Chapter

Political Obligation and the Natural Duties of Justice

George Klosko

in Political Obligations

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199256204
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602351 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199256209.003.0004
Political Obligation and the Natural Duties of Justice

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In recent years, certain theorists, most notably John Rawls, have attempted to establish general political obligations based on so-called ‘natural duties of justice’. However, because natural duties are of limited force, they cannot ground political obligations, which may well require significant sacrifice. Natural duty theories confront a dilemma: either they will not be sufficiently strong to ground obligations, or if they are, they will not be ‘natural’ duties. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls's argument for a natural duty to support the state is flawed by running together arguments from behind and outside the veil of ignorance. Properly developed, behind the veil of ignorance, such a natural duty to support the state would be seen to be actually a variant of the principle of fairness. Because natural duties cannot establish adequate theories on their own, they can play a role in theories of political obligation only by working in conjunction with other principles.

Keywords: natural duties of justice; political obligations; public goods; Rawls; samaritanism; veil of ignorance; Wellman

Chapter.  9990 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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