Duty

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Duty in the ancient world

The concept of Duty has changed over the centuries. In Greek Civilizaton duty was related to libations and sacrifice. So duty had connotations with a person's obligations to others and as such no notion of human rights only perhaps civic rights. Instead in the polis city state the focus was on social cohesion and to that end Socrates and Antiphon developed embryonic Social contract theories.

There is no Greek world for duty. But equivalence could be justice, acting well in relation to others. Plato, in his ideal state spoke of Philiosopher Kings, ruling his utopian city there was subordination of the soul . The rulers tell you what to do while they philosophize. We should not act necessarily in self interest. Instead we need the help and cooperation with others. For Plato, if you see the good then you would be bound to act good.

Aristotle has Eudaimonia as a virtue. If you are virtuous then that is the best for all. For Aristotle it was practical wisdom. So duty is secondary to seeking happiness, but amounts to the same thing.

For Stoics to Cicero. Duty fitted the Roman outlook. They shared a lot with the cynics. i.e. you didn't have control over anything so just work on the things you can control. Cynics are less sure of this and, therefore, more hedonistic.

Duty and Christian Notions

Augustin. The relationship between god and man is the central dynamic and affects the behavior to others. Either falling in or out with God.

You have a duty to god and the powers who govern the world. But what are the sources of the power that compel you to do your duties?. Either Divine law which is unyielding or .....

Acquinas described four laws - duties to men and women's and to God


Duty and The Enlightenment

Hobbes Leviathan. He lives in a time of mutual obligation. He is going back to Stoic notions of universality. He describes types of human rights and not feudal

Locke. He was an articulate observer of what was happening rather then shaping it. In his Treatises on Government he examines how authority in society is distributed and how we respond to its demands. No one believes in the divine rights of kings but there are now other groups that have claims like French and US constitutions which focus on rights more than duty. But for Nelson England expects every man to do his duty. Thank god I did my duty. This is a more romantic ideal - something to live for and die for and a unity of nation.

Friedrich Nietzsche is among the most articulate critics of the concept of duty. "What destroys a man more quickly," he asks, "than to work, think, and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without pleasure—as a mere automaton of “duty”?" (The Antichrist). Nietzsche claims that the task of all higher education is "to turn men into machines."

Consequentialism and Deontical

Rationality ideal of Immanuel Kant could bind the whole human race through his categorical imperative . No self interest. Self interest is different to duty where for Hobbes self interest translates into your duty. For Neitzche he has duties between between equals but he sees it being used for manipulation. Slave morality. Prizes notions such as meekness. Whereas he has a more Greek heroic notion. And not duty to exclude bad behaviour

Culture today we have more aspirational and equipped as rights and duty is something imposed upon us.

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