chapter  7
23 Pages

The Scope of the Objective Agent-Relative

In moral theory a distinction is often made between natural duties and special obligations. Natural duties are “moral requirements which apply to all men [and women] irrespective of status or of acts performed. . . . These duties are owed by all persons to all others.”1 If we understand one’s mere causal position as not constituting part of one’s ‘status,’ then we can understand my category of objective agent-neutral reasons as corresponding to the category of natural duties: these are duties we have regardless of our commitments or our desires. Special obligations, then, are ones that we have only to a limited subset of persons2 and are a function of our ‘status or acts performed.’ Special obligations seem to correlate with what I have been calling objective agent-relative reasons.3