Have you ever been told that you had moral obligations to do certain things but you weren’t quite sure what that meant?
This article explores what moral obligations are, the types of moral obligations, and common examples of moral obligations.
What are moral obligations?
A moral responsibility or obligation is a behavior that is morally required for a person to emulate.
For example, the duty to refrain from killing someone unjustly is an obligation that leaves you with no room for discretion.
Imperfect obligations, however, like the duty to be charitable, allow you some flexibility in how and when you fulfill them.
Context-specific obligations include the responsibility to meet someone at an appointed time.
General moral obligations also exist, like the obligation to refrain from stealing or the duty to save lives when you can do so with little risk to yourself.
What are examples of moral obligations?
You might have a moral duty to aid a friend in need, assist widows or orphans, or at the very least, respect the law established in a society. You can uphold your moral commitments by succeeding in doing so, or you can fail to do so.
Laws, promises, and principles are the three main sources of moral responsibilities.
1. Promise-based moral obligations
A pledge or agreement forms the basis of one of the sources of moral duty. Even though not all pledges are binding contracts, honorable people and businesses understand and uphold their moral obligation.
This they do by carrying through on their promises, particularly if others are depending on them to do so.
When you borrow money and promise to pay it back in a week or agree to assist a buddy with a task, those actions are also examples of moral obligations. You have a moral obligation and owe it to yourself and others to honor your commitments.
This you can do by completing the responsibilities outlined in your commitments appropriately, and performing as you say you’ll do.
2. Moral obligation based on moral principle
Moral principle, a code of conduct that persists regardless of laws or agreements, is another way to fulfill moral obligations.
Morality might be dictated by religious convictions or inferred through intellectual reasoning. In some circumstances, moral precepts like justice and charity just naturally come into being.
But regardless of where they came from, these ideas are fundamental to ethics. This means that those who fulfill moral obligations based on principles, do it due to convictions or personal ethical standards of being moral.
3. Moral obligations based on law
It is part of the underlying social contract of a civilized society for good citizens to uphold the law, both morally and legally.
In actuality, many laws do nothing more than formalize the moral principles that are essential to effective interpersonal relationships and productive business.
For instance, killing, assault, drunk driving, and other risky behavior are all prohibited by criminal and civil laws. These rules reflect the broad moral obligation to avoid harming others.
Similar to this, the moral obligation to be truthful is enforced by laws that outlaw, among other things, perjury, forgery, fraud, and defamation.
Even though many forms of dishonesty are not against the law, an honorable person should be able to resist them due to their moral need to be truthful.
Why is moral obligation important?
Moral responsibility is crucial in understanding how people use their free will and are required to accept accountability for their respective actions.
Any risks taken must have consequences, and those consequences must be accepted. This acceptance must occur without placing the blame elsewhere, including on the government.
Moral obligations also help maintain a sane society as citizens or inhabitants have a moral responsibility to uphold the law.
Disadvantages of ignoring moral obligations
Ignoring law-based moral obligations can lead to a rise in criminal activities and delinquency within a society.
However, ignoring promise or principle-based moral duties strains relationships and causes distrust within an organization, business, or community.
When you cannot count on people or organizations to uphold their end of the deal or fulfill a promise, you consider them dishonest or lacking integrity.
You also want nothing to do with such individuals. And would likely not rely on subsequent promises made by such a person or organization.
Are principle or promise-based moral obligations enforceable?
No, you cannot enforce promise-based or principle-based obligations.
Moral consideration is the term used to describe a pledge made out of a sense of moral obligation to reward another person for a benefit already obtained.
Promises made out of moral obligations do not typically have to be upheld. This is because such obligations are a responsibility that you owe and ought to carry out but you’re not required by law to do so.
Is fulfilling a moral obligation a choice?
Yes, fulfilling a moral obligation is a choice.
Because of your own moral principles and ideals, you feel morally obligated to fulfill a duty or responsibility to someone. However, you are not required to perform these things, even though you feel forced to.
What are our moral obligations as humans?
Humans have a number of moral duties, such as refraining from harming others needlessly and treating others with respect and dignity.
What is the difference between immoral and amoral?
If a person disobeys moral laws, they are considered immoral. However, a person that has no awareness of or concern for moral principles, is said to be amoral.
While you have a moral duty to uphold the law, you can choose to fulfill other moral obligations like those made through principles or promises.
This means that while you can be guilty, you cannot be forced to uphold a promise or fulfill a moral duty. Moral obligations you however have to uphold and might face punishment for breaking include obeying the law.
Examples of these moral obligations include avoiding committing crimes like murder, theft, sexual abuse, traffic violates, fraud, etc.
Additionally, failure to uphold these laws may lead to moral depravity in society and cause anarchy.
I hope you found this article helpful. You can also read about what it means to have high moral standards and its benefits.
Thanks for reading.