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Supererogation: Its Status in Ethical Theory

Cambridge University Press (1982)

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  1. Formalizing Reasons, Oughts, and Requirements.Robert Mullins - 2021 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 7 (22):568-599.
    Reasons-based accounts of our normative conclusions face difficulties in distinguishing between what ought to be done and what is required. This article addresses this problem from a formal perspective. I introduce a rudimentary formalization of a reasons-based account and demonstrate that that the model faces difficulties in accounting for the distinction between oughts and requirements. I briefly critique attempts to distinguish between oughts and requirements by appealing to a difference in strength or weight of reasons. I then present a formalized (...)
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  • Supererogation and Sequence.Adam Bales & Claire Benn - 2020 - Synthese 198 (8):7763-7780.
    Morally supererogatory acts are those that go above and beyond the call of duty. More specifically: they are acts that, on any individual occasion, are good to do and also both permissible to do and permissible to refrain from doing. We challenge the way in which discussions of supererogation typically consider our choices and actions in isolation. Instead we consider sequences of supererogatory acts and omissions and show that some such sequences are themselves problematic. This gives rise to the following (...)
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  • On Why There is a Problem of Supererogation.Nora Grigore - 2019 - Philosophia 47 (4):1141-1163.
    How can it be that some acts of very high moral value are not morally required? This is the problem of supererogation. I do not argue in favor of a particular answer. Instead, I analyze two opposing moral intuitions the problem involves. First, that one should always do one’s best. Second, that sometimes we are morally allowed not to do our best. To think that one always has to do one’s best is less plausible, as it makes every morally best (...)
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  • A Defence of the Asymmetry in Population Ethics.Per Algander - 2012 - Res Publica 18 (2):145-157.
    A common intuition is that there is a moral difference between ‘making people happy’ and ‘making happy people.’ This intuition, often referred to as ‘the Asymmetry,’ has, however, been criticized on the grounds that it is incoherent. Why is there, for instance, not a corresponding difference between ‘making people unhappy’ and ‘making unhappy people’? I argue that the intuition faces several difficulties but that these can be met by introducing a certain kind of reason that is favouring but non-requiring. It (...)
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  • Forgiveness and the Limits of Duty.Archer Alfred - 2017 - Etica and Politica/ Ethics and Politics 19 (1):225-244.
    Can there be a duty to forgive those who have wronged us? According to a popular view amongst philosophers working on forgiveness the answer is no. Forgiveness, it is claimed, is always elective. This view is rejected by Gamlund (2010a; 2010b) who argues that duties to forgive do exist and then provides conditions that are relevant to determining whether forgiveness is obligatory or supererogatory. In this paper I will argue that the conditions that Gamlund provides do not provide a plausible (...)
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  • Deontological Square, Hexagon, and Decagon: A Deontic Framework for Supererogation.Jan C. Joerden - 2012 - Logica Universalis 6 (1-2):201-216.
    The article expands the traditional system of concepts used in deontic logic, in order to allow the inclusion of supererogatory behaviour. This requires the development of a deontic decagon. In addition, it is shown how this decagon can be used to interpret deontic terms, e.g. in Islamic Law.
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  • Virtue Theory, Ideal Observers, and the Supererogatory.Jason Kawall - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 146 (2):179-96.
    I argue that recent virtue theories (including those of Hursthouse, Slote, and Swanton) face important initial difficulties in accommodating the supererogatory. In particular, I consider several potential characterizations of the supererogatory modeled upon these familiar virtue theories (and their accounts of rightness) and argue that they fail to provide an adequate account of supererogation. In the second half of the paper I sketch an alternative virtue-based characterization of supererogation, one that is grounded in the attitudes of virtuous ideal observers, and (...)
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  • Does Morality Demand Our Very Best? On Moral Prescriptions and the Line of Duty.Michael Ferry - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (2):573-589.
    It is widely accepted that morality does not demand that we do our very best, but our most significant moral traditions do not easily accommodate this intuition. I will argue that the underlying problem is not specific to any particular tradition. Rather, it will be difficult for any moral theory to account for binary moral concepts like permissible/impermissible while also accounting for scalar moral concepts like better/worse. If only the best is considered permissible, morality will seem either unreasonably demanding or (...)
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  • Bourdieu and Derrida on Gift: Beyond “Double Truth” and Paradox. [REVIEW]Camil Ungureanu - 2013 - Human Studies 36 (3):393-409.
    Bourdieu and Derrida share a focus on the ambiguity of the practice of gift relationships already pointed out by Mauss. From Bourdieu’s perspective, the question of gratuity is epistemically futile, as it veils the objective truth of gift-giving, yet ethically and politically relevant, as it refers to a hypocrisy which can be instrumental to enhancing civic virtue and solidarity. Bourdieu’s “scientific humanism,” however, implausibly reduces this ambiguity to interest maximization, and aims to build a solidaristic democracy by means of the (...)
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  • The Duty to Forgive Repentant Wrongdoers.Espen Gamlund - 2010 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 18 (5):651-671.
    The purpose of this paper is to consider the question of whether we have a duty to forgive those who repent and apologize for the wrong they have done. I shall argue that we have a pro tanto duty to forgive repentant wrongdoers, and I shall propose and consider the norm of forgiveness. This norm states that if a wrongdoer repents and apologizes to a victim, then the victim has a duty to forgive the wrongdoer, other things being equal. That (...)
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  • Supererogatory Forgiveness.Espen Gamlund - 2010 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 53 (6):540-564.
    While forgiveness is widely recognised as an example of a supererogatory action, it remains to be explained precisely what makes forgiveness supererogatory, or the circumstances under which it is supererogatory to forgive. Philosophers often claim that forgiveness is supererogatory, but most of the time they do so without offering an adequate explanation for why it is supererogatory to forgive. Accordingly, the literature on forgiveness lacks a sufficiently nuanced account of the supererogatory status of forgiveness. In this paper, I seek to (...)
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  • Divine Moral Goodness, Supererogation and The Euthyphro Dilemma.Alfred Archer - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 79 (2):147-160.
    How can we make sense of God’s moral goodness if God cannot be subject to moral obligations? This question is troubling for divine command theorists, as if we cannot make sense of God’s moral goodness then it seems hard to see how God’s commands could be morally good. Alston argues that the concept of supererogation solves this problem. If we accept the existence of acts that are morally good but not morally required then we should accept that there is no (...)
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  • The Composite Nature of Epistemic Justification.Paul Silva - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (1).
    According to many, to have epistemic justification to believe P is just for it to be epistemically permissible to believe P. Others think it is for believing P to be epistemically good. Yet others think it has to do with being epistemically blameless in believing P. All such views of justification encounter problems. Here, a new view of justification is proposed according to which justification is a kind of composite normative status. The result is a view of justification that offers (...)
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  • Supererogation, Optionality and Cost.Claire Benn - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (10):2399-2417.
    A familiar part of debates about supererogatory actions concerns the role that cost should play. Two camps have emerged: one claiming that extreme cost is a necessary condition for when an action is supererogatory, while the other denies that it should be part of our definition of supererogation. In this paper, I propose an alternative position. I argue that it is comparative cost that is central to the supererogatory and that it is needed to explain a feature that all accounts (...)
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  • Would Human Extinction Be Morally Wrong?Franco Palazzi - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (4):1063-1084.
    This article casts light on the moral implications of the possibility of human extinction, with a specific focus on extinction caused by an interruption in human reproduction. In the first two paragraphs, I show that moral philosophy has not yet given promising explanations for the wrongness of this kind of extinction. Specifically, the second paragraph contains a detailed rejection of John Leslie’s main claims on the morality of extinction. In the third paragraph, I offer a demonstration of the fact that (...)
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  • The Heroism Paradox: Another Paradox of Supererogation.Alfred Archer & Michael Ridge - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1575-1592.
    Philosophers are by now familiar with “the” paradox of supererogation. This paradox arises out of the idea that it can never be permissible to do something morally inferior to another available option, yet acts of supererogation seem to presuppose this. This paradox is not our topic in this paper. We mention it only to set it to one side and explain our subtitle. In this paper we introduce and explore another paradox of supererogation, one which also deserves serious philosophical attention. (...)
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  • Supererogation and Intentions of the Agent.Alfred Archer - 2013 - Philosophia 41 (2):447-462.
    It has been claimed, by David Heyd, that in order for an act to count as supererogatory the agent performing the act must possess altruistic intentions (1982 p.115). This requirement, Heyd claims, allows us to make sense of the meritorious nature of acts of supererogation. In this paper I will investigate whether there is good reason to accept that this requirement is a necessary condition of supererogation. I will argue that such a reason can be found in cases where two (...)
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  • Group Agents and Moral Status: What Can We Owe to Organizations?Adam Lovett & Stefan Riedener - forthcoming - Canadian Journal of Philosophy.
    Organizations have neither a right to the vote nor a weighty right to life. We need not enfranchise Goldman Sachs. We should feel few scruples in dissolving Standard Oil. But they are not without rights altogether. We can owe it to them to keep our promises. We can owe them debts of gratitude. Thus, we can owe some things to organizations. But we cannot owe them everything we can owe to people. They seem to have a peculiar, fragmented moral status. (...)
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  • How is the Concept of Sin Related to the Concept of Moral Wrongdoing?Ingolf Dalferth - 1984 - Religious Studies 20 (2):175-189.
    Professor Mitchell's strategy for answering the question before us appears to be straightforward. Part, at least, of saying that the concepts of sin and moral wrongdoing belong to different vocabularies is that they are intensionally different. But this does not exclude their being related. Taken as concepts in extension there appear to be five possible relations between sin and moral wrongdoing not all of which Mitchell considers.
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  • Doing Without Mercy.Daniel Statman - 1994 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 32 (3):331-354.
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  • A Dilemma for Permissibility-Based Solutions to the Paradox of Supererogation.Marina Uzunova & Benjamin Ferguson - 2021 - Analysis 80 (4):723-731.
    We argue that permissibility-based solutions to the paradox of supererogation encounter a nested dilemma. Such approaches solve the paradox by distinguishing moral and rational permissions. If they do not also include a bridge condition that relates these two permissions, then they violate a very plausible monotonicity condition. If they do include a bridge condition, then permissibility-based solutions either amount to rational satisficing or they collapse back into the classical account of supererogation and fail to resolve the paradox.
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  • The Saint, the Criminal and the Terrorist: Towards a Hypothesis on Terrorism.S. N. Balagangadhara & Jakob De Roover - 2010 - Journal of Political Philosophy 18 (1):1-15.
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  • Are Acts of Supererogation Always Praiseworthy?Alfred Archer - 2016 - Theoria 82 (3):238-255.
    It is commonly assumed that praiseworthiness should form part of the analysis of supererogation. I will argue that this view should be rejected. I will start by arguing that, at least on some views of the connection between moral value and praiseworthiness, it does not follow from the fact that acts of supererogation go beyond what is required by duty that they will always be praiseworthy to perform. I will then consider and dismiss what I will call the Argument from (...)
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  • Making Room for Going Beyond the Call.Paul McNamara - 1996 - Mind 105 (419):415-450.
    In the latter half of this century, there have been two mostly separate threads within ethical theory, one on 'superogation', one on 'common-sense morality'. I bring these threads together by systematically reflecting on doing more than one has to do. A rich and coherent set of concepts at the core of common-sense morality is identified, along with various logical connections between these core concepts. Various issues in common-sense morality emerge naturally, as does a demonstrably productive definition of doing more than (...)
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  • What is Wrong with Promising to Supererogate.Claire Benn - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (1):55-61.
    There has been some debate as to whether or not it is possible to keep a promise, and thus fulfil a duty, to supererogate. In this paper, I argue, in agreement with Jason Kawall, that such promises cannot be kept. However, I disagree with Kawall’s diagnosis of the problem and provide an alternative account. In the first section, I examine the debate between Kawall and David Heyd, who rejects Kawall’s claim that promises to supererogate cannot be kept. I disagree with (...)
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  • Challenging the Moral Status of Blood Donation.Paul C. Snelling - 2014 - Health Care Analysis 22 (4):340-365.
    The World Health Organisation encourages that blood donation becomes voluntary and unremunerated, a system already operated in the UK. Drawing on public documents and videos, this paper argues that blood donation is regarded and presented as altruistic and supererogatory. In advertisements, donation is presented as something undertaken for the benefit of others, a matter attracting considerable gratitude from recipients and the collecting organisation. It is argued that regarding blood donation as an act of supererogation is wrongheaded, and an alternative account (...)
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  • Supererogation: Beyond Positive Deviance and Corporate Social Responsibility.Daina Mazutis - 2014 - Journal of Business Ethics 119 (4):517-528.
    The special class of supererogatory actions—those that go “beyond the call of duty”—has thus far been omitted from the management literature. Rather, actions of a firm that may surpass economic and legal requirements have been discussed either under the umbrella term of Corporate Social Responsibility or the concept of positive deviance as articulated by the Positive Organizational Scholarship movement. This paper seeks to clarify how “duty” is understood in these literatures and makes an argument that paradigmatic examples of corporate supererogation (...)
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  • Is Government Supererogation Possible?Justin Weinberg - 2011 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (2):263-281.
    Governments are subject to the requirements of justice, yet often seem to go above and beyond what justice requires in order to act in ways many people think are good. These kinds of acts – examples of which include putting on celebrations, providing grants to poets, and preserving historic architecture – appear to be acts of government supererogation. In this paper, I argue that a common view about the relationship between government, coercion, and justice implies that most such acts are (...)
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  • Demandingness as a Virtue.Robert E. Goodin - 2009 - The Journal of Ethics 13 (1):1-13.
    Philosophers who complain about the ‹demandingness’ of morality forget that a morality can make too few demands as well as too many. What we ought be seeking is an appropriately demanding morality. This article recommends a ‹moral satisficing’ approach to determining when a morality is ‹demanding enough’, and an institutionalized solution to keeping the demands within acceptable limits.
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  • Supererogation, Blame, and the Limits of Obligation.Gregory Mellema - 1994 - Philosophia 24 (1-2):171-182.
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  • A Neo-Kantian Foundation of Corporate Social Responsibility.Wim Dubbink & Luc van Liedekerke - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (2):117 - 136.
    'Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is conceptualized in many ways. We argue that one cannot be indifferent about the issue of its conceptualization. In terms of methodology, our position is that any conceptual discussion must embed CSR in political theory. With regard to substance, we link up with the discussion on whether CSR must be defined on the basis of a tripartite or a quadripartite division of business responsibilities. We share A. B. Carroll's intuition that a quadripartite division is called for (...)
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  • Introduction: The Agents, Acts and Attitudes of Supererogation.Christopher Cowley - 2015 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 77:1-23.
    I confess to finding the term ‘supererogation’ ugly and unpronounceable. I am also generally suspicious of technical terms in moral philosophy, since they are vulnerable to self-serving definition and counter-definition, to the point of obscuring whether there is a single phenomenon about which to disagree. It was surely not accidental that J.O. Urmson, in his classic 1958 article that launched the contemporary Anglophone debate, eschewed the technical term in favour of the more familiar concepts of saints and heroes. Since then, (...)
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  • Untying a Knot From the Inside Out: Reflections on the “Paradox” of Supererogation*: Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons.Terry Horgan - 2010 - Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (2):29-63.
    In his 1958 seminal paper “Saints and Heroes”, J. O. Urmson argued that the then dominant tripartite deontic scheme of classifying actions as being exclusively either obligatory, or optional in the sense of being morally indifferent, or wrong, ought to be expanded to include the category of the supererogatory. Colloquially, this category includes actions that are “beyond the call of duty” and hence actions that one has no duty or obligation to perform. But it is a controversial category. Some have (...)
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  • A Paradox Concerning Frankfurt Examples.Ishtiyaque Haji - 2019 - Synthese 196 (1):87-103.
    The set with the following members is inconsistent: F-Lesson: A person can be blameworthy for performing an action even though she cannot refrain from performing it. Equivalence: ‘Ought not’ is equivalent to ‘impermissible.’ OIC: ‘Ought’ implies ‘can’ and ‘ought not’ implies ‘can refrain from.’ BRI: Necessarily, one is morally blameworthy for doing something only if it is overall morally impermissible for one to do it. Since Equivalence seems unassailable, one can escape the inconsistency by renouncing any one of the other (...)
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  • Forced Supererogation.Shlomo Cohen - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):1006-1024.
    There is a disturbing kind of situation that presents agents with only two possibilities of moral action—one especially praiseworthy, the other condemnable. I describe such scenarios and argue that moral action in them exhibits a unique set of parameters: performing the commendable action is especially praiseworthy; not performing is not blameworthy; not performing is wrong. This set of parameters is distinct from those which characterize either moral obligation or supererogation. It is accordingly claimed that it defines a distinct, yet unrecognized, (...)
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  • Volunteering and Ethical Meaningfulness.Roger Burggraeve - 2016 - Foundations of Science 21 (2):301-304.
    Drawing on Victor Frankl’s observations, this comment illustrates how human beings are prior to any initiative that is pre-directed towards meaning. In pointing to this human condition, it introduces a subtle distinction between striving for happiness and a will for meaning, yet it is in the trans-ethical meaningful acts that a relation can be found with the witnessing as referred to by Note and Van Daele.
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  • Can Revenge Be Just or Otherwise Justified?Gilead Bar-Elli & David Heyd - 1986 - Theoria 52 (1-2):68-86.
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  • Tact: Sense, Sensitivity, and Virtue.David Heyd - 1995 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 38 (3):217 – 231.
    The concept of tact has so far received only little theoretical attention. The present article suggests three levels on which the idea of tact may be approached: (1) The epistemological problem: the etymology of the term ?tact? is taken seriously, namely its relation to the sense of touch and tactility. An analysis of the position of touch in the ranking of the five senses according to various parameters is shown to be highly relevant to the understanding of the idea of (...)
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  • Gratitude.Tony Manela - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2015 (Spring).
    Gratitude is the proper or called-for response in a beneficiary to benefits or beneficence from a benefactor. It is a topic of interest in normative ethics, moral psychology, and political philosophy, and may have implications for metaethics as well. Despite its commonness in everyday life, there is substantive disagreement among philosophers over the nature of gratitude and its connection to other philosophical concepts. The sections of this article address five areas of debate about what gratitude is, when it is called (...)
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