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The concept of duty , alternatively also called an ought or must , denotes a task , demand or requirement that arises from a person for fundamental, personal, situational or social reasons and the fulfillment of which he cannot avoid. Duty is also referred to in particular as what is required of someone by an external authority or a law and which claims to be binding . Duty is one of the basic concepts of ethics , in which respect for duties is generally considered virtuous . Certain duties are also specified in the law , by a political constitution or generally by a statute in the sociological sense. Duties can also be codified in religious regulations . Other legally non-binding obligations are dictated by social morality .


Originally derived from the Old High German verb phlegan , to provide; Supervise, direct; exercise, operate '(from this in New High German maintain , provide for; persistently exercise, operate; have the habit of doing something'), the ahd.  pliht initially meant ' care, custody, order, command' (around 1000 ). The Middle High German form pliht (-e) enriched these meanings with 'care, participation, community, service, obligation, custom'. Since the 11th century , the meanings, care, custody, etc. a. m. outsourced to the new nouns ahd.  phlega , mhd.  phlege . Since the Middle High German period, verbal derivations such as phlihten , abide by, follow up on, take part, participate, and condemned , put in a binding community, become liable for something; ( reflexively ) promise ', since the 16th century also agree , agree' proves.

In Germanic are u. a. English plight 'Notlage, Abrnung ' and Dutch plicht related. It is a ti abstract , the manifestations of which have been documented in almost all Indo-European daughter languages ​​(including Greek πίστις 'trust, belief, loyalty' , Latin mens ' understanding ' and hostis , enemy'). The further origin of the verbal root of nurture is unclear. Derivatives of various Latin verbs were considered, including Latin plicare , fold, wrap, engage ' and the medieval Latin plebire (of plebs ' people'). Related words in other Indo-European languages such as English to play ' to play' as well as Greek βλύζω ' pour out, gush out' and βαλλίζω , dance 'could refer to a Urindo-European root * blek-, * bal- , to move, turn around'.



The philosophical doctrine of duties is called deontology (from ancient Greek το δέον , 'the necessary, the duty' and λόγος , ' doctrine ' , i.e. , the doctrine of duties'), a term that was defined in more detail by the British philosopher CD Broad around 1930 and compared to teleological ethics has been. The basic principle of deontology is the appeal to the motivation for an action . This is followed by an examination of whether or not motivation and action are compatible with a standard of value that any reasonable person can see. The justification procedure only allows the attributes “good” or “bad”.

Duty and compulsion

In contrast to coercion, duty differs in that it is based on a social, rational or ethical discourse, including finding a consensus . It is therefore necessary that the person exercising the duty recognizes and understands the necessity of exercising it himself . It consequently leads to the assumption of responsibility and ends with success or failure, which can result in both positive and negative consequences for the agent with regard to his own expectations. As a result, the exercise of duty always requires an examination of one's conscience and a careful risk assessment . In the case of coercion, on the other hand, something is absolutely required even without consent or insight. According to the concept of free will , what is forced can be accepted, rejected or endured.

The philologist and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in the 19th century: "Our duty - these are the rights of others to us".


Duty ( English duty ) or legal obligation ( English legal obligation ) are the rules of conduct imposed on a legal entity by legal norms or contracts in German and international law .


Duty and legal obligation are legal terms that appear very frequently in German law, alone as a duty or word component in the BGB 945 times, in the EStG 701 times or in the HGB 292 times. Whether duty and legal obligation coincide in terms of content in the legal sense is controversial in the specialist literature . In any case, legal norms do not differentiate between the two legal terms.

Duties play a major role in law . Legal norms, the sum of which is called objective law , are abstract, general norms of ought. You assign specific life situations certain legal consequences to and see for certain breaches of duty sanctions before. They oblige a legal entity to act , tolerate ( commandments ) or refrain from ( prohibition ). The person assuming the duty has to arrange his behavior as it is prescribed for him. It is an instruction addressed to persons by the legal system and to be followed by them . Legal obligations apply both in the relationship between the state and the citizen , in public law and in criminal law , but in civil law they also regulate the rights and obligations of individual citizens among themselves ( obligation ). The right to demand that someone else do something or not do something is called a claim ( Section 194 (1) BGB). By virtue of a subjective public right , the citizen has a certain claim against the state.

The entire constitutional state power is obliged to the constitutional order ( Art. 20 Abs. 3 GG). Certain obligations are also imposed on the citizens, such as compulsory schooling , conventional public service obligations such as evacuation and littering or parental care and education obligations . The military service was suspended in Germany 2011th Property obliges. Its use should at the same time serve the common good ( Art. 14 (2) GG).

Only in private law are there individual legal provisions that are not mandatory in every case, but can be waived by the parties .

In criminal law one can conflict of duties a justification represent. For example, a lifeguard or firefighter cannot always be expected to fulfill his duty if the danger to his own life seems too high.

A “moral duty” is a legally ascertainable obligation for services to a natural person .

See also


Similar to the law, morality and custom in the sense of practical values ​​justify certain positive and negative duties to act ( commandments and prohibitions ). But while the law only regulates outward behavior, morality primarily addresses a person's disposition . A violation of moral values ​​only leads to social disapproval. There are no generally binding moral sanction norms .

The concept of moral duty is related to moral right , which merely enables an action, does not require it. The difference between a legal and a moral duty is therefore between the unconditional requirement of application and the permission to act.


Duty also plays an important role in religions and means first and foremost man's duty to the law of God .


The Halacha describes the entire religious legal system of Judaism , which includes 613 individual Mitzvot (commandments).

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church defines for its members, among other things, the duty to work, to fraternal correction ( Catholic adult catechism 1995), the duty to pass on human life ( Feast of the Holy Family 2005) as well as the duty to responsible parenting and the duty to care the awareness of “gift and task” ( World Day of Peace 2007).


Different mandatory terms have emerged in the Protestant churches . Martin Luther's book On the Freedom of a Christian Man , which defines the relationship between duty and freedom in the sense of an obligation of believing Christians to act morally, was fundamental .


In Islam , the burden ( taklīf ) of man with duties from God is one of the most important topics of theological and legal theory. Overall, people's actions are divided into five categories . Compulsory duties are called fard , recommended actions are called mandūb . The Ashʿarites believed that God can even impose duties on people that they cannot fulfill (see Taklīf mā lā yutāq ).


In many sports such as vaulting and gymnastics, there is a compulsory and a freestyle part in the competition area. In this context, duty is understood to mean a predetermined sequence of certain movement elements and exercises. The referees can directly compare the performance of the competitors with each other in the duty - unlike in the free freestyle.

See also

Web links

Wikiquote: Duty  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Obligatory  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. duty. In: , accessed on August 26, 2017.
  2. Entries “maintain” and “compulsory”, in: Wolfgang Pfeifer et al., Etymological Dictionary of German (1993), digitized version in the Digital Dictionary of the German Language , revised by Wolfgang Pfeifer , accessed on January 17, 2019 ( digitized version ).
  3. maintain. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 13 : N, O, P, Q - (VII). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1889, Sp. 1736–1747 ( ).
  4. ^ Gerhard Köbler: Etymologisches Deutsches Elementarlexikon , sv "pflege".
  5. ^ Hans Möller / Gerrit Winter / Ernst Bruck: Commentary on the Insurance Contract Act. 1988, p. 630
  6. ^ Carl Creifelds: Legal dictionary . 21st edition, 2014. ISBN 978-3-406-63871-8 .
  7. ^ Message from the Pope. In: , January 1, 2007.
  8. Michael Noll: Heinrich Bedford-Strohm: obligation to moral action. ( Memento of the original from August 26, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Oberhessische Presse , June 2, 2017. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /