Michael Ferry
Spring Hill College
I argue that supererogation poses a serious problem for theories of moral reasoning and that this problem results, at least in part, from our taking too narrow a view of the reasons that can influence an act’s deontic status. We tend to focus primarily on those reasons that count directly for and against an act’s performance. To adequately account for supererogation, we need to consider also a different class of moral reasons. Aside from those reasons that contribute, for instance, to an act’s being morally better or worse than its alternatives, there are moral reasons that govern the ways in which we respond to the performance or non-performance of those acts. These reasons govern the attitudes we express in response to moral acts as well as our practices of issuing demands and of seeking justification in the case of an omission. These sorts of moral reasons are, I argue, integral to an account of supererogation. Attending to them will allow us to accept that the supererogatory omission does actually involve a moral failure of sorts while denying that it is a failure of obligation. And this will allow us to account for our intuitions regarding supererogation while avoiding what I call the problem of supererogation. I begin with a discussion of what we might mean by ‘supererogation’, and I outline the problem that it raises. I then provide an account of supererogation that avoids this problem.
Keywords supererogation  moral demands  demandingness
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DOI 10.1017/S1358246115000284
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Moral Saints.Susan Wolf - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (8):419-439.
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