Advertisement

Philosophia

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1141–1163 | Cite as

On Why There is a Problem of Supererogation

  • Nora Grigore
Article

Abstract

How can it be that some acts of very high moral value are not morally required? This is the problem of supererogation. I do not argue in favor of a particular answer. Instead, I analyze two opposing moral intuitions the problem involves. First, that one should always do one’s best. Second, that sometimes we are morally allowed not to do our best. To think that one always has to do one’s best is less plausible, as it makes every morally best act obligatory. I argue that, despite its implausibility, this is the main ingredient in a traditional outlook I call ‘morality of law,’ which conceives of morality as impartial, impersonal, rule-based and obligation-based. My main point is that supererogation will always be seen as problematic if the background theory is a morality of law. This is because supererogation encapsulates a view of morality-outside-obligation, whereas morality of law centers upon obligation as its main instrument of curbing a supposedly natural human selfishness.

Keywords

Supererogation Morality Obligation Law Virtue 

References

  1. Dancy, J. (1993). Moral Reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Dancy, J. (2004). Enticing Reasons. In R. Jay Wallace et al. (Eds.), Reason and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz (pp. 92–118). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Dreier, J. (2004). Why Ethical Satisficing Makes Sense and Rational Satisficing Doesn't. In M. Byron (Ed.), Satisficing and Maximizing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Heyd, D. (1982). Supererogation: Its Status in Ethical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Heyd, D. (2015). Can Virtue Ethics Account for Supererogation? Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 77, 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Horgan, T., & Timmons, M. (2010). Untying a Knot From the Inside Out: Reflections on the ‘Paradox’ of Supererogation. Social Philosophy and Policy, 27, 29–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hurka, T., & Schubert, E. (2012). Permissions to Do Less Than the Best: A Moving Band. Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, 2, 1–27.Google Scholar
  8. Korsgaard, C. (1996). The Sources of Normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Little, M. O. (2013). In Defence of Non-Deontic Reasons. In D. Bakhurst, B. Hooker, & M. O. Little (Eds.), Thinking About Reasons: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Dancy (pp. 113–136). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After Virtue. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  11. Mill, J. S. (1861/2001). Utilitarianism. Hackett.Google Scholar
  12. Nagel, T. (1986). The view from nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. New, C. (1974). Saints, Heroes and Utilitarians. Philosophy, 49, 179–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Pybus, M. E. (1982). Saints and Heroes. Philosophy, 220, 193–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Railton, P. (1984). Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 13, 134–171.Google Scholar
  16. Railton, P. (2011). Two Cheers for Virtue: Or, Might Virtue Be Habit-Forming? Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, 1, 295–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Raz, J. (1975). Permissions and Supererogation. American Philosophical Quarterly, 12, 161–168.Google Scholar
  18. Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. New York.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Scheffler, S. (1994). The rejection of consequentialism: a philosophical investigation of the considerations underlying rival moral conceptions. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  20. Slote, M. A. (1984). Satisficing Consequentialism – I. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 58, 139–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stangl, R. (2016). Neo-Aristotelian Supererogation. Ethics, 126, 339–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Urmson, J. O. (1958). Saints and Heroes. In A. I. Melden (Ed.), Essays in Moral Philosophy. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  23. Williams, B. (1976). Persons, character and morality. In: Moral Luck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Wolf, S. (1982). Moral Saints. Journal of Philosophy, 79, 419–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BucharestRomania

Personalised recommendations