Open Duties

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (5):503-516 (2011)
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Abstract

This paper concerns a feature of the deontic landscape that, although pervasive, has hitherto escaped notice. None of the current categorizations of duties adequately capture a common and important form of duty, the “open duty.” The difference between open and closed duties, whether perfect or imperfect, rests not on the side of the end or action enjoined by the duty, but on that of the agents who are enjoined to act. An open duty belongs to more than one person, not all of whose performance of the action is required to fulfill the duty. An example would be the situation faced by American doctors following Hurricane Katrina, when it was imperative that some of them provide aid, but when it was just as necessary that many remain where they were to treat local patients. In this paper, I examine these duties’ nature and structure, and explain several of their more unusual features.

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Alexander Jech
University of Notre Dame

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References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Whatever happened to deontic logic?Peter T. Geach - 1982 - Philosophia 11 (1-2):1-12.
Responsibilities.Robert E. Goodin - 1986 - Philosophical Quarterly 36 (142):50-56.

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