Table 1

Moral obligations, Eva Feder Kittay

Voluntaristic modelVulnerability-responsive modelRelational-vulnerability model
Paradigm: the promise Paradigm: the other's vulnerability to my actions Paradigm: nested relationality
Moral basis: the obligation that I assume when I give my word Moral basis: the needs of another Moral basis: the needs of each
  • to whomsoever I made a promise

  • self-assumed, free choice

  • I must fulfil my promise

  • arises out of the relationship between one in need and one who is situated to meet the need

  • is situational: when I am in the special position vis-à-vis the other to meet the needs

  • arises out of the human conditions of vulnerability and dependency

  • is rooted in a connection-based equality: ‘everybody is some mother's child’

  • primarily towards the dependent other

  • is nested in social networks and the organised society

Problem: Problem Conditions preventing problems:
  1. Ignores non-voluntary obligations in existing relations

  1. Presupposes a ‘pragmatic ought’ that ignores coercion

  • Only if needs are basic and vulnerability is substantial

  • Only if a previous relation justifies this responsibility

  • Others are obligated to avoid harm, to give support and to warrant just assignment of responsibilities

  • Presupposes a society of equally situated and empowered individuals

  • Ignores how someone comes to be in a position where another is vulnerable to one's actions