Moral reasons, overridingness, and supererogation

Abstract
In this paper, I present an argument that poses the following dilemma for moral theorists: either (a) reject at least one of three of our most firmly held moral convictions or (b) reject the view that moral reasons are morally overriding, that is, reject the view that moral reasons override non-moral reasons such that even the weakest moral reason defeats the strongest non-moral reason in determining an act’s moral status (e.g., morally permissible). I then argue that we should opt for the second horn of this dilemma, in part because we should be loath to reject such firmly held moral convictions, but also because doing so allows us to dissolve an apparent paradox regarding supererogation. If I’m right, if non-moral reasons are relevant to determining what is and isn’t morally permissible, then it would seem that moral theorists have their work cut out for them. Not only will they need to determine what the fundamental right-making and wrong-making features of actions are (i.e., what moral reasons there are), but they will also need to determine what non-moral reasons there are and which of these are relevant to determining an act’s deontic status. And moral theorists will have to account for how these two very different sorts of reasons—moral and non-moral reasons—”come together” to determine an act’s deontic status. I will not attempt to do this work here, but rather only to argue that the work needs to be done.
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