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Three Paradoxes of Supererogation

Noûs 55 (3):699-716 (2021)

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  1. Aggregation and Reductio.Patrick Wu - 2021 - Ethics 132 (2):508-525.
    Joe Horton argues that partial aggregation yields unacceptable verdicts in cases with risk and multiple decisions. I begin by showing that Horton’s challenge does not depend on risk, since exactly similar arguments apply to riskless cases. The underlying conflict Horton exposes is between partial aggregation and certain principles of diachronic choice. I then provide two arguments against these diachronic principles: they conflict with intuitions about parity, prerogatives, and cyclical preferences, and they rely on an odd assumption about diachronic choice. Finally, (...)
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  • A Dilemma for Permissibility-Based Solutions to the Paradox of Supererogation.Marina Uzunova & Benjamin Ferguson - 2020 - 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 Dual Scale Model of Weighing Reasons.Chris Tucker - 2022 - Noûs 56 (2):366-392.
    The metaphor of weighing reasons brings to mind a single (double-pan balance) scale. The reasons for φ go in one pan and the reasons for ~φ go in the other. The relative weights, as indicated by the relative heights of the two pans of the scale, determine the deontic status of φ. This model is simple and intuitive, but it cannot capture what it is to weigh reasons correctly. A reason pushes the φ pan down toward permissibility (has justifying weight) (...)
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  • Too Far Beyond the Call of Duty: Moral Rationalism and Weighing Reasons.Chris Tucker - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 179 (6):2029-2052.
    The standard account of supererogation holds that Liv is not morally required to jump on a grenade, thereby sacrificing her life, to save the lives of five soldiers. Many proponents defend the standard account by appealing to moral rationalism about requirement. These same proponents hold that Bernie is morally permitted to jump on a grenade, thereby sacrificing his life, to spare someone a mild burn. I argue that this position is unstable, at least as moral rationalism is ordinarily defended. The (...)
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  • Parity, Moral Options, and the Weights of Reasons.Chris Tucker - forthcoming - Noûs.
    The (moral) permissibility of an act is determined by the relative weights of reasons, or so I assume. But how many weights does a reason have? Weight Monism is the idea that reasons have a single weight value. There is just the weight of reasons. The simplest versions hold that the weight of each reason is either weightier than, less weighty than, or equal to every other reason. We’ll see that this simple view leads to paradox in at least two (...)
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  • All or Nothing, but If Not All, Next Best or Nothing.Theron Pummer - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy 116 (5):278-291.
    Suppose two children face a deadly threat. You can either do nothing, save one child by sacrificing your arms, or save both by sacrificing your arms. Here are two plausible claims: first, it is permissible to do nothing; second, it is wrong to save only one. Joe Horton argues that the combination of these two claims has the implausible implication that if you are not going to save both children, you ought to save neither. This is one instance of what (...)
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  • Impermissible yet Praiseworthy.Theron Pummer - 2021 - Ethics 131 (4):697-726.
    It is commonly held that unexcused impermissible acts are necessarily blameworthy, not praiseworthy. I argue that unexcused impermissible acts can not only be pro tanto praiseworthy, but overall praiseworthy—and even more so than permissible alternatives. For example, there are cases in which it is impermissible to at great cost to yourself rescue fewer rather than more strangers, yet overall praiseworthy, and more so than permissibly rescuing no one. I develop a general framework illuminating how praiseworthiness can so radically come apart (...)
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  • Infinite options, intransitive value, and supererogation.Daniel Muñoz - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):2063-2075.
    Supererogatory acts are those that lie “beyond the call of duty.” There are two standard ways to define this idea more precisely. Although the definitions are often seen as equivalent, I argue that they can diverge when options are infinite, or when there are cycles of better options; moreover, each definition is acceptable in only one case. I consider two ways out of this dilemma.
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  • Exploitation and Effective Altruism.Daniel Muñoz - 2021 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 20 (4):409-423.
    How could it be wrong to exploit—say, by paying sweatshop wages—if the exploited party benefits? How could it be wrong to do something gratuitously bad—like giving to a wasteful charity—if that is better than permissibly doing nothing? Joe Horton argues that these puzzles, known as the Exploitation Problem and All or Nothing Problem, have no unified answer. I propose one and pose a challenge for Horton’s take on the Exploitation Problem.
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  • Supererogation and Conditional Obligation.Daniel Muñoz & Theron Pummer - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1429–1443.
    There are plenty of classic paradoxes about conditional obligations, like the duty to be gentle if one is to murder, and about “supererogatory” deeds beyond the call of duty. But little has been said about the intersection of these topics. We develop the first general account of conditional supererogation, with the power to solve familiar puzzles as well as several that we introduce. Our account, moreover, flows from two familiar ideas: that conditionals restrict quantification and that supererogation emerges from a (...)
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  • Non-Ideal Prescriptions for the Morally Uncertain.Amelia Hicks - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 179 (4):1039-1064.
    Morally speaking, what should one do when one is morally uncertain? Call this the Moral Uncertainty Question. In this paper, I argue that a non-ideal moral theory provides the best answer to the Moral Uncertainty Question. I begin by arguing for a strong ought-implies-can principle---morally ought implies agentially can---and use that principle to clarify the structure of a compelling non-ideal moral theory. I then describe the ways in which one's moral uncertainty affects one's moral prescriptions: moral uncertainty constrains the set (...)
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  • Consequences of Comparability.Cian Dorr, Jacob M. Nebel & Jake Zuehl - 2021 - Philosophical Perspectives 35 (1):70-98.
    We defend three controversial claims about preference, credence, and choice. First, all agents (not just rational ones) have complete preferences. Second, all agents (again, not just rational ones) have real-valued credences in every proposition in which they are confident to any degree. Third, there is almost always some unique thing we ought to do, want, or believe.
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  • Supererogation and Optimisation.Christian Barry & Seth Lazar - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
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  • The Many, the Few, and the Nature of Value.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    John Taurek argues that, in a choice between saving the many or the few, the numbers should not count. Some object that this view clashes with the transitivity of ‘better than’; others insist the clash can be avoided. I defend a middle ground: Taurek cannot have transitivity, but that doesn’t doom his view, given a suitable conception of value. I then formalize and explore two conceptions: one context-sensitive, one multidimensional.
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  • What Rationality Is.Arif Ahmed -
    A choice function C is rational iff: if it allows a path through a sequence of decisions with a particular outcome, then that outcome is amongst the ones that C would have chosen from amongst all the possible outcomes of the sequence. This implies, and it is the strongest definition that implies, that anyone who is irrational could be talked out of their own preferences. It also implies weak but non-vacuous constraints on choices over ends. These do not include alpha (...)
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