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The Ties that Bind: An Analysis of the Concept of Obligation

Kenneth Einar Himma

University of Washington - School of Law

August 6, 2007

Ratio Juris. Vol. 26 No. 1 March 2013 (16–46)

Although moral, social, and legal obligations are conceptually distinct, many theorists believe they are instances of the same general type. As Joseph Raz puts it: Normative terms like 'a right,' 'a duty,' 'ought' are used in the same sense in legal, moral, and other normative statements. If this correct, then legal and moral obligations have different properties, but both satisfy the application-conditions for the concept-term obligation in the following sense: Satisfaction of the application-conditions for obligation will be necessary (though not sufficient) for something to count as either a legal obligation or a moral obligation. The set of application-conditions for obligation will be, on this view, a subset of the set of application conditions for both moral obligation and legal obligation. In this essay I attempt to develop what I take to be the central elements of the general concept of obligation as a first step towards developing a comprehensive Hartian account of legal obligation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: Philosophy, Obligation, Law, Morality, Duty, Conceptual Analysis

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Date posted: August 16, 2006 ; Last revised: June 23, 2015

Suggested Citation

Himma, Kenneth Einar, The Ties that Bind: An Analysis of the Concept of Obligation (August 6, 2007). Ratio Juris. Vol. 26 No. 1 March 2013 (16–46). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=924106 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.924106

Contact Information

Kenneth Einar Himma (Contact Author)
University of Washington - School of Law ( email )
William Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195-3020
United States
206-543-4550 (Phone)
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