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Duty-based theories

Duty-based morals establish the moral character of our actions on the concept of obligation. This type of morality is conceivable regardless of any consequences that may result from our actions. For example, according to Kant, one should not lie to avoid murder, because the obligation to tell the truth is absolute and does not tolerate any particular condition.

There are several theories of duty:

  • Samuel von Pufendorf distinguishes three types of duty:
    • duties towards God (internal and external devotion);
    • duties towards oneself (duties towards the soul: for example to develop your talents, and duties towards the body – not to kill yourself, not to harm yourself);
    • duties towards others (absolute duties: do no harm, etc., and conditional duties: keep one’s word, etc.).
  • rights theory (eg Locke), in which:
    • rights are natural (for example, to live, to be free, to seek happiness);
    • they are universal;
    • they are the same for all;
    • they are inalienable.

It must be emphasized that all rights call for a duty.

  • the categorical imperative: this is the Kantian theory of morality. Kant distinguishes several types of imperatives:
    • the hypothetical imperative tells us that if we want this, we must do this or that;
    • the categorical imperative only tells us that we must do something, whatever we want or desire.

The theories of duty not only expose the principle or principles that make an action moral, but also strive to resolve the conflicts that result from our duties themselves.

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