Under a widespread understanding of the nature of moral obligation, one cannot be under an obligation to perform or omit an act and have a moral power to release oneself from one’s obligation. According to this view, being under an obligation necessarily entails relinquishing one’s sovereignty over the obligatory matter, that is, one’s capacity to control one’s own obligational world. This essay argues against such a view. I shall argue that by making what I will call a commitment, a person assumes an obligation towards another on a given matter whilst preserving the power to release herself from her obligation. Commitments constitute morally obligatory acts over which’s obligatoriness those obliged always retain control. They constitute obligations over which obligors preserve moral sovereignty. I show that the notion of commitment sheds light on the structure of important moral phenomena such as some of our loyalty obligations, and, furthermore, that it reveals something central about the justification and scope of the law of contracts.
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