Sunday, November 14, 2010

Contrary to duty obligations in everyday life

Can we explain away contrary to duty obligations through an historical analysis of the texts implying them? Yes and No.

A comment by VS on my last post proposes the above solution and suggests that contradictions might be due to different textual layers. This is certainly true in many cases, but
  1. 1. it does not solve the intrinsic problem of whomsoever wants to make sense of the text prescribing the contrary-to-duty obligation. This applies to people who believe in that text (e.g. Mīmāṃsakas and the Veda, Christians and the Bible, etc.), to people who depend on it (such as law scholars having to do with a Costitution) and to thinkers who, like me, apply the principle of charity in order to make sense of the texts they analyse.
  2. 2. contrary-to-duty obligations may perhaps arise also outside texts.
Point 2 is connected with the general point of whether obligations may arise independently of an (external) authority (be it a text or not) enjoining them. One might propose (so also Angot) that they may arise out of one's own inner sense of duty. But I am not sure whether this is also not felt as an Authority.
Whatever the case, for sure contrary to duty obligations might arise out of the mixture of two different sources. For instance: What should one do, if one has promised to harm someone, given that a) one should do what one has promised to do and b) one should not harm others?

1 comment:

VS said...

One there were small villages close to each other. Each village had its own small trail to reach the city. Depending on the trial the villagers would use carts, horses etc to travel.

One day the government built a highway which was superior to the trails in terms of quality and distance.

Some villagers adapted to the path by using better carts and learning the rules for this path. The villagers who tried using their old methods to travel on this highway and they found it very cumbersome and dangerous.

In the same way, we cannot judge new idea only against our previous ideas. We have to see the context and maybe learn new skills and thought processes.

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