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This article develops a definition of the term “office,” (as in ‘judicial office” or the office of physician or guardian) as follows: “an office is a ministry to the good of others in some special respect, exercised under the guidance of a system of rules and principles which impose obligations.” The article reviews the components of this definition with special attention to the meaning and good of obligation. The article discusses certain further features of office which often accompany the institution, such as self-sacrificial dedication to ministry. It explores the ethical basis for the recognition and exercise of office, identifying those practices as founded not only on the obvious instrumental goods such as efficiency but also on non-instrumental goods such as those of knowledge and steadiness of character. Further, the article identifies marriage as involving office, proposing that the roles of husband and wife, although they are decreasingly understood in our society in a way which emphasizes their ministerial or obligational sides, are eligible to be regarded as offices.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
8 Sep 2022
2.98 MB



  • Subject
    • Domestic Law

    • Law and Society

    • Public Law and Legal Theory

  • Journal title
    • Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy

  • Volume
    • 18

  • Pagination
    • 89-135

  • Date submitted

    8 September 2022

  • Keywords