Saturday, May 03, 2008

Duties to Talents?

Arguments over social justice, inspired by Rawls and Nozick, are full of questions about whether people 'own' their talents or can legitimately expect to benefit from them (or, more properly, their exercise).

This interesting POV on the BBC website, focusing on Amy Winehouse and Snoop Dogg, suggests that people may have duties to their talents. The argument seems not to be a Kantian one, that we have a duty to ourselves to develop our own talents. Nor is it a claim that we have duties to others to exercise our talents for their benefits ("When people say that you have a duty to your talent, they all too often mean that you have a duty to them. But they're misstating the case.").

It's less clear what the argument is, but it seems to be based on a duty to the talents as such (if that's distinguishable from oneself). I suppose it's just about plausible that we might do wrong by destroying artworks, even if no one ever saw them - but it's surely less plausible that we have an analogous duty to create them (such an argument certainly wouldn't hold with respect to people). Moreover, the argument - such as it is - is tainted with religious ideas ("When that young woman sings, it's the revelation of a divine gift. But when she behaves as if the gift were hers to destroy if she feels like it, you can't help thinking of divine wrath.").

Whatever you think (and I'm still not sure what to make of it), it was still an interesting read.

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