Obligations of Gratitude and Correlative Rights

Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 5 (forthcoming)
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This article investigates a puzzle about gratitude—the proper response, in a beneficiary, to an act of benevolence from a benefactor. The puzzle arises from three platitudes about gratitude: 1) the beneficiary has certain obligations of gratitude; 2) these obligations are owed to the benefactor; and 3) the benefactor has no right to the fulfillment of these obligations. These platitudes suggest that gratitude is a counterexample to the “correlativity thesis” in the moral domain: the claim that strict moral obligations correlate to moral rights on the part of the person to whom the obligation is owed. The goal of this chapter is to determine whether the three gratitude platitudes are true, and, if they are, what they tell us about the correlativity thesis. Sections 1 through 3 argue for the truth of each of the platitudes. It is then argued that while benefactors lack standing to demand, they do possess an imperfect right to gratitude: a special and morally significant standing to remonstrate with ungrateful beneficiaries. These facts suggest the following modification of the standard correlativity thesis: moral obligations entail moral rights on the part of the person to whom they are owed, which may be perfect (demandable) or imperfect.



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Tony Manela
Siena College

Citations of this work

The Virtue of Gratitude and Its Associated Vices.Tony Manela - forthcoming - The Moral Psychology of Gratitude.
Gratitude.Tony Manela - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2015 (Spring).
Sharing Values.Marcus Hedahl & Bryce Huebner - 2018 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (2):240-272.

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