chapter  2
17 Pages

Why should I listen to my conscience? Equity and the question of ontological obligation

WithMatt Stone

This chapter explains the challenge of thinking of obligation as distinct and independent of the liberal, modern articulation of individual capacity and entitlement: as 'primary obligation' and not simply the opposite side of another person's rights. It considers the field of English equity as a possible, albeit mediated, expression of primary obligation. The chapter also considers theoretical approaches, notably within Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian thinking, which see conscience as an important expression of our relationship with our Being and the responsibilities we therefore assume therein. Equity is at essence a mature jurisprudence of obligation in which a persistent appeal to conscience has in various ways worked to resist the sanctity of formal rights and individual entitlement in the fields of property and contract. The idea that such a mode of normativity displays a distinctly ontological structure has already been observed frequently in existing literature.