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 fulfilment generally involves some sacrifice of immediate self-interest. Typically, "the demands of justice, honor, and reputation are deeply bound up" with duty.
Cicero, an early philosopher who discusses duty in his work “On Duty", suggests that duties can come from four different sources:
- 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.
Famous quotes containing the word duty:
“To-day there is hardly a woman of intelligence in all America ... who is not definitely and actively concerned in some social interest, who does not recognize some duty besides those incident to her own blood relationship.”
—Charlotte Perkins Gilman (18601935)
“I am speaking now of the highest duty we owe our friends, the noblest, the most sacredthat of keeping their own nobleness, goodness, pure and incorrupt.... If we let our friend become cold and selfish and exacting without a remonstrance, we are no true lover, no true friend.”
—Harriet Beecher Stowe (18111896)
“Any officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought to be scalped.”
—Rutherford Birchard Hayes (18221893)