What Do We Owe to Each Other ?

What Do We Owe to Each Other ?

Lately, one question that has taken much of my headspace is,” What should I do now?”
Not that silly should I hit the gym or go for a run, but the more profound,” What is the right thing to do now ?”
Don’t mind me – I’m a little hungover from the philosophy classes I took and the consequent binge-watching of the series the good place. (totally recommended )

All our actions consequently create a ripple in the world outside of us and affect the most – the people around us. Yet most of our actions, if not selfish, are definitely so self-centred.
Especially as teens and young adults, our overflow of hormones lead us to making the most radical decisions putting us before everyone else.

In the Instagram era where individual rights and self-love are flourishing, the most unattended question I believe is – “What do we owe to each other ?”

Let me first present you with a few frequently occurring thoughts in the minds of young adults –
Why help out a friend when I know that I might seldom receive help back, why try to understand our parents when I know they are doubtful to reciprocate? Why be good at all to people? What do I owe them?

With bits and pieces of readings from my class, this is what I’ve come to conclusion.


I would like to present this as Kant would. In the philosophical space – especially in the current scenario, Kant is one of the most controversial philosophers because of how rigid and unreasonable his rules for life are.
For instance, Kant would say – Lying is wrong, and there is no other way to go about it.
But many a time, people ask – but what if I am lying to save a life or lying for good? Kant would blatantly say “No – Still Wrong”.

Honestly though, I often believe that, like in maths and physics, irrespective of whether practically achievable or not – only the highest of morals should be set as the rules for us to follow – at least on paper. So that aiming for it, we at least get closer and closer to achieving it. Shoot for the moon; at least you’ll land in the stars kind of thing. If lying was subjective, we could always and anytime get away with lying.

Another critical argument Kant brings out is that the only thing good in the universe – good in itself and by itself – is our “will” to do good – i.e. goodwill.
And goodwill in its purest form can be found in the act of duty – where one engages in good, not because of any emotions involved or because they worry about the consequence but because they are obliged to do so.

Yet the concept of duty these days is looked at with so much remorse because we have widely forgotten the helpless interdependence that we are bound by.
Even evolutionary biology repeatedly shows how humans, unlike cats, only sustain in a tribal environment. We owe each other the sustenance of human life itself.

So irrespective of the reciprocation (though it sounds unreasonable) – one must do good selflessly. We see this as being in an unspoken contract to do good to each other.

So what I want to conclude is that I don’t really know what we owe each other – but our only hope of life, small though it may be, is each other.

So, going back to reasoning out an answer for my initial question – “What is the right thing to do now?”
Considering that I’m obliged to be good to others, any thought or conviction that arises should go through this test –
Can the action I’m going to undertake, be made into a universal law – would it be sustainable?
Let’s say I decide to lie – I must ask myself, can lying be made the universal law – NO. So don’t do it.

Though I’ve taken up an addressing voice – you might ask, am I even the hotshot that should be writing about all this in a very imposing sense.
I must admit, I’m just your next-door nineteen-year-old who has had her fair share of making radical choices and doing precisely the opposite of what I’ve shared here.

But mistakes are a good way to reflect, and honestly, better late than never.
And every time I do something wrong – there’s this tiny voice in my head that’s constantly telling me to do otherwise – and I hereon hope that I lend an ear to it more often.

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