Does one have an obligation to keep one’s contracts? For many people, the initial inclination would be to answer “yes,” based on the strong association of contracts and promises, combined with the belief that, other things being equal, one should keep one’s promises. A closer examination of the question of the moral obligation to keep one’s contracts, however, raises complications and doubts. First, many have questioned the connection between contract and promises, arguing that contracts and contract law are best understood in some other way. Second, many are inclined to think that our duty to keep our agreements varies with how far the decision to enter the agreement deviated from optimal consent, or with facts about the fairness of the background relationship and society generally. It seems likely that one’s obligation to keep a contract will vary with its circumstances. Injustice in society, in the underlying relationship, in the negotiation of the agreement, or in the agreement’s terms would work against any such moral obligation. There also remains a question of what the content of the obligation to keep one’s contract would be, if there is one. Most of us would assume that it is a presumptive obligation actually to perform, but some would argue merely for an obligation to perform or pay damages. Though the prompt payment of damages —without disputing the breach, claiming a lower amount of damages, or threatening protracted and expensive litigation— would already be a significant advance on current common commercial practices.
|Translated title of the contribution
|The moral obligation to perform contracts: Some preliminary thoughts
|Number of pages
|Published - Aug 6 2021
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
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- David Hume
- Moral obligation to obey the law