The basic member of a special right-duty constellation is an obligation generated by a particular act or in a particular situation. (See figure I. for a schematic representation of this constellation.) With the first party's particular act, or the particular situation it is in, some special relationship has been formed between this party and a certain other party. The first party's duty is basically a duty to perform a doxastically right act, or an activating duty. As a special duty it is also called "an obligation". (No distinction is often drawn at all between 'duties' and 'obligations' in everyday language and theories of right. Some theorists refuse to employ the word duty for 'special obligations'. We shall use the word obligation in the qualified sense of special duty, so that we keep one term, duty, for everything that is on the other side of the same coin as the one on which rights are found.)

The 'right' matching the duty of the person(s) first addressed is the special half-right to perform a 'right' act in terms of the doctrine concerned. The right correlated with the same duty, but now in the other party related to the first party in a special way, is a right against the first party itself. Just as in the case of general, intrinsic constellations where the duty was activating, it is also a passive right, a 'positive right', a 'right of recipience' and a 'claim right'. There are important differences tho with the advantaged party in an intrinsic general right-duty constellation. First of all, the question whether the second party in a special constellation is advantaged or not, does not matter: it has a right to the first party's performance (which may, physically speaking, be an omission), whether it will benefit the second party or not. Or, it has a special right to (accept) the consequence(s) of the first party's act, even when these consequences would be harmful. (If it does not have this right, then on the basis of a general duty to do 'good' or not to do 'bad', also to oneself.) Hence, the second party may be a recipient party, but what it has a right to receive is not necessarily advantageous.

Another significant difference with an advantaged party's general right is that a recipient party does not have to exercise its special right. It does not have to accept the first party's performance or its consequences, it may release this party from its obligation. In that the recipient party has the liberty to accept or not to accept, its right could be termed "discretionary" and "exercisable". (Just as with other pairs of rights traditionally distinguished, so these terms do not fit our scheme very well.) This also means that there is no direct duty, no direct obligation, corresponding to the recipient party's right.

There are, of course, indirect rights and duties again which are associated with the party's membership of the particular institution(s) in terms of which the first party's action and obligation are defined in the first place. Hence, the first party's indirect right(s) are the accompanying right(s) of membership, and the recipient party's indirect duty or duties, the accompanying duty or duties of membership of the same institution or system (which may be a whole community). Since the direct duty and right are not general, there is no reciprocity in the strict, theoretical sense, but because of the existence of indirect, accompanying rights and duties, the situation is practically the same in this respect as in general right-duty constellations. It seems not necessary to introduce a proviso to the effect that the recipient party must belong to a category of beings which are able to discharge obligations. We may assume that a being which is able to perform (or omit) a particular kind of act in terms of the institution (like making or not making a promise) is also able to perform (or omit) the ensuing obligatory act in terms of the same institution (like keeping or breaking a promise).

Conceptually speaking, a person may come under a duty or obligation towards other living beings in two fundamentally different ways. Firstly, 'e may voluntarily create a new situation 'imself by entering into a contract or by making an agreement with one or more other persons; a promise is such an example. 'E may also voluntarily participate in certain cooperative undertakings with institutionally defined roles. Such roles are associated with certain duties and rights which may be described in terms of tasks, functions, powers, privileges, and so on. Secondly, the person in question may get unintentionally or involuntarily involved in a situation which results in a 'special relationship' with one or more particular other living beings or systems (such as ecosystems). For example, 'e may just happen to be the only one around. Or, 'e may be partially responsible because of something 'e caused, albeit not intentionally. It is also possible that 'e has become involved in such a relationship because of what someone else did, and which has now to be returned. (Whether all these kinds of obligation are really to be recognized is a question of the particular normative doctrine espoused. Even if one conceptually acknowledges such right-duty situations, it is possible and preferable to explain duties in unintended situations by referring to a general right-duty constellation which generates a 'duty in personam' in a specified context.)

Like general intrinsic rights and duties, special rights and duties are not fundamental, altho the doctrinal principles on which they are believed to rest ultimately are not seldom expressed in deontological terms, hardly different from the content of the first party's obligation itself.

A primary special duty does not follow from a doctrinal principle in vacuo. It is only engendered if the first party performs a certain kind of act, or if it gets involved in a certain kind of situation. And it is a different matter altogether whether this party should have performed this act to start with. Thus, it is one thing to say that a person A, who has promised to person B to do X, is obligated to keep 'er promise and therefore to do X; it is quite another thing to say that person A should promise to do X, or should do X, whether 'e promised it or not.

©MVVM, 41-67 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
Right-Duty Constellations
Seven Parties with Their Rights and Duties