Position‐relative consequentialism, agent‐centered options, and supererogation

Ethics 113 (2):303-332 (2003)
In this paper, I argue that maximizing act-consequentialism (MAC)—the theory that holds that agents ought always to act so as to produce the best available state of affairs—can accommodate both agent-centered options and supererogatory acts. Thus I will show that MAC can accommodate the view that agents often have the moral option of either pursuing their own personal interests or sacrificing those interests for the sake of the impersonal good. And I will show that MAC can accommodate the idea that certain acts are supererogatory in the sense of not being morally required even though they are what the agent has most moral reason to do. These two theses are surprising in themselves, but even more surprising is how I arrive at them. I argue that anyone generally concerned to accommodate, in some coherent fashion, our pre-theoretical moral intuitions at both the normative and meta-ethical levels will have to give a certain account of agent-centered options and supererogatory acts and that this account is the very one that allows for the maximizing act-consequentialist to accommodate both. So my paper will not only be of interest to those concerned with the tenability of consequentialism, but also to anyone interested in giving a coherent account of our pre-theoretical moral intuitions.
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DOI 10.1086/342859
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Douglas W. Portmore (2008). Are Moral Reasons Morally Overriding? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (4):369 - 388.

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