A Few Quick Questions
As I was recently teaching a philosophy course in Ethics, my class began to ponder a question that spans several millennia. Am I really my brother’s keeper?
To what extent, if any, do we really owe anything to anyone? We claim to be obligated to others for many different reasons. Some people tell us their religions mandate it. Some believe we are obligated by law. Others think we have a duty imposed by Nature.
Ethics in the Western world is the Study of Morality, as stated by Socrates. Simplistically, it is how I ought to treat you, and how I should expect to be treated by you. But Socrates himself could not tell us just exactly how.
One of the interesting theories advanced by several prominent philosophers of the past is the Social Contract. In this view, since we are socially bound together in formed societies, there is some implied contract that we ought to act in a certain way. What humans have failed to agree upon is what exactly that way is.
Like many of you, I try to be a nice guy, but I am not Mother Teresa. So do I really have an “obligation” to my fellow human beings, or am I simply a nice guy if I spend my existence helping others and making them happy?