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Moral Obligations And Duties Essay

1881 words - 8 pages

In the Macalester student handbook, it is clear that there are consequences for cheating. For those who have witnessed or are aware of cheating incidents, policy states they are expected to report these actions, and witnesses to these events are strongly encouraged to report them. fails to report the incident. However, are students obligated to report cheating? Or is a duty of students to report this bad conduct? To answer these questions, I will first discuss how moral obligations and duties are defined. Next, I will compare them and discuss their differences. Finally, I will apply the examination of differences to determine whether it is a moral obligation or a duty to report ...view middle of the document...

Now that moral obligations and duties have been defined, it is important to identify the distinctions between them in order to properly determine if it is a moral obligation or a duty to report cheating.


R. B. Brandt differentiates duties and moral obligations in his article The Concepts of Obligation and Duty. He separates moral obligations and duties using grammar, analyzing moral and nonmoral uses, and their paradigm uses. Brandt writes that duty does not allude to ability, which insinuates that duties are not dictated by one’s ability to complete them. One’s ability to complete or fail to complete an action does not determine whether an action is right or wrong. This focus on the doing the right thing shows that duty is not requirement but means to fulfill and do good. Obligation indicate that one “has” to do something, implying that an action is required, regardless of the abilities of the individual for whom the action is obligated. This lack of focus on doing the right thing emphasizes that it more important to do what you are supposed to do, ignoring one’s ability to meet the requirement and highlighting that there is a requirement that needs to be met.

From a grammatical standpoint, Brandt makes another distinction saying, “We ‘do’ or ‘perform’ our duties not our obligations. . .we seem to ‘meet’ obligations. An obligation thus sounds a bit like a payment due on a debt, which we are able to meet; whereas our duty is more like a job or chore which we can do or perform” (Brandt 378). Brandt’s points out that the way in which obligation is used suggests a connotation of responsibility to complete an action. This responsibility could be extended into a expectation. One is not only responsible, but expected to pay back the debt. This expectation indicates that it is a requirement to pay back the debt. The same applies to moral obligations. Because individuals are expected to meet their obligations, these obligations are requirements. Failure act responsibility or meet expectations an obligated can lead to punishment or consequences. In contrast, duties are more optional. Duties motivate people to do the right thing, regardless of whether they are required or not.. For example, many individuals recycle not because the have to, but because it is the right thing to do. Failure to meet a duty doesn’t mean punishment. Someone can not be punished for not recycling.

Brandt shifts from a grammatical analysis to an examination of the paradigm uses. He writes, “ . . . what one is obligated to do is always to achieve some positive goal. One’s obligation always concerns a state of affairs to be reached . . . It is a prescribed end” (Brandt 390.) Brandt provides an example of paying back debt. Paying back debt is an obligation because there is motivation to rid oneself from the loan and there is also a determined end. Duties have no end and do not inspire motivation to reach and end. A soldier’s claim of the duty to his country has...

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