Global obligations and the agency objection

Ratio 23 (2):217-231 (2010)
Many authors hold that collectives, as well as individuals can be the subjects of <span class='Hi'>obligations</span>. Typically these authors have focussed on the <span class='Hi'>obligations</span> of highly structured groups, and (less often) of small, informal groups. One might wonder, however, whether there could also be collective <span class='Hi'>obligations</span> which fall on everyone – what I shall call '<span class='Hi'>global</span> collective <span class='Hi'>obligations</span>'. One reason for thinking that this is not possible has to do with considerations about <span class='Hi'>agency</span>: it seems as though an entity can only be the subject of <span class='Hi'>obligations</span> if it is an agent. In this paper, I try to show that the argument from <span class='Hi'>agency</span> is not a good reason for being sceptical about the existence of <span class='Hi'>global</span> collective <span class='Hi'>obligations</span>: it derives whatever plausibility it has from the idea that claims about obligation need to be addressable to some agent. My suggestion is that we should accept this principle about the addressability of <span class='Hi'>obligations</span>, but deny that the addressee of an obligation need be the subject of that obligation. The collective <span class='Hi'>obligations</span> of unstructured collections of individuals, including <span class='Hi'>global</span> collective <span class='Hi'>obligations</span>, meet the addressability requirement insofar as they require something of the individuals who make up the collective.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2010.00462.x
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Anne Schwenkenbecher (2014). Joint Moral Duties. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 38 (1):58-74.

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