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(2009) Psychology and philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer.

Natural law and the theory of moral obligation

Thomas Pink

pp. 97-114

The chapter explores theories of moral obligation from those of late scholastics such as Francisco Suarez and Gabriel Vasquez to those of Samuel Pufendorf and John Locke. The theories of Pufendorf and Locke are contrasted. Although these two theories appear similar, there is a profound difference between them. In Pufendorf as in a scholastic such as Suarez, practical reason is seen as involving two distinct kinds of justificatory force or modes of justificatory support, recommendation and demand; and moral obligation is identified, not as a reason-giving property of actions, but as one of these justificatory forces, the force of demand, a force that directly binds the will. Whereas in Locke there is only one justificatory force, that of recommendation; and moral obligation is no more than a reason-giving property, the property of being commanded by a punitive God, among the many that generate this force. In Locke as in subsequent English-language philosophy, moral obligation ceases to be a justificatory force that directly binds the will, and comes to be no more than a reason-giving property of the voluntary actions that the will causes and motivates. The chapter expresses doubts about whether this development has been a genuine conceptual advance, and explores the problems it raises.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-8582-6_6

Full citation:

Pink, T. (2009)., Natural law and the theory of moral obligation, in S. Heinämaa & M. Reuter (eds.), Psychology and philosophy, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 97-114.

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