, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 447–462 | Cite as

Supererogation and Intentions of the Agent

  • Alfred ArcherEmail author


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 people act in the same way but with only the person who acted with altruistic intent counting as having performed an act of supererogation. In such cases Heyd’s intention requirement plays an important role in ruling out acts that intuitively are not supererogatory. Despite this, I will argue that we should reject Heyd’s requirement and replace it with a moral intention requirement. I will then investigate how to formulate this requirement and respond to two objections that might be raised against it.


Supererogation Normative Ethics Motivation Intention 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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