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Reliance and Obligation

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The fact that A has relied on B to do something is often taken to be a relevant factor in judging that B has a moral or legal obligation to do that thing. This paper investigates the relation between reliance and obligation. Specifically, the question is whether reliance and moral obligation are connected by some relation of conditionality. I consider four such relations—necessary condition, sufficient condition, necessary part of a sufficient condition, and independent necessary part of a sufficient condition. I argue that only the third one connects reliance and moral obligation, and that it does so in a trivial way. There are nevertheless two justifications for the prominence given to reliance in morality and law. First, reliance appears to be a sufficient condition of states of affairs involving concepts related to obligation. Second, reliance is a fairly reliable indicator of obligation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: King's College London, School of Law—Department of Philosophy, United Kingdom

Publication date: September 1, 2004


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