Defending the Suberogatory

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (1):1-7 (2015)
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Ethicists generally agree that there are supererogatory acts, which are morally good, but not morally obligatory. It is sometimes claimed that, in addition to supererogatory acts, there are suberogatory acts, which are morally bad, but not morally impermissible. According to Julia Driver (1992), the distinction between impermissible acts and suberogatory acts is legitimate and unjustly neglected by ethicists. She argues that certain cases are best explained in terms of the suberogatory. Hallie Rose Liberto (2012) denies the suberogatory on the grounds that Driver's cases can be explained without invoking it. In order to make good on this claim, Liberto suggests an account of moral impermissibility that purportedly eliminates the need to posit suberogatory acts. We defend the suberogatory. Our defense is twofold. First, we argue that Liberto's account of moral impermissibility is dubious. Second, we attempt to show that it is possible to construct an argument against the supererogatory that is exactly analogous to Liberto's argument against the suberogatory. The upshot is that if the suberogatory is denied for the reasons that Liberto suggests, then the supererogatory should be denied as well. Few ethicists, however, are willing to deny the supererogatory.



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Author Profiles

Ian Nance
California State University, Fresno
Philip Atkins
Temple University

References found in this work

A defense of abortion.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 1971 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1):47-66.
Saints and heroes.J. O. Urmson - 1958 - In Abraham Irving Melden (ed.), Essays in moral philosophy. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
The suberogatory.Julia Driver - 1992 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (3):286 – 295.
A right to do wrong.Jeremy Waldron - 1981 - Ethics 92 (1):21-39.

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