Kenneth Himma, ‘Is the Concept of Obligation Moralized?’

Conceptual jurisprudence is concerned to explicate the concept of law and other concepts central to core legal practices, as we understand them. The centrality of obligation-talk to legal practice is obvious, as the very point of litigation is to resolve disputes regarding the obligations of the various parties. In this essay, I argue that the general concept of obligation – of which social, legal, and moral obligation are subtypes – includes a conceptual moral constraint. Just as only a very good person can count as a ‘saint’, only a system of norms that satisfies certain moral norms can count as giving rise to ‘obligations’. Accordingly, I argue, as a conceptual matter, that only those institutional systems of social norms that satisfy some threshold level of moral respectability have the capacity to create obligations.

Kenneth Einar Himma, Is the Concept of Obligation Moralized?, Law and Philosophy, April 2018, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 203–227.

First posted 2018-03-06 13:11:04

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