Here Is A Moral And Contractual Puzzle

By Andrew M. Mwenda

What makes a contract or an agreement? Is it the consent of both parties? Assuming there was no consent, can someone hold another to account for actions they did not promise? Let us use a practical example:

Assuming you meet a girl, fall in love and begin a great romantic relationship with her. However you don’t promise to be faithful. Then one day she catches you sleeping with another girl. Does she have any moral right to accuse you of betraying your relationship with her?

This brings me to opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye and his cohorts. He went to visit Nyanzi in jail, which is okay. But he did not condemn her language, which implies he approves of it. Would Besigye treat it as acceptable if someone criticized his wife in similar language? Besigye would have shown political maturity if he said that although he shares Nyanzi’s criticism of government, he condemns the language she used to criticize the president and first lady of Uganda. But he lacks the courage to look beyond petty partisanship and project a moral vision.

Besigye could retort that Museveni would not take such a high moral stand if the insulted person were his (Besigye’s) wife. Why should he uphold a value that Museveni would never reciprocate? Here, I follow the standard set by the philosopher, Emmanuel Kant. According to Kant, the moral worth of an action consists not in the consequences that flow from it, but the intentions from which it is done. What matters is the motive i.e. doing the right thing because it is right, not because of some ulterior motive. To Kant therefore, we should do the morally right thing out of duty to act correctly rather than convenience or usefulness.


Leave a Reply