligation to someone else, you cannot in any way release yourself from that obligation. I shall argue the contrary. The issue is important because one standard problem for the idea of having (...)duties to oneself relies on the impossibility of self-release. The argument is that a duty to oneself would be a duty from which one could release oneself, but that this is an absurdity, and so there can be no duties to oneself. This argument is to be rejected because a duty from which one can release oneself is perfectly possible, and such release occurs quite properly from time to time. (shrink)
The demand for bodily parts such as organs is increasing, and individuals in certain circumstances are responding by offering parts of their bodies for sale. Is there anything wrong in this? Kant had arguments to suggest that there is, namely that we have duties towards our own bodies, among which is the duty not to sell parts of them. Kant's reasons for holding this view are examined, and found to depend on a notion of what is intrinsically degrading. Rom (...) Harré's recent revision of Kant's argument, in terms of an obligation to preserve the body's organic integrity, is considered. Harré's view does not rule out all acts of selling, but he too ultimately depends on a test of what is intrinsically degrading. Both his view and Kant's are rejected in favour of a view which argues that it does make sense to speak of duties towards our own bodies, grounded in the duty to promote the flourishing of human beings, including ourselves. This provides a reason for opposing the sale of bodily parts, and the current trend towards the market ethic in health care provision. (shrink)
I argue that democratic citizens have a duty to educate themselves politically. My argument proceeds in two stages. First, I establish a case for the moral importance of individual competence for voting, but also maintain that the substantial content of the required competence must remain open. I do this by way of an assessment of Jason Brennan's provocative defense of epistocracy. I try to show that there is no notion of political competence that can meet with reasonable agreement among citizens (...) and that voter qualification exams are therefore illegitimate. Second, I maintain that the basic premise of Brennan's argument, the right to a competent electorate, is valid and that it corresponds to an individual duty to educate oneself politically. This duty is, in Kant's terminology, a wide and imperfect duty that we owe to our fellow democratic citizens. Yet since the content of competence must be left open, this moral duty cannot be transformed into a legal obligation. (shrink)
In the Doctrine of Right Kant holds that the classical Ulpian command honeste vive is a juridical duty that has the particular feature of being internal. In this paper I explore the reasons why Kant denies that the duty to be an honorable human being comprises an ethical obligation and conceives it as a juridical duty to oneself. I will argue that, despite the conceptual problems that the systematical incorporation of this type of duty into the doctrine of morals (...) might entail, these reasons are coherent. The fulfillment of the duty honeste vive involves a coercion to the self but at the same time does not necessarily imply the adoption of a moral end. (shrink)
The requirement that moral theories be usable for making decisions runs afoul of the fact that decision makers often lack sufficient information about their options to derive any accurate prescriptions from the standard theories. Many theorists attempt to solve this problem by adopting subjective moral theories—ones that ground obligations on the agent’s beliefs about the features of her options, rather than on the options’ actual features. I argue that subjective deontological theories suffer a fatal flaw, since they cannot appropriately require (...) agents to gather information before acting. (shrink)
We sought to expand on the concept of the moral self to include not just the duty to develop the moral self but the moral duty to develop the self in both moral and non-moral ways. To do this, we focused on how leaders can promote a climate in which individuals feel a sense of duty to develop themselves for the betterment of the team and organization. In our theoretical model, duty orientation plays a key role in determining whether followers (...) will seek performance feedback to develop their work selves. We hypothesized that followers with ethical leaders would experience a greater sense of duty to improve themselves and would therefore be more likely to seek and less likely to avoid leader feedback. Drawing on social learning theory, we hypothesized that duty orientation would mediate the relationship between ethical leadership and feedback-seeking/feedback-avoiding behavior, expert power would moderate the relationship between ethical leadership and duty orientation such that duty orientation would be higher when followers perceived their leader to be both highly ethical and competent, and expert power would moderate the indirect effect of ethical leadership on feedback-seeking/feedback-avoiding behavior through duty orientation. We tested our hypotheses using a sample of 249 followers across two waves of data collection. Results suggest that ethical leadership and leader competence interact to drive followers’ duty orientation, thereby reducing followers’ feedback-avoiding behaviors. Further, ethical leadership had a direct positive relationship with followers’ feedback-seeking behaviors. (shrink)
That we owe duties to others is a commonplace, the subject of countless philosophical treatises and monographs. Morality is interpersonal and other-directed, many claim. But what of what we owe ourselves? In Duty to Self, Paul Schofield flips the paradigm of interpersonal morality by arguing that there are moral duties we owe ourselves, and that in light of this, philosophers need to significantly rethink many of their views about practical reason, moral psychology, politics, and moral emotions. -/- Among (...) these views is the idea that divisions within a person's life enable her to relate to herself second-personally--that is, as though she were relating to a distinct other person--in the way required by morality. Further, there exist political duties owed to the self, which the state may coerce persons to perform. This amounts to a novel argument for paternalistic law, which appeals to considerations of right, justice, and freedom in order to justify coercing a person for their own sake--a liberal justification for an idea typically thought to be deeply at odds with liberalism. -/- Schofield untangles how this view would impact various issues in applied ethics and political philosophy, for example, financial prudence and risk, the pursuit of the good life, and medical ethics. Duty to Self is essential for anyone working in moral and political philosophy or political theory. (shrink)
The attention economy — the market where consumers’ attention is exchanged for goods and services — poses a variety of threats to individuals’ autonomy, which, at minimum, involves the ability to set and pursue ends for oneself. It has been argued that the threat wireless mobile devices pose to autonomy gives rise to a duty to oneself to be a digital minimalist, one whose interactions with digital technologies are intentional such that they do not conflict with their ends. (...) In this paper, we argue that there is a corresponding duty to others to be an attention ecologist, one who promotes digital minimalism in others. Although the moral reasons for being an attention ecologist are similar to those that motivate the duty to oneself, the arguments diverge in important ways. We explore the application of this duty in various domains where we have special obligations to promote autonomy in virtue of the different roles we play in the lives of others, such as parents and teachers. We also discuss the consequences of our arguments for employers, software developers, and policy makers. (shrink)
People freely disclose vast quantities of personal and personally identifiable information. The central question of this Meador Lecture in Morality is whether they have a moral (or ethical) obligation (or duty) to withhold information about themselves or otherwise to protect information about themselves from disclosure. Moreover, could protecting one’s own information privacy be called for by important moral virtues, as well as obligations or duties? Safeguarding others’ privacy is widely understood to be a responsibility of government, business, and individuals. (...) The “virtue” of fairness and the “duty” or “obligation” of respect for persons arguably ground other-regarding responsibilities of confidentiality and data security. But is anyone ethically required—not just prudentially advised—to protect his or her own privacy? If so, how might a requirement to protect one’s own privacy and to display ethical virtues of reserve, modesty and temperance properly influence everyday choices, public policy, or the law? I test the idea of an ethical mandate to protect one’s own privacy, while identifying the practical and philosophical problems that bear adversely on the case. I consider “conceptual” and “libertarian” objections to the view that each individual indeed has a moral obligation to safeguard his or her own privacy. Government and industry are not off the hook if privacy is a duty of self-care and self-respect: they have responsibilities and are freshly viewed as partners in moral agents’ quest for ethical goodness. (shrink)
In this paper, we take up the question of whether there comes a point at which one is no longer morally obliged to do further good, even at very low cost to oneself. More specifically, they ask: under precisely what conditions is it plausible to say that that “point” has been reached? A crude account might focus only on, say, the amount of good the agent has already done, but a moment’s reflection shows that this is indeed too crude. (...) We develop and defend a nuanced account according to which considerations of three types are all relevant to whether one has satisfied one’s duties to assist: “inputs” (types and quantities of sacrifice made), “characteristics” (the beliefs and intentions that informed the donor’s decisions), and “success” (the extent to which the donations in question succeeded in generating value). (shrink)