International Encyclopedia of Ethics (2013)

Adam Cureton
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
“Supererogation” is now a technical term in philosophy for a range of ideas expressed by terms such as “good but not required,” “beyond the call of duty,” “praiseworthy but not obligatory,” and “good to do but not bad not to do” (see Duty and Obligation; Intrinsic Value). Examples often cited are extremely generous acts of charity, heroic self-sacrifice, extraordinary service to morally worthy causes, and sometimes forgiveness and minor favors. These concepts are familiar in institutional contexts, for example, when teachers give points for “extra credit” work, corporations give “bonuses” for profitable leadership, and armies award medals for extraordinary service and valor. Moral philosophers, however, have generally focused on whether or not some of these terms refer to a fundamental moral category and, if so, how the category should be defined, which acts the category includes, and whether various moral theories adequately acknowledge it. The idea that acts can be good and praiseworthy but beyond duty has seemed puzzling for several reasons. For example, it seems that “good and praiseworthy” appeals to scalar standards of (“more or less”) value and virtue whereas “duty,” “required,” and “obligatory” invoke nonscalar norms that make (“all or nothing”) demands. This raises the theoretical question whether morality presupposes two distinct conceptual schemes, and, if so, to what extent and how these can be unified in a consistent and coherent moral theory.
Keywords Supererogation
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 57,109
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Beyond Professional Duty.Andreas Eriksen - 2015 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 29 (1):85-101.
Self-Regarding Supererogatory Actions.Jason Kawall - 2003 - Journal of Social Philosophy 34 (3):487–498.
Supererogation, Imperfect Duty and the Structure of Moral Action.Jon J. Scott - 1995 - Dissertation, University of Ottawa (Canada)
Supererogation in Clinical Research.Deborah R. Barnbaum - 2008 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 11 (3):343-349.
Forced Supererogation.Shlomo Cohen - 2015 - European Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):1006-1024.
Supererogation and Altruism: A Comment.R. S. Downie - 2002 - Journal of Medical Ethics 28 (2):75-76.
Supererogation, Sacrifice, and the Limits of Duty.Alfred Archer - 2016 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 54 (3):333-354.
The Nature of Supererogation.M. W. Jackson - 1986 - Journal of Value Inquiry 20 (4):289-296.
Beyond Obligation: Reasons and Supererogation.Michael Ferry - 2015 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 77:49-65.
Divine Moral Goodness, Supererogation and The Euthyphro Dilemma.Alfred Archer - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 79 (2):147-160.
Is It Bad to Omit an Act of Supererogation?Gregory Mellema - 1996 - Journal of Philosophical Research 21:405-416.
Disjunctive Duties and Supererogatory Sets of Actions.Matthias Brinkmann - 2015 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 77:67-86.


Added to PP index

Total views
53 ( #188,437 of 2,411,476 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #346,366 of 2,411,476 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes