Duty (from "due" meaning "that which is owing"; Old French: deu, did, past participle of devoir; Latin: debere, debitum, whence "debt") is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment or obligation to someone or something. The moral commitment should result in action; it is not a matter of passive feeling or mere recognition. When someone recognizes a duty, that person theoretically commits themself to its fulfillment without considering their own self-interest. This is not to suggest that living a life of duty entirely precludes a life of leisure; however, its fulfillment generally involves some sacrifice of immediate self-interest. Typically, "the demands of justice, honor, and reputation are deeply bound up" with duty.
- as result of being human
- as a result of one's particular place in life (one's family, one's country, one's job)
- as a result of one's character
- as a result of one's own moral expectations for oneself
Various derivative uses of the word have sprung from the root idea of obligation, a concept involved in the notion of duty; thus it is used in the services performed by a minister of a church, by a soldier, or by any employee or servant.
Many schools of thought have debated the idea of duty. While many assert mankind's duty on their own terms, some philosophers have absolutely rejected a sense of duty.
Duty has to be accepted and understood on the basis of one's foundation of sense and knowledge. Therefore, duty and its manifestations vary with values from culture to culture. On one hand duty may be seen as terms of reference, job description, or behavior - and it is all of that ... but duty is not only about doing things right, it is about doing the right thing.
Duty is also often perceived as something owed to one’s country (patriotism), or to one's homeland or community. A civic duty could include:-
- providing right of way to public utilities over your property
- cleaning up after your dog on its walks on streets and not peeing in public swimming pools
- rushing to the aid of victims of accidents and street-crime and testifying as a witness later in court. Being the eyes and the ears of your neighbourhood/ work place
- returning books borrowed from public libraries in time (people may be eagerly awaiting them) and without vandalizing or marking on them, and while there, observing silence
- staying at home if down with flu (why should others suffer the same fate!) and reporting contagious illnesses or pestilence to public-health authorities. Not overdosing or underdosing antibiotics (germs develop resistance to them later on)
- turning taps or switching lights off, when not in use (water or power saved can be used by many)
- articulating complaints or enquiries well (in person, on the phone, or in writing), keeping them to the point, coming in with all the paperwork, complete beforehand (persons in-charge have to attend to everyone and are hard pressed for time)
- reading newspapers (online news portals give many other points of view of the same news), keeping current with issues on the TV (rather than watching soaps or sitcoms), watching films which ‘enrich’ – not mindless entertainment
- taking humanities/social science courses, and heading for the section on them in a library, or sites about them on the internet.
- voting in or standing for elections, and keeping a tab on the past and present track record of those elected
- filing right to/freedom of information applications to keep a tab on goings on
- paying taxes and investing capital in one's own community or country
- stocking up only as much as would be needed during shortages (other families may be in desperate need)
- not overdrawing from wells, overgrazing or overfishing (nature has enough for everyone's needs but not for anyone's greed)
- buying war-bonds or donating money or unexpired medicine to relief-funds in times of need
- pursuing instances of injustice by protesting these before authorities, the media or courts of law (setting a precedent stops others falling victim to the same injustice)
- not jumping queues, whether in person or when applying for public favors (imagine if everyone starts doing the same!)
- not forgetting to flush after use in public washrooms
- volunteering for military duty and for public services (e.g.: life-saving drills, teaching others by transferring skills to them, sharing expertise by say, answering questions posted by the internet-community)
- choosing public over private employment
- choosing entrepreneurship over employment (being employed gives you a single job, being an entrepreneur generates jobs for many in your community, increasing national wealth as a bonus)
- getting trained and licensed before engaging in a job involving safety of life or property
- remembering to donate blood from time to time to stave off shortages at 'blood banks'
- avoiding double-parking on streets
- avoiding rushing in at the last minute, hogging the time of the staff, just when they are about to close for the day (they have a home to go to)
- gathering all waste (especially plastic) on outings to parks or waterfronts
- notifying marriages, births and deaths
- answering public survey questionnaires
- reporting a treasure, antiquity or minerals (like oil) radiation (ionizing and non-ionizing) discovered on your property or sunken treasure off a coast
- keeping mobile phones on the silent during movies, plays or concerts and avoid arriving after they have commenced
- stocking up small change sufficient to avoid getting them in exchange for higher currency notes(bills) and offering them to the needy
- reusing, repairing or recycling things to postpone having to buy new ones (the earth has only so much of raw materials and even lesser of landfills to dump discarded stuff)
- spend time with the elderly (milestones of the past may well chart out paths to the future), offering them or parents carrying infants a seat, and helping them with their luggage
- broaching civic issues of common interest with people around – and not engaging in mindless gossip
- seeing the ‘bigger picture’ when engaging with or organizing people for a social cause – identifying issues which would affect the maximum number of people, even at the cost of letting go of some personal gains in the short run. There is always the strength in unity against external forces and pressures while getting things done
In most cultures, children are expected to take on duties in relation to their families. This may take the form of behaving in such a way that upholds the family’s honor in the eyes of the community, entering into arranged marriages that benefit the family’s status, or caring for ailing relatives. This family-oriented sense of duty is a particularly central aspect to the teachings of Confucius, and is known as xiao, or filial piety. As such, the duties of filial piety have played an enormous role in the lives of people in eastern Asia for centuries. For example, the painting Lady Feng and the Bear, from ancient China, depicts the heroic act of a consort of the emperor placing herself between her husband and a rampaging bear. This is meant to be taken as an example of admirable filial behavior. Filial piety is considered so important that in some cases, it outweighs other cardinal virtues: In a more modern example, “concerns with filial piety of the same general sort that motivate women to engage in factory work in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Asia are commonly cited by Thai prostitutes as one of their primary rationales for working in the skin trade”. The importance of filial piety can be expressed in this quote from "The Analects of Confucius", "Yu Tzu said, ‘It is rare for a man whose character is such that he is good as a son and obedient as a young man to have the inclination to transgress against his superiors; it is unheard of for one who has no such inclination to be inclined to start a rebellion. The gentleman devotes his efforts to the roots, for once the roots are established, the Way will grow there from. Being good as a son and obedient as a young man is, perhaps, the root of a man's character."
Duty in various cultures
Duty varies between different cultures and continents. Duty in Asia and Latin America is commonly more heavily weighted than in Western culture. According to a study done on attitudes toward family obligation:
- "Asian and Latin American adolescents possessed stronger values and greater expectations regarding their duty to assist, respect, and support their families than their peers with European backgrounds." 
The deeply rooted tradition of duty among both Asian and Latin American cultures contributes to much of the strong sense of duty that exists in comparison to western cultures. Michael Peletz discusses the concept of duty in his book Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics in Modern Asia:
- "Notions of filial duty … are commonly invoked to mobilize the loyalties, labor power, and other resources children in the ostensible interests of the household and, in some cases, those of the lineage clan as a whole. Doctrines of filial piety … attuned to them may thus be a source of great comfort and solace to the elders but they can also be experienced as stressful, repressive, or both by those who are enjoined to honor their parents’ (and grandparents’) wishes and unspoken expectations."
An arranged marriage is an example of an expected duty in Asia and the Middle East. In an arranged marriage relating to duty, it is expected that the wife will move in with the husband’s family and household to raise their children. Rarely does the man move in with the woman, or that the married couple is allowed to start their own household and life somewhere else. They need to provide for the entire family in labor and care for the farms and family. Older generations rely heavily on the help from their children's and grandchildren's families. This form of duty is in response to keeping the lineage (anthropology) of a family intact and obliging to the needs of elders.
Criticisms of the concept of duty
Friedrich Nietzsche is among the most articulate critics of the concept of duty. "What destroys a man more quickly," he asks, "than to work, think, and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without pleasure—as a mere automaton of “duty”?" (The Antichrist, § 11)
Nietzsche claims that the task of all higher education is "to turn men into machines." The way to turn men into machines is to teach them to tolerate boredom. This is accomplished, Nietzsche says, by means of the concept of duty. (Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes of an untimely man” § 9.29)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Cicero, Marcus T. De Officiis. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1913. Print.
- Ekman, Joakim; Amnå, Erik (2009). "Political Participation and Civic Engagement: Towards A New Typology". Youth & Society (Working Paper) (2): 4.
- Mabbot, Nick. "Harm Minimisation for Victims of Road Trauma". ARRB Transport Research Ltd., WA, USA. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- Ekman, Joakim; Amnå, Erik (2009). "Political Participation and Civic Engagement: Towards A New Typology". Youth & Society (Working Paper) (2): 5.
- "Ten commandments for changing the world". Vancouver Community Network. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- "Organizing around Hot Issues". Vancouver Community Network. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- Peletz, Michael Gates. Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics in Modern Asia. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2011. Print.
- Fuligni, A. J., Tseng, V. and Lam, M. (1999), Attitudes toward Family Obligations among American Adolescents with Asian, Latin American, and European Backgrounds. Child Development, 70: 1030–1044. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00075.
- Peletz, Michael G. Gender, Sexuality, and Body Politics in Modern Asia. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 2011. Print.
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