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  • Cited by 7
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Archer, Alfred 2016. Are Acts of Supererogation Always Praiseworthy?. Theoria, Vol. 82, Issue. 3, p. 238.

    Archer, Alfred 2016. Evil and moral detachment: further reflections on The Mirror Thesis. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 24, Issue. 2, p. 201.

    ARCHER, ALFRED 2016. The Supererogatory and How Not To Accommodate It: A Reply to Dorsey. Utilitas, Vol. 28, Issue. 02, p. 179.

    ARCHER, ALFRED 2016. Moral Obligation, Self-Interest and the Transitivity Problem. Utilitas, p. 1.

    Archer, Alfred and Ridge, Michael 2015. The heroism paradox: another paradox of supererogation. Philosophical Studies, Vol. 172, Issue. 6, p. 1575.

    Archer, Alfred 2013. Supererogation and Intentions of the Agent. Philosophia, Vol. 41, Issue. 2, p. 447.

    DORSEY, DALE 2013. The Supererogatory, and How to Accommodate It. Utilitas, Vol. 25, Issue. 03, p. 355.



  • Terry Horgan (a1) and Mark Timmons (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2010

In his 1958 seminal paper “Saints and Heroes”, J. O. Urmson argued that the then dominant tripartite deontic scheme of classifying actions as being exclusively either obligatory, or optional in the sense of being morally indifferent, or wrong, ought to be expanded to include the category of the supererogatory. Colloquially, this category includes actions that are “beyond the call of duty” (beyond what is obligatory) and hence actions that one has no duty or obligation to perform. But it is a controversial category. Some have argued that the concept of supererogation is paradoxical because on one hand, supererogatory actions are (by definition) supposed to be morally good, indeed morally best, actions. But then if they are morally best, why aren't they morally required, contrary to the assumption that they are morally optional? In short: how can an action that is morally best to perform fail to be what one is morally required to do? The source of this alleged paradox has been dubbed the ‘good-ought tie-up’. In our article, we address this alleged paradox by first making a phenomenological case for the reality of instances of genuine supererogatory actions, and then, by reflecting on the relevant phenomenology, explaining why there is no genuine paradox. Our explanation appeals to the idea that moral reasons can play what we call a merit conferring role. The basic idea is that moral reasons that favor supererogatory actions function to confer merit on the actions they favor—they play a merit conferring role—and can do without also requiring the actions in question. Hence, supererogatory actions can be both good and morally meritorious to perform yet still be morally optional. Recognition of a merit conferring role unties the good-ought tie up, and (as we further argue) there are good reasons, independent of helping to resolve the alleged paradox, for recognizing this sort of role that moral reasons may play.

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T. D. Campbell , “Perfect and Imperfect Obligations,” The Modern Schoolman 52 (1975): 285–94

Douglas W. Portmore , “Are Moral Reasons Morally Overriding?Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (2008): 369–88

Michael Huemer , Ethical Intuitionism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

Uriah Kriegel , “Moral Phenomenology: Foundational Issues,” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 7 (2008): 119

Horgan and Timmons, “Prolegomena to a Future Phenomenology of Morals,” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 7 (2008): 115–31

Horgan and Timmons, “Morphological Rationalism: Making Room for Moral Principles,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (2007): 279–95

Horgan and Timmons, “Moral Phenomenology and Moral Theory,” Philosophical Issues 15 (2005): 5677

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong , “You Ought to Be Ashamed of Yourself (When You Violate an Imperfect Obligation),” Philosophical Issues 15 (2005): 193208

Batson, “How Social an Animal?American Psychologist 45 (1990): 336–46

Gert, “Normative Strength and the Balance of Reasons,” Philosophical Review 116 (2007): 533–62

Joshua Gert , “Reply to Tenenbaum,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (2007): 463–76

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
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