Laws and Promises

  • Henry Sidgwick


§ 1. In the discussion of Justice the moral obligations of obedience to Law and observance of Contract have been included, and have, indeed, appeared to be the most definite part of the complex system of private duties commonly included under that term. At the same time, as we have seen, there are some laws, the violation of which does not interfere with the rights of others, and therefore has not the characteristics of an act of Injustice. While again, the duty of Fidelity to promises is also commonly conceived as independent of any injury that might be done to the promisee by breaking it: for (e.g.) men ordinarily judge that promises to the dead, though they are beyond the reach of injury, ought to be kept: indeed, some would regard them as even more sacred than promises made to the living. It seems therefore desirable to examine the propositions ‘that Law ought to be obeyed’ and ‘that promises ought to be kept,’ considered as independent principles.


Common Sense Moral Obligation Preceding Chapter Thoughtful Person Established Government 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1962

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Sidgwick
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeUK

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