An individual has to carry out various duties and fulfill the responsibilities on various levels. I tried to figure out some possible roles humans play. I believe this is an exhaustive list (if I missed something please add it)

man is a member of

  • ecosystem (nature)
  • human race
  • country
  • region
  • sub region
  • locality
  • family and workforce (peers)

Certainly, there are different responsibilities which we have to fulfill in these roles. The responsibilities towards family is generally ingrained in us in our growing years. Duty towards nation and it's entities (region, sub region, locality) are generally laid down by constitution of country. While I am not really aware of any official record which notes down our responsibility towards nature and human race. Something related called A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities is there on internet but it seems quite general like a list of do's and don'ts.

Are there any schools of thought, records, articles or work done in history or being done in recent which examines this issue ie laying down our responsibility towards nature and human race?

  • 'sub region' 'locality' - society & community? You imply responsibilities can be objectively determined. Hume's Is-Ought argument says not. The responsibilities you have are the ones you feel you have, & those of others are what they can be pursuaded they have - it's about what moves you to act or not act. Then there are legal structures & consequences of violating duties imposed by states & other bodies.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Apr 13 at 9:44
  • 1
    True, but at the same time Plato’s Theory of Forms or Hegel’s Theory of Responsibility imply responsibilities can be objectively determined.
    – Junsui
    Commented Apr 13 at 10:03
  • Kant too, who tried to directly address Hume. He would unfold responsibilities from the Categorical Imperative. But whether Kant's argument pursuades you or not that you have moral duties, is exactly Hume's point. Logic can't move you, only sentiment can.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Apr 13 at 10:15
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    @ScottRowe: That's exactly the point though..?? Some high priest of logic can't dictate what your conscience must tell you. We each have to figure out our own duties & responsibilities, & live with the consequences of what we choose. All the moral philosophy in the world can only help us learn from others, it cannot tell us what is right for us.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Apr 14 at 18:36
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    @ScottRowe: No. Not every player in a game can agree on an outcome. Morality is not a logical domain because it involves deciding who to be, how to be. That is not transcendentally universal, but particular. And evolution depends on which branches of the decision-tree succeed. This isn't trivial stuff. You are talking about how, & this is about why.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Apr 14 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


One take on the rights and freedoms and obligations and responsibilities to others, to society, to a nation, or to humanity itself that I found particularly pragmatic, and well presented, surprisingly came in a series of novels.

In this series, called "War Against the Chtorr", humanity faces a series of invasive alien lower life form species that are a purposeful effort to extinguish life on Earth and terraform our planet to be suitable for more complex alien life to arrive later.

That scenario lays the groundwork for a "no holds barred" code of ethics... if humanity thinks it needs some particular individuals, to do some particular tasks, if extinction at stake, there are no future judges to face, in the event of failure. Success is necessary. There is no more primary goal than survival as a species.

War Against the Chtorr novel covers

Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Against_the_Chtorr

In the series of novels, set in the future, the US has lost a grand global war of some sort, and as punishment, all US citizens are forced to take a university level course in civics and ethics.

What society can justify expecting from an individual, and what obligations an individual should shoulder on behalf of society. Presented in various chapters, as "a day's particular in-class lesson". Recollections by a character of how a lesson was taught, and what was learned.

It was read as entertainment. And it was also very educational. enlightening. Down to Earth.

My favourite chapter introduced this concept:

  • If one was the sole occupant of Earth what rules or laws or commandments would it make sense to compose?

The answer being "Zero". Except for mental notes to self, such as don't eat the glossy red berries.

  • If there were two? Would hard and fast rules and laws be needed?

Nah. Earth is big. Draw a line. Live wild each in your own half, you need not ever see one another.

  • Doubled to 4, same rule applies. Plenty of room, just divide.

But the sequence of increasing populations continues. 8, 16, 32, pretty soon exclusive patches where each can go wild fail.

At some point Bob, on his side of the line, is gonna bu Mary on her side of the line, with music too loud, played too late at night on his side of the line. Exercising his absolute freedom.

And so, in order to have global peace... the people need compromised freedom. It makes the most sense to aim for... unimpeded freedom, when the freedoms of others are not impacted... and consider their freedoms when actions will impact them, and negotiate compromises.

Inside your lines, mostly, run nekked if you want, but if you are within sight of neighbours... put some clothes on... by common consent. The compromise.

It was good foundational, build up to "This is why we have laws, and limited freedom". Laws not so much made wo limit freedom, but rather to protect the freedoms of others. It made sense. (I was much younger)

The reality that exists is:

Currently, our species has demonstrated grand success... we have gone from millions to billions.

We have wants and dreams and would-be-nices. But we do not face impending doom of any sort, and have no justification as a species to put burden on an individual.

If you want to lay on a beach contributing zero to society, and costing society nothing... like a walrus enjoying the sun... none have justification to judge you for doing nothing.

If aliens invade, we might come get ya.

Personally, I attempt (perhaps am) working in service to all humanity, now and for the rest of human history. (working on answer to everything, in my spare hours when not working paid-work to pay the rent).

It's a choice. I like puzzles and solving them.

It is not an obligation.

  • 1
    Perhaps we should have the civics and ethics course before we lose a war? I think everyone should do something that they are good at which interests them. "If one would not work, let him not eat also."
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 14 at 22:56
  • Since you talked about novels then "Yayati : A Classic Tale of Lust (1978)" can be a good read. The character of kach here, directly contrast with your opinion. Kach was a young sage who was spy for gods in demon kingdom, he learnt science of immortality from demon priest, died twice, fell in love with daughter of priest, left her to fulfill his responsibility towards gods, saved gods from demons and still lived life of sage at last saving his friend king yayati, who was given warth due to his ignorance of responsibilities.
    – Junsui
    Commented Apr 15 at 4:34

A human being has no responsibilities, except for himself. The ethic part here, is the How you identify yourself. Human beings are creators and as such have a responsibility only to their creations.

  • -1: not for disagreement, some philosophies argue that humans do have responsibilities for others especially in East, you can't plainly disregard them without providing any reference or reason for your statement.
    – Junsui
    Commented Apr 14 at 10:21
  • @Junsui, East has it's cast system to support, and West invented the sin to suppress the human being. Nowdoays this is masked under the term responsibility and human rights. Commented Apr 14 at 15:19
  • I guess no one has any responsibility for you either, so, police, emergency services, transportation, water, electricity... You don't need any of that. Humans got by without it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 14 at 23:02
  • @Scott Rowe,these are legal responsibilities, that's another story. Commented Apr 15 at 5:57
  • Then just give everyone legal responsibility to care for the environment and the human race. We already have laws against littering and pollution, and duty to help laws. Expand them.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 15 at 10:53

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