Baron, Marcia, and . A Kantian Take on the Supererogatory

2016, Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (4):347-362

Abstract: This article presents a Kantian alternative to the mainstream approach in ethics concerning the phenomena that are widely thought to require a category of the supererogatory. My view is that the phenomena do not require this category of imperfect duties. Elsewhere I have written on Kant on this topic; here I shift my focus away from interpretive issues and consider the pros and cons of the Kantian approach. What background assumptions would lean one to favour the Kantian approach and what sorts would lean one to favour the mainstream approach? I also consider the possibility that in institutional contexts, there is a need for the category of the supererogatory. Here, it seems, we do need to know what we really have to do and what is beyond the call of duty; in this context, however, duty is not the Kantian moral notion, but rather is pegged to particular roles, or to the needs of the institution or group or club of which one is a member. But even here, I argue, the notion of the supererogatory is not crucial.

Comment: Provocactive paper that challenges the need for a special category of supererogatory actions. Would make a good specialised reading on this topic, or a good further reading for a module addressing Kantian moral theory or moral obligation more generally.

Benn, Claire, and . What is Wrong with Promising to Supererogate

2013, Philosophia 42: 55-61.

Abstract: There has been some debate as to whether or not it is possible to keep a promise, and thus fulfil a duty, to supererogate. In this paper, I argue, in agreement with Jason Kawall, that such promises cannot be kept. However, I disagree with Kawall’s diagnosis of the problem and provide an alternative account. In the first section, I examine the debate between Kawall and David Heyd, who rejects Kawall’s claim that promises to supererogate cannot be kept. I disagree with Heyd’s argument, as it fails to get to the heart of the problem Kawall articulates. Kawall’s argument however fails to make clear the problem with promising to supererogate because his discussion relies on the plausibility of the following claim: that supererogatory actions cannot also fulfil obligations. I argue that this view is mistaken because there are clear examples of supererogatory actions that also fulfil obligations. In the final section, I give my alternative account of the problem, identifying exactly what is wrong with fulfilling a duty, and thus keeping a promise, to supererogate. My diagnosis emphasises the importance of identifying non-supererogatory actions when it comes to understanding the way in which supererogatory actions go above and beyond the call of duty.

Comment: Good further reading on the topic of supererogation.