Theory of Samaritanism by Wellman

Political commitments, according to Christopher Wellman, have posed challenges to liberals since they have put pressure on individuals' liberty and countries have limited freedom through coercive laws. In Wellman's article, he uses Samaritan duties and the need for fairness to provide such a description. Yet, while I believe samaritanism makes an important contribution, it differs differently from what Wellman envisions. Nevertheless, John A. Simmons, an anarchist of political obligation, claims that a political responsibility theory has limitations and cannot justify moral obligations to strengthen crucial state tasks. Yet, these concerns can be overcome by ensuring that samaritanism principles play an acceptable part in political duty theories. For example, instead of basing on Wellman’s argument of easy rescue, he could otherwise appeal to a new conception of those duties that correlate with the fundamental human or moral rights of all agents. Consequently, despite the objections to the theory of political obligation, it has a valid argument; administrative states have a duty to avert the severe threats of the Hobbes state-of-nature and citizens have a natural obligation to abide by the law. More precisely, every person must adhere to the country’s laws as her portion of the general Samaritan duty of saving all individuals from such dangers.

Christopher Wellman formulates a theory in his article Towards a Liberal Theory of Political Obligation (2001). The model of political obligation grounds on the samaritanism concept. In this article, Wellman makes a claim that the solution will assist to address the challenge of the political responsibility, which is the samaritanism theory. Overall, Wellman acknowledges the common idea that individuals have pressing moral necessities to come to assist others who are facing dangers or in extreme need. The perils being talked about are those, which characterize Hobbes state of nature, which individuals will encounter where the state provided benefits such as the rule of legislation lack. The perils people confront could be eliminated by state organization and the citizens coerced to obey. Thus, citizens can be compelled to abide by the law justifiably. Similar to models grounded on gratitude and fairness, the current theory bases political responsibilities on benefits bestowed by the state. However, different from the other models, Wellman’s framework places an emphasis is on the advantages given to other individuals.

In his estimation, samaritanism is the basis for describing how the state benefits validate its coercion. The dangers, which others would confront in a Hobbesian society, can restrict the individual’s moral rights. Wellman uses two examples to back his claims. First, Beth and Alice are walking down the road together when Beth undergoes a heart attack. She is likely to die unless Alice can take her to the hospital right then. It appears that Carolyn’s car is the only one in the vicinity and it is unlocked. In line with Wellman, the happenings validate Alice using Carolyn’s vehicle in transferring Beth for medical redress. Based on the situations, moral reasons based on Beth’s condition are more important than Carolyn’s natural rights of claim to her vehicle. Heath states that the ethical peculiarities of governmental compulsion are akin to the one on Beth, Carolyn, and Alice. The country has the freedom to compel people in a manner, which would normally infringe on their privileges only because the compulsion is needed to save the people within the borders of the country from danger. Health considers that anew circumstance is additionally and descriptively pertinent to the situations of real governmental responsibilities. States bestow welfares via the large pool of citizen’s coordinated efforts. The author envisages a scenario whereby a collection of individuals needs a bus to avoid danger. If Beth, Carolyn, and Alice each have components of a bus, it would be justifiable for a mechanic to take their parts to assemble the bus and save them. It would also be justifiable for the state to compel the three individuals to contribute their components. Of the cases Wellman has provided, he argues that in every of the illustrations, coercion is allowable because the danger others face generates more substantive moral grounds compared to the assumption for every person’s power over their respective issues. The political obligation model grounded on samaritanism has apparent advantages the other frameworks. While the political commitment theory is grounded on a regular responsibility of justice, political obligation is a universal moral concept that applies in diverse settings. In dissimilarity, the natural responsibility to encourage impartial agencies raised by Rawls is instinctively unclear, and only theorists seeking to describe samaritanism have discussed it. Wellman’s samaritanism theory has a close relationship with the theories grounded on fairness principles. With compound coordination needed for the state to provide benefits, every citizen has a duty to abide by the law as her portion of the general samaritan obligation. Nonetheless, there is a significant dissimilarity. The general understanding is that the fairness principle spawns political responsibilities by lending the topic with state-provided welfares, particularly important public creativities comprising law, order, defense, public health, and environmental protections. Wellman’s belief is that there are flaws in the principle of fairness because public goods recipients cannot accept them because of paternalism. Individuals experience political obligations owing to the benefits the state thinks they require. Samaritanism assists to address the problem of the citizens.

Political obligation anarchists such as Simmons object Wellman’s theory of samaritanism. His contention concerns the argument that all moral actors have a natural duty to save others from substantial dangers as long as the expense is reasonable. According to Simmons, the cost of rescuing others is unreasonable. Classic illustrations of simple rescue encompass abnormal perils of imminent or instant harm and given their abnormality (in relation to the number of individuals who suffer the infliction and how regular anyone does harm) such cases often entail a somewhat restricted number of actors. In dissimilarity, the dangers of the Hobbesian state, which Heath raises to defend the obligation to abide by the rules are regular statistically, the threat is a potential one in the future, and the number of individuals with either a duty to rescue or a right to be saved or both is nearly limitless. Therefore, there appears to be a valid reason to doubt that the obligation to provide security is a case of the overall samaritan obligation of easy rescue.

Certainly, Simmons makes a convincing argument that Wellman’s description of the responsibility to obey is grounded on an abnormal obligation, which combines aspects of both a samaritan duty of an ‘easy’ rescue and the obligation of charity. The local nature of the obligation to provide security, which is the assertion that actors have a duty of saving their residents and the idea that those needing rescue from the dangers of a Hobbesian society have a right to it, adhere where the duty is genuinely Samaritan. The idea that the obligation of security provision is owed to all residents of an agent’s political community (and not merely those he confronts face to face) and that it entails the avoidance of a possible future peril, which is perpetual(as opposed to episodic danger), arises if the obligation is charity-grounded. Simmons conclusion is that the particular nature of Wellman’s obligation appears to be motivated mainly by his argumentative needs and not by autonomous reasons to consider the existence of such a duty. Furthermore, he insists that as they are often conceived, the duty of rescue or charity can neither provide a basis upon which Wellman can develop a defense of the obligation to abide by the law. The essentials Wellman derives from the other obligation in developing his hybrid suggests those features, which every of these obligations lacks but are necessary for the triumph of his argument.

Although I consider the original objection Simmons advances to Wellman’s description as accurate, it is sufficiently easy to see how Wellman’s proposition can be altered to avert it. Instead of grounding the argument on a supposed obligation of easy rescue, Wellman could otherwise appeal to a particular conception of those responsibilities correlative to the basic human or moral rights of all agents. The notion I am considering is one that appreciates the satisfaction of these obligations to encompass positive deeds of provision along with harmful forbearance acts. Based on the conception of individual’s basic human rights, the obligation to security provision to others (or the secured enjoyment of their primary moral rights) necessitates that an agent does more than merely refraining from activities, which directly demoralize the security of others comprising attacking them. Furthermore, officials need to take decisive measures to ensure that all gain from security for instance by participating in the establishment and protection of institutions, which enforce the individual’s primary moral rights comprising moderate policing.


According to Wellman’s theory of political obligation, every person must abide by the state’s laws as a portion of the overall Samaritan duty of rescuing all citizens from such perils. I strongly support the theory and believe that the dangers people encounter can be addressed by the state organization, which is reinforced by coercion, and therefore, the law can be justifiably used to compel citizens to obey the law. Thus, samaritanism is fundamental to describing the way the benefits of the state substantiate its coercion. However, there are contentions of the theory from political obligation anarchists such as Simmons. The disagreement concerns the idea that all moral actors have a natural duty to secure others from substantial perils as long as the expense is reasonable. However, despite the objection seeming accurate, it can be altered to address the contentions. For example, agents need to assume practical measures to guarantee that all people gain from security by contributing to create and protect the institutions that supervise the individual’s primary moral rights.


Wellman, Christopher Heath. “Toward a liberal theory of political obligation.” Ethics 111, no. 4 (2001): 735-759.

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