The Good, the Bad, and the Obligatory

Journal of Value Inquiry 40 (1):59-71 (2006)
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Abstract
In this article I reject the argument of Colin McGinn ("Must I Be Morally Perfect?", 1992) that ordinary morality requires that each of us be morally perfect. McGinn's definition of moral perfection –– according to which I am morally perfect if I never do anything that is supererogatory, but always do what is obligatory, and always avoid doing what is impermissible –– should be rejected, because it is open to the objection that I am morally perfect if I always do what is optional but bad to do (what is suberogatory), in addition to always doing what is obligatory and always avoiding what is impermissible. Moral perfection may be defined as always doing what is obligatory, and always doing what is optional but good to do (supererogatory), and never doing what is impermissible, and never doing what is optional but bad to do [suberogatory]. Since ordinary morality does not require this, ordinary morality does not require moral perfection.
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2007
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