Supererogation, Inside and Out: Toward an Adequate Scheme for Common Sense Morality

In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume I. Oxford University Press. pp. 202-235 (2011)
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The standard analysis of supererogation is that of optional actions that are praiseworthy to perform, but not blameworthy to skip. Widespread assumptions are that action beyond the call is at least necessarily equivalent to supererogation ("The Equivalence") and that forgoing certain agent-favoring prerogatives entails supererogation (“The Corollary”). I argue that the classical conception of supererogation is not reconcilable with the Equivalence or the Corollary, and that the classical analysis of supererogation is seriously defective. I sketch an enriched conceptual scheme, “Doing Well Enough (DWE)”, that allows for distinct analyses of action beyond the call and supererogation, among other often neglected fundamental moral notions. Parallels and asymmetries with suberogation are briefly explored. Apparently, DWE’s core act-evaluative notions are more fundamental than the agent-evaluative ones of supererogation/suberogation.

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Paul McNamara
University of New Hampshire, Durham


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