, Volume 191, Issue 15, pp 3621–3637 | Cite as

Epistemic supererogation and its implications

  • Trevor Hedberg


Supererogatory acts, those which are praiseworthy but not obligatory, have become a significant topic in contemporary moral philosophy, primarily because morally supererogatory acts have proven difficult to reconcile with other important aspects of normative ethics. However, despite the similarities between ethics and epistemology, epistemic supererogation has received very little attention. In this paper, I aim to further the discussion of supererogation by arguing for the existence of epistemically supererogatory acts and considering the potential implications of their existence. First, I offer a brief account of moral supererogation and how morally supererogatory acts generate a strong intuition that a similar phenomenon should exist in epistemology. Afterward, I argue for the existence of epistemically supererogatory acts by examining five cases where an epistemic activity appears to be epistemically supererogatory. Epistemic supererogation appears to provide the best explanation for our considered judgments about the individuals’ behavior in these different cases. Finally, I consider how epistemic supererogation might impact the contemporary study of epistemology, particularly with regard to how we appraise certain epistemic duties.


Supererogation Ethics Epistemology Epistemic duty  Epistemic praise Epistemic blame Epistemically responsible action 



I must first thank E. J. Coffman and David Palmer. Both offered detailed feedback on the first complete draft of the paper, and prolonged exchanges with them helped me improve the paper’s central arguments tremendously. I also thank two anonymous referees for this journal who provided rigorous, helpful comments on earlier versions of the paper; their remarks have forced me to refine and clarify many of the paper’s subtleties. Finally, I thank the attendees of the 2011 Appalachian Regional Student Philosophy Colloquium who participated in a fruitful discussion of a much earlier version of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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