Moral Obligation And Moral Obligations

1436 Words May 2nd, 2016 6 Pages
In this essay I will argue that moral obligation is like legal obligation to some extent, in that they share certain features, in particular notions of blame and responsibility. They also often overlap, though I shall argue that moral obligation is in some sense prior and superior, or more obliging than legal obligation .
Before I begin, it would be worthwhile to try to pin down what ‘obligation’ in a general sense actually means. In simple terms, an obligation can be seen as a sort of binding reason directing one to act or not act in a certain way. When we say one is legally obligated to do pay their taxes, we mean that they must do so lest they incur some form of legal penalty, be it a criminal conviction or a hefty fine . Moral obligation however, while still directive, does not seem to incur such a result, unless of course it overlaps with a legal doctrine. In what sense are they similar then?
Primarily, as I have just mentioned, both legal and moral obligations are directive in nature. They both prescribe certain courses of action, and place demands upon the individual. As Pink clarifies, ‘obligation…seems, like law, to be to do with direction – with getting people to do things or refrain from doing them or refrain from certain things’ . Often, legal and moral obligations overlap. A good example of this is ‘do not kill’, both a law of our society, and by almost all moral systems, an obligation (without bringing in special circumstances). Further, both contain a notion…
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