From Global Collective Obligations to Institutional Obligations

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 38 (1):171-186 (2014)
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According to Wringe 2006 we have good reasons for accepting the existence of Global Collective Obligations - in other words, collective obligations which fall on the world’s population as a whole. One such reason is that the existence of such obligations provides a plausible solution a problem which is sometimes thought to arise if we think that individuals have a right to have their basic needs satisfied. However, obligations of this sort would be of little interest – either theoretical or practical – if they did not give rise, either directly or indirectly, to any kinds of reasons for individuals to behave in certain ways. In this paper, I shall argue that in many situations, forward-looking global obligations give rise to an obligation on individuals to work towards bringing into existence and support an institutional system which will enable their obligations to be met. My argument for this conclusion involves two steps. In the first step, I address a general question about how collective obligations can give rise to individual obligations without being reducible to them, and which obligations they give rise to. Here I give a Kant-inspired argument, based on the principles that ‘ought implies can’ and that the content of the moral law is given by reflecting on how agents should legislate in a kingdom of ends, which is designed to show that collective obligations can give rise to individual obligations. In the second step I apply this principle to the case of global forward-looking obligations.
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