Two Systems of Morality

All systems of morality will have a place for both the idea of moral duty and the idea of moral rights.  But some systems will put duty in the first place while others will put rights in the first place.  And so we’ll have two contrasting systems depending on which has the primacy: a morality of duty and a morality of rights.

A morality of duty derives rights from duties. If you have a duty to do X, then you have a right to do X. And the government plus other people have a duty to respect your right.

A morality of rights does it the other way around: If you have a right to do X, then the rest of us, including the government, have a duty to respect your right.

Over the last two millennia we in the western world have moved, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly, from a morality of duty to a morality of rights.  Early Christianity (and I would add, authentic Christianity in any age) taught a morality of duty.  The rules of morality were God-created rules, and our mission in life was to live in obedience to God and his commandments.

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