What are our obligations to ourselves, our relatives, friends, society, life itself? It would appear that our duty to live is in part Darwinian survival of life in general; it is to survive and reproduce, because that is what species do and that is how we keep our DNA alive. We discover as we hit adulthood that our more mature relatives, like parents and grandparents, change their attitude from wanting us not to accidentally get into a family way, over to wanting us to get married and into a stable family situation, including having several children. That change comes with encouragements for action and subtle insults for nonperformance. Society also has claims on our life-behavior because it has provided us with many years of education and a safe environment for us to thrive within, and society wants a payback on its investment. Our friends have a desire for our living on, in part because we provide them with a source of companionship and a validation of their life, because of our mutual interests and validation of each other.
When we consider our duty to ourselves to live or die, which is where I suspect most people place their primary concern, it seems to be mostly concerned with maintaining a good level of pleasure and a minimal level of pain. People with that orientation put a high value on earning money and work to get it so they can have the perks that society provides only to those who will pay with money. It seems trivial on a personal basis, but we frequently hear public protestations during the political seasons to keep the economy growing, and keep the local economy healthy by increasing the population.
From the Stoic point of view the personal life goal is to maintain an inner tranquility and contentment with the external world, over which you have little influence. These duties, once you accept those modest limitations, are easy to perform; but modern life demands that we rebel against that simple life style, and instead it prods us to consume more of the artificial goodies manufactured by the society. To get us to behave that way they place a superabundance of toys before our eyes, and then show happy people, who everyone knows are paid actors, using these baubles with howls of ecstasy. The media pushes the image that we have a duty to ourselves to have these things, “Because we deserve them!” Our duty to society is to buy these things, and our duty to ourselves is to work feverishly to get the best possible ones we can afford.
When we get to the essence of personal relationship to the question, “Do we have a duty to live or to die?”, it makes little sense other than –
Our duty is not to be an unwelcome burden to ourselves or others.