What Good Is Commitment?

Ethics. July 2009 Volume 119, Number 4

By Cheshire Calhoun

"That human beings make commitments of various sorts might seem so obviously a good thing that the question “What good is commitment?” might be thought to ask merely after the kind or kinds of good that commitment affords. To that question, one might respond that commitment is good in a variety of ways. Promises and contracts, two prominent types of commitment, have obvious utility as social coordination devices. The affirmation of one’s commitment to another or to bringing about some feature of her welfare promotes trust, something that has both social and moral value. Even personal commitments, such as a commitment to learning or to doing one’s job well, may enhance both the moral good of trust and the social goods of reliance and coordinated planning. Many commitments are good because they are morally required, strongly morally recommended, or constitutive of good moral character—for example, commitment to one’s children’s education or to acting with integrity. Finally, the social world is often so arranged as to quasi‐force locking in one’s future via making commitments even when one would not otherwise have chosen to so firmly commit one’s future: others may be unwilling to embark on joint ventures with us on the basis of anything less than a promissory or contractual commitment, and the penalties for a change of plans may be sufficiently steep as to make lack of commitment to a plan unwise, as is the case when costly airline tickets are nonrefundable. In short, commitment has social, moral, and prudential value."

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(Something interesting I found)Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2009 by ajstasic
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