The Step From Duty to Charity: John Rawls on the Natural Duty of Mutual Aid and the Possibility of Supererogation in a Just and Fair Society in a Theory of Justice

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The first part of this paper asks the question regarding the possible justifications for what Kant and Rawls respectively claimed was a human being’s duty to be beneficent to others and give aid to those in need. Going back to Kant’s distinction between perfect and imperfect duties, and his acknowledgement of super-meritorious actions, the ethical status of what J. O. Urmson called supererogatory actions will be approached in the second part. The third part will show how Rawls goes beyond Kant’s account for the duty of mutual aid based on self-interest, by also considering how it can bring about trust and confidence in one another, which makes civic friendship the foundation of the relationships between members of a society. Through the help of a work of art, the fourth and fifth parts go on to introduce the notion of a ‘duty of charity’, a duty at once natural and supererogatory, which may be necessary for a society to have both justice and love.