Volume 10, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2003
Samuel V. Bruton
Duties of Gratitude
This paper is a response to a recent article by Christopher Wellman in which Wellman argues that gratitude is better understood as a virtue rather than a source of moral obligations. First, I offer several examples intended to dispute his claim that gratitude does not impose duties. Second, I provide my own reasons for thinking that deontic notions alone cannot capture the moral significance of gratitude. Wellman’s mistake is attributable to an overly narrow conception of duty that his argument presupposes. Finally, I consider the implications of my analysis for fiduciary ethics generally given the indeterminacy of the principle of gratitude.