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Making room for the going beyond the call.

In the latter half of this century, there have been two mostly separate threads within ethical theory, one on "supererogation", one on "common-sense morality". I bring these threads together by systematically reflecting on doing more than one has to do. A rich and coherent set of concepts at the core of common-sense morality is identified, along with various logical connections between these core concepts. Various issues in common-sense morality emerge naturally, as does a demonstrably productive definition of doing more than one has to do. I then present an interpreted model-theoretic framework with the expressive power to generate truth-conditions for the core concepts, and the explanatory power to predict and explain the independently motivated logical connections between these concepts. The framework also has a certain heuristic power for "discovering" substantive ethical theories that can derivatively generate the model-theoretic framework for the core concepts. Two theories discussed are expansions of traditional theories; two others, each giving pride of place to justice, are devised to resonate with more recent concerns. Methodologically, it is hoped that the approach within might suggest the possibility of bridging another gap: that between formal and informal studies of moral notions.

If the ship is successfully to be rebuilt at sea, it is as well to know the make-up of the unmodified ship in fine detail. --Mark Platts

There are a number of normative statuses presupposed by common sense morality that philosophers have failed to represent in an integrated conceptual framework: the obligatory, the morally optimal, the minimum morality demands, the supererogatory (action beyond the call), the morally optional, the morally indifferent, the morally significant and the permissibly sub-optimal. Indeed, in some cases these concepts have not even been explicitly identified; in others, distinct pairs have been routinely conflated. Consider the traditional framework, which partitions all actions into three mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive classes: those which are obligatory, those which are impermissible and those which are optional (neither obligatory nor impermissible). At best, it can represent exactly two of the eight aforementioned concepts. For from the standpoint of this scheme, the obligatory and the optimal can't be distinguished, yet commonsense allows something optimal to fail to be obligatory. Although the morally optional can be represented, the supererogatory, one of its subclasses, cannot be. Neither can the supererogatory be identified with the morally optimal, for that which is obligatory can be optimal, but never supererogatory. Similarly, the morally indifferent, another subclass of the optional--one obviously disjoint from the supererogatory--can't be represented. Ditto for the morally significant and the permissibly sub-optimal. Finally, the minimum that morality demands, a concept neglected in the literature despite its importance for common sense morality, finds no place in the traditional scheme. Thus, on the face of it, the traditional scheme is radically incomplete.

Meanwhile, since Urmson's (1958) classic, the literature on supererogation abounds with a raging polemic between the friends of supererogation, on the one hand, and the "not so friendly" Kantians, and downright "unfriendly" utilitarians, on the other. With few notable exceptions, the constructive task of devising an alternative conceptual scheme--the kind that would provide a hospitable neighbourhood for supererogation--has taken a back seat to this often unfruitful polemic.(1) Also with few notable exceptions, much of the work on common sense morality has neglected the centrality of the concept of supererogation and the implications that it has always had for such widely discussed issues as permissible suboptimizing, agent-centered prerogatives and the overdemanding nature of utilitarianism.(2) As a result there has been a certain amount of "rediscovery of the wheel"--not to mention an unproductive division of labour between those friendly to common sense morality and those friendly to supererogation.

With this unproductive division of labour in mind, I will provide an informal introduction to a conceptual framework for common sense morality that I have defended elsewhere, one in which all of these concepts are identified, distinguished and systematically integrated.(3) I believe that this framework takes a significant step toward articulating the sort of deontic scheme that supererogation calls for, while at the same time--and not coincidentally--making a contribution to the logic of common sense morality.

A word of caution about my use of the philosopher's term, "supererogation": there is no ordinary use of this term to guide us, and its use among philosophers is hardly uniform (e.g. compare the very different pictures painted in Chisholm 1963 and Heyd 1982). "Action beyond the call of duty" has the advantage of being more stable, as it has a genuine pre-theoretic life. But the occurrence of "duty" is too constrictive. The concept I have in mind might be better expressed simply by "action beyond morality's call", or perhaps more revealingly as "exceeding the minimum that morality demands". In its most colloquial guise, it is often expressed with disarming simplicity as "doing more than you had to". Certainly many philosophers do have this pre-theoretic notion in mind (e.g. Chisholm), but I doubt that what others, e.g. Heyd (1982) and Mellema (1991), have in mind by "supererogation" is equivalent to this pretheoretic notion. This seems to be one of those cases where even asking whether a given author's analysis of "supererogation" is correct or not may already presuppose too much. Nonetheless, having a single term is irresistibly convenient, so I will make free use of "supererogation" throughout to express this more fundamental pre-theoretical notion (cf. McNamara 1990, pp. 339-41).

In [sections]1, I concentrate on motivating the pre-theoretic presence and coherence of the aforementioned concepts of common sense morality, as well as identifying some of their most salient logical relationships to one another. This task is performed by systematically reflecting on the question: "What would constitute a hospitable conceptual neighbourhood for supererogation?" In the process, a definition of supererogation is offered and defended against an anticipated objection. I then go on to illustrate briefly this definition's explanatory power. This constitutes the "data collection". In [sections]2, I turn to an informal sketch of a simple interpreted model-theoretic framework that combines the two most familiar approaches to standard deontic logic, and thereby allows for a specification of truth conditions for all the concepts identified in [sections]1. This framework also predicts all the independently motivated logical connections between the concepts identified [sections]1, and this fact is illustrated for a sample. As an indication of the semantic framework's flexibility and substantive interest, I sketch some ethical theories that are naturally suggested by reflection on the semantic framework, and I show how these theories can themselves derivatively generate particular versions of such a framework.

To maximize accessibility, I will cast things in a way that will provide the greatest continuity with the most familiar and simple approaches to deontic schemes. Although I will treat normative statuses as sentential operators when setting out formulae, in the informal prose I will talk freely about the status of actions. The reader should also assume that on the primary intended interpretation, these operators are implicitly relativized to some arbitrary fixed agent and time. With this in mind, it will be useful to begin at the beginning, with a scheme that has often been thought to rule out the very possibility of supererogation.

1. Motivating the scheme

1.1 The traditional scheme

The five normative statuses expressible in the Traditional Scheme are: the obligatory, the permissible, the impermissible, the gratuitous (the nonobligatory), and the optional. Any one of the first four of these five can be taken as primitive and the remaining statuses can be introduced definitionally, as the following illustrates:

[[PEp=.sub.d.sub.f][??]OB[??]p GRp=.sub.d.sub.f][??]OBp

[[IMp=.sub.d.sub.f]OB[??]p OPp=.sub.d.sub.f][??]OBp & [??]OB[??]p.

Call this "The Traditional Definitional Scheme (TDS)", but note my choice of "optional" for the last defined operator.

Aside from the soundness of TDS, it is traditionally assumed that the Aristotelian Square has an exact analogue, "The Deontic Square of Opposition (DS)":


Furthermore, it is also part of the traditional view that the obligatory, the impermissible and the optional, are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. Let's call this partition "The Traditional Threefold Classification (TTC)":


It can be shown that DS and TTC, when reduced to primitive notation via TDS, are tautologically equivalent to the familiar No Conflicts principle:

NC:[??](OBp & OB[??]p).(4)

So NC is the fundamental assumption of the Traditional Scheme.(5) Although the presence or absence of this principle represents perhaps the most fundamental division among deontic schemes, it is routinely presupposed in classical discussions of supererogation. I will simply assume for the purposes of this paper that we are dealing with concepts of overriding requirement and such--for which no conflict principles are plainly sound.(6)

I will also presuppose the two remaining principles of "Standard Deontic Logic" (SDL): the Rule of Necessitation for OB, that if p is a logical truth, so is OBp, and Principle K for OB, that if a conditional and its antecedent are both obligatory, then so is its consequent. (I will assume throughout that we have all the inferential power of classical truth-functional logic.) Necessitation and K are also controversial principles, but including them is convenient and it will facilitate comparison with the most familiar deontic system.(7) My interest lies in the concepts that have been neglected (or misidentified), not in fine points regarding those that have been in focus.

1.2 Supererogation, moral indifference, significance and optionality

An infant is trapped in a burning building. The fire has reached a very dangerous stage, sections of the building are in flames, thick black smoke is pouring out of the entrance, etc. A mailwoman passes by. Seeing the neighbours restraining the frantic parents and more fortunate children, she quickly sizes up the situation and rightly concludes that there is a real, though very risky, chance of rescuing the child. Charging into the building and making her way to the top floor, she finds the infant still alive. On the verge of passing out, and severely burned, she drops the child from one of the shattered windows to safety below (cf. Feldman 1978, p. 48).

Our mailwoman's action is a classic candidate for supererogation. We can easily imagine the fire to be such that we would not consider any non-firefighters to have been obligated to go in. Yet we can also imagine that, although her action was very risky, it was not irresponsibly foolhardy. For example, we might add that our mailwoman is single, she is physically fit, unlike the parents, and so forth. So we can assume that her action was permissible, but not obligatory. This is not a coincidence, as "The Optionality of Supererogation" is clearly part of the classical conception of supererogation:

OS: SUp [right arrow] OPp.(8)

However, despite its optionality, the mailwoman's action was hardly a matter of moral indifference. "The Non-Indifference of Supererogation" is also part of the classical conception:

NIS: SUp [right arrow] [??]INp.

Together, these yield "The Optional Non-Indifference of Supererogation":

ONIS: SUp [right arrow] (OPp & [??]INp).

So granting that supererogation forces us to distinguish moral indifference from moral optionality, just what is moral indifference? Although the mailwoman's optional rescue was not a matter of indifference, that she wore black socks that day was. Why? Because unlike her rescue, nothing of moral weight that she was permitted to do on that day hinged on her wearing or not wearing black socks. Morality shrugs at what is indifferent. But as supererogation makes clear, morality needn't shrug at what is optional. Let me also note in passing that our mailwoman's wearing black socks was a matter of moral indifference if and only if it was not a matter of moral significance:


Of course, it was also morally optional that she wore her black socks. We must endorse "The Optionality of Indifference":

OI: INp [right arrow] OPp

But as we've seen, we can't take the converse to be true. So the friends of supererogation are committed to the general principle of "Optionality With a Difference":

OWD: "OPp & [??]INp" is satisfiable.

As we shall see in a moment, Urmson took this to be the broader significance of supererogation for deontic schemes. But first a bit more about indifference, significance and supererogation.

"The Indifference of Indifference to Negation", that the performance of an action is a matter of indifference if and only if its nonperformance is as well, is also clearly part of the logic of moral indifference:

IIN: INp [equivalence] IN[??]p.(9)

Similarly, for "The Indifference of Optionality to Negation":

ION: OPp [equivalence] OP[??]p.

A rather subtle principle links indifference and obligation, "Mares Principle" (after Ed Mares):

MPR: [OB(p [right arrow] q) & OB(q [right arrow] r) & INp & INr] [right arrow] INq.

Although this is a classic case of a principle that is more easily motivated by way of an independently motivated semantics, I here offer an example to help reveal its plausibility directly. Suppose that in return for numerous favors, I have promised to take you for a driving lesson sometime in the next few weeks and that to do so, I must arrange to borrow the family car (something I must not do too often). Then it is easy to imagine that I am obligated to act in such a way that: if I arrange to have the family car for next Friday (p), then I make the appointment to take you for a driving lesson next Friday (q); and if I make the appointment to take you for a driving lesson next Friday (q), then I show up at your place with the car next Friday (r). Suppose also that arranging to have the car for next Friday (p) and showing up with it at your place that day (r) are both (as of now) matters of indifference. Then it must also (as of now) be a matter of indifference whether I make the appointment with you for next Friday (q) or not. For if the antecedent conditions hold, then nothing can hinge on whether I make the appointment with you for that particular day or don't. MPR is not deducible from the simple and obvious principles governing the operators herein. So it is an important, and previously unnoted, principle. (It is the only non-transparent axiom in Mares and McNamara 1995.)

It is also plausible to think that supererogation satisfies an analogue to the No Conflicts principle for obligation, call it "No Supererogatory Conflicts":

NSC: [??](SUp & SU[??]p)

For suppose that seeing to p is supererogatory for you. Then seeing to p while doing only permissible things must rule out doing merely the minimum that morality requires. But then presumably there will be permissible ways of not seeing to p that don't involve doing more than the minimum. So assuming that you do nothing but permissible things, not seeing to p cannot guarantee that you do better than you had to do, and hence not seeing to p can't be supererogatory. I now turn to a scheme that has been routinely confused with the Traditional Scheme.

1.3 The strong threefold classification, moral rigour and Urmson's Constraint

Most ethicists and deontic logicians have routinely and unreflectively endorsed "Moral Rigour":

MR: OPp [equivalence] INp

For "the morally indifferent" is typically defined as the deontic analogue of contingency: as whatever is neither obligatory to do nor obligatory to skip. As we've seen, this is a mistake. And this mistake leads to other mistakes. For once the conflation of optionality with indifference occurs it is but a short step on the traditional framework to conflating the Traditional Threefold Classification with its near twin, the "Strong Threefold Classification (STC)":


Although the Traditional Threefold Classification is relatively innocuous, STC is anything but. For consider the crucial component of STC, "Strong Exhaustion":

SEXH: OBp [disjunction] INp [disjunction] IMp. SEXH asserts that morality rules with an "iron fist" on all morally significant actions. For it implies that if an action is not a matter of moral indifference, then morality will either demand that it be done or demand that it not be done.

SEXH in turn breeds another mistake. "The threefold scheme must go!" has often been the battle cry of the friends of supererogation in the polemical literature. Plainly, the Strong Classification precludes the possibility of supererogation by ONIS(10). So ONIS is used to place the onus on those who support The Strong Classification. However, as an argument against the Traditional Classification, this is a non sequitur. Despite all claims to the contrary, moral indifference can't even be represented in the Traditional Scheme. So when supererogationists rally behind "the threefold scheme must go", they should be referring exclusively to the Strong Classification. The distinction between the two strikingly similar classifications is not always respected. Numerous ethicists and deontic logicians are guilty of confusing the Traditional Classification with the Strong Classification in virtue of conflating moral indifference with moral optionality.(11) Then the friends of supererogation, unwittingly inheriting (and propagating) these mistakes, join in on behalf of their already de facto marginalized friend, and cry out against institutionalizing the termination of their friend's right even to a hearing. Ironically, the core conflation of indifference with optionality occurs in the opening paragraph of Urmson's own classic on supererogation--even as he himself was achieving escape velocity from it. But his intention is made clear.(12) Any ethical theory that entails the Strong Threefold Classification (or Moral Rigour) is inconsistent with the possibility of supererogation. So we can take Urmson's (General) Constraint on deontic schemes to be:

UC: INp [right arrow] OPp; OPp [??] INp.

1.4 Interlude

The heart of our reflections so far can be summarized by way of two diagrams. First of all, we have the "Deontic Dodecagon": which is our analogue to the Traditional Deontic Square:


Secondly, with our additional resources for distinguishing among optional actions, we can now say that every action is either obligatory, impermissible, indifferent, a supererogatory omission, a supererogatory commission, or a non-indifferent optional action that is neither a supererogatory commission nor omission. (I will return to the motivation for the latter category in the next section.) This yields the "Sixfold Partition (SP), our analogue to the Traditional Threefold Classification:


I will now suggest various expansions of the scheme developed so far, beginning with a pervasively overlooked notion that is pivotal to a logic for supererogation and common sense morality.

1.5 Doing the minimum

If a given action is supererogatory for me, it must be optional but not indifferent, but we saw that this cannot exhaust its features. If an action is supererogatory then in performing it "I do more than morality demands of me". But just what does this mean? At first glance it sounds as if there are some things that morality demands and some things that it does not demand and supererogation amounts to doing more than merely those things that morality does demand. But this is clearly wrong. I am obligated to make dinner tonight. But I can't fulfill that obligation without making some particular dinner, even though there is no particular dinner that I am obligated to make. As Chisholm (1963) and Stocker (1967) have pointed out, it is virtually impossible to do what you are required to do--what morality demands that you do--without also doing those things in particular ways, ways that are not themselves required. So on this analysis, it would be virtually impossible not to supererogate. Only in Hollywood is it that easy to be a "hero".

Consider a better picture. Suppose that in virtue of promising to get in touch with you, I become obligated to do so. Suppose also that I can fulfill this obligation in two ways: by writing you a letter or by stopping by on the way to the store. (Imagine that you're an eccentric who hates phones.) Add that my other obligations make me too busy permissibly to do both. Finally suppose that, morally speaking, I put in a better performance if I pay you a visit rather than write you, even though either one is permissible. Then if I do the minimum morality demands, I will write rather than visit. This is the pivotal notion here. The important thing to note is that what is necessitated by meeting morality's demands in a minimally acceptable way is not to be confused with doing what I am obligated to do--with doing what morality demands of me. For morality demands only that I contact you and that I don't both write and visit, whereas doing the minimum that morality demands includes these plus writing you. Despite its conspicuous absence in the literature, some such notion is vital to the concept of supererogation. For if it is possible for me to discharge my obligations in a supererogatory way (in a better than minimal way), then it ought to be possible for me merely to discharge them in a minimal way--and vice versa.

Let me introduce a new operator, MI, to be read as "doing the minimum involves acting in such a way that" or "meeting morality's demands minimally involves acting in such a way that". Intuitively, doing the minimum "involves" acting in such a way that p just in case the agent is unable to do the minimum unless p occurs, just in case satisfying morality's demands minimally guarantees p. The following picture emerges. I have a set of obligations. There are various ways in which I can fulfill these obligations collectively. Some of the ways in which I can fulfill these obligations are morally superior to others, and some are on a par. Pairs on a par will involve differences among one another that don't matter morally speaking. For example, two ways of fulfilling my obligations might be on a par and yet differ in whether I pay a debt by cash or check, and/or in whether I send a note written in blue ink or black ink, and so forth. Now consider those ways of fulfilling my obligations that all other such ways are superior to. Although there may be many distinct minimal ways of fulfilling my obligations, nonetheless, there will be certain things that take place in all of them. These constant elements among the minimal ways of satisfying my obligations are precisely the things that are "involved in meeting morality's demands minimally". The elements that distinguish one minimal obligation-satisfying scenario from another are thus not involved in doing the minimum per se, as they are only involved in doing the minimum in some particular ways, but not in others. In our contact example, doing the minimum involves discharging my obligation to contact you by writing you, but it does not involve writing you on departmental stationary, in black ink, beginning two inches from the top of the page. Just as I can't do what I am obligated to do without doing those things in some particular ways that are not obligatory, I cannot do what is necessitated by meeting morality's demands minimally without doing those things in some particular ways that are not themselves necessitated by doing the minimum. So what is involved in doing the minimum per se will be a proper subset of the set of particular things I end up doing if I do the minimum. Let me turn now to a brief exploration of the logic of this operator.

First of all, if doing the minimum involves acting so that p, then p is permissible. For if all minimal ways in which you can discharge your obligations result in p, then acting so that p must be compatible with discharging all of your obligations, and so it must be permissible. Also, whatever is obligatory is involved in doing the minimum: you can't discharge your obligations minimally unless you discharge them. But as we saw above, the converse principle does not hold. Doing the minimum may (and typically does) involve things that are not obligatory: it may involve my writing you rather than visiting, even though visiting instead of writing might be better, and either option would fulfil my obligation to contact you. Hence doing the minimum will often involve things that are optional. However, nothing the minimum involves can be a matter of indifference. For, roughly, suppose that doing the minimum involves acting so that p. Then p would be indifferent only if[??]p were also indifferent--by the Indifference of Indifference to Negation. If you can do the minimum only if p occurs, then acting so that[??]p rules out your doing the minimum. But that you do not do the minimum, whether by doing less or by doing more, is hardly a matter of indifference. If you do less, you do something impermissible, and if you do better than the minimum, you do something supererogatory. Finally, if you can do the minimum only if p, then it is not the case that you can do the minimum only if[??]p.(13) So we have:

MIp [right arrow] PEp

OBp [right arrow] MIp (but not MIp [right arrow] OBp)

MIp [right arrow] [??]INp

[??](MIp & MI[??]p)

Although I am primarily interested here in identifying logical links between distinct operators, I think that in addition to the No Conflicts Principle just noted, MI also satisfies the two remaining deontic principles of SDL, Necessitation and Principle K:

If p is a logical truth, so is MIp.

MI(p [right arrow] q) [right arrow] (MIp [right arrow] MIq) If I have some obligations (which follows from Necessitation for OB), then discharging my obligations in a minimal way must trivially involve acting in such a way that it is either raining or not; and if discharging my obligations minimally involves writing conditional on promising to contact you, as well as involving promising to contact you, then it must also involve writing. I will refer to MI's satisfying the axioms and rules of SDL as "SDL for MI".

There can be optional non-indifferent acts that are neither supererogatory commissions nor omissions. This hinges on the fact that something can be a matter of indifference from the standpoint of doing the minimum (i.e. [??]MIp & [??]MI[??]p holds) without it being morally indifferent without qualification. Suppose that I am obligated either to drop you off at the airport or to pick you up at the airport on your return, but I am not obligated to do both--though doing so is permissible, in fact supererogatory. Add that the two options are on a par. Then doing the minimum involves doing just one of the two, but neither one in particular. Let's focus on dropping you off. Doing so is optional, but it is neither supererogatory to do nor supererogatory to skip, since I can do either while doing only the minimum. But dropping you off is not a matter of indifference since dropping you off is an essential component of doing better than the minimum: both dropping you off and picking you up.(14) Let me now turn briefly to an obvious mirror image of this minimality operator.

1.6 Doing the maximum

If morality permits you to do the minimum, as supererogation appears to require, then morality presumably also permits you to do more than the minimum. Indeed, when there are optimal courses open to you, morality will recommend optimizing. Returning to the previous example, morality will certainly allow me to visit you instead of writing you; if I do (while doing nothing that is impermissible), I will meet morality's demand to write or visit (but not both) optimally.

Let "MA" be read as "doing the maximum (what is optimal) involves acting in such a way that". Since MI and MA appear to be mirror images of one another, MA should also satisfy the axioms and rules of SDL. Indeed, all the principles cited above for MI can be informally motivated in precisely analogous ways for MA. (We will return to MA shortly.)

Before swinging back to supererogation, let me state another fundamental property of moral indifference, "Indifference Exclusion":

IE: INp [right arrow] ([??]OBp & [??]MIp & [??]MAp & [??]OB[??]p & [??]MI[??]p & [??]MA[??]p).

This is also a consequence of the foregoing.

1.7 Supererogation revisited

With our minimality concept in hand, I think we can define supererogation in our framework--or at least come very close to doing so. Consider the following characterization of a state of affairs: there is a permissible way you can bring it about and the only permissible ways you can bring it about are ones where your performance is superior to any performance you might have put in while doing the minimum. On the face of it, this sounds like supererogation, and it suggests the following analysis:

SUp [=.sub.d.sub.f] PEp & MI[??]p

First, as we've already seen, whatever is supererogatory must be permissible. But it must also be excluded by discharging your obligations in a minimal way--else you could see to p while doing no more than the minimum. Hence whatever is supererogatory must be permissible and its nonperformance must be involved in doing the minimum. So the proposed definiens appears to be necessary. Now consider the question of its sufficiency. Suppose that p is permissible and that doing the minimum involves acting so that [??]p. Then there is a morally acceptable performance that you can put in that includes seeing to p and that is precluded by your doing the minimum. But then the only way you can permissibly see to p is if you put in a performance that is superior to any performance you can put in while doing the minimum. So the definiens appears to be sufficient also. Thus the minimality operator appears to be an indispensable resident of supererogation's neighbourhood.(15)

"PEp & [??]MIp" would not do as an alternative defining condition. To say that it is not the case that doing the minimum involves p does not rule out the possibility that p is perfectly compatible with doing the minimum; all it rules out is that p is essential to doing the minimum. For example, it may be that doing the minimum involves calling you (where I could also do better by stopping by for a surprise visit instead), but doing the minimum need not involve calling you on the bedroom phone (as opposed to the kitchen phone). Nonetheless, doing the minimum in this case could be perfectly compatible with calling you on the bedroom phone. Suppose it is. Then calling you on the bedroom phone is permissible, and it is not involved in (i.e. necessitated by) doing the minimum; but it shouldn't turn out that in doing the minimum by calling you on the bedroom phone, I thereby supererogate. So "[??]MIp" is too weak. To say that something is supererogatory rules out the possibility that the thing in question is compatible with doing the bare minimum. This is just what "MI[??]p" in our definition accomplishes, since it tells us that all (not just some) minimal ways of satisfying your obligations exclude p.

Let me briefly address a possible objection to the sufficiency of our definiens--one to the effect that it makes the supererogation operator susceptible to an analogue of "Ross's Paradox".(16) Recall the earlier example of the child rescued by the mailwoman from the fire. We said that it was supererogatory that she saves the child. With no disruption to that case, we can add that it is also impermissible for her to fan the flames till the building drops. Then, since we are operating in the standard framework, where the consequences of permissible things are themselves permissible, it will be permissible for her to see to it that either she saves the child or she fans the flames. Furthermore, the negation of this disjunction will be involved in doing the minimum. For we may suppose that if she does the minimum, she runs down the block, pulls the fire alarm and directs the fire personnel to the fire, and that doing these things precludes the first disjunct: her rescuing the child. But also, since it is impermissible to fan the flames, doing the minimum will preclude this second disjunct automatically. But then the disjunction itself will be precluded by doing the minimum. Thus it will be supererogatory on this analysis for her to see to it that she either rescues the child or fans the flames. Similarly, given that doing the minimum involves running down the block, etc., and that not doing so is permissible (she can rescue the child instead), it will be supererogatory that she does not run down the block, etc. (For simplicity's sake, imagine that pulling the alarm and rescuing the infant are her only significant permissible options.) So both this negative state of affairs and the prior disjunctive state of affairs are supererogatory on the proposed analysis. This invites protest: "But she can see to those things by fanning the flames! How could they be supererogatory?"

It would take us too far afield to address this objection in detail, so I will confine myself to some brief remarks. First of all, as noted, these cases are very reminiscent of Ross's Paradox for obligation. Since many (perhaps most) still defend analyses of obligation that are susceptible to this sort of objection (Aqvist 1984), endorsing the above analysis of supererogation would seem to place us in good company. And indeed, I have argued elsewhere that the standard replies to Ross's Paradox for obligation are accessible here as well, so that to the extent that these replies are plausible in the case of obligation, so is the proposed analysis. Here is a sample: just as we can see to all sorts of obligatory things in impermissible ways without those ways being obligatory, we can see to all sorts of supererogatory things in impermissible ways without those impermissible ways being supererogatory. In principle we can appeal to the intuitive distinction between what is derivatively and nonderivatively supererogatory, just as is done for what is obligatory in responding to Ross's Paradox. In the context of the case described, if we were to say, "it was supererogatory for the mailwoman not to opt for running down the block, pulling the alarm, etc.", this would seem right; and so forth.(17) Secondly, we could take the unheroic way out and retreat from the proposed analysis by reading the definiendum more cautiously as "It is supererogatory to permissibly see to it that p" (to see to p while doing only permissible things). For in the envisioned case, it is supererogatory to permissibly see to the negated state of affairs, and it is supererogatory to permissibly see to the disjunctive state of affairs. For to permissibly see to either of these is to rescue the child, which we are assuming is uncontroversially supererogatory here. So the reader who is disturbed by the Ross-like results of our proposed analysis can just read the operator as suggested--and a scheme with an operator (read as suggested), along with the other operators identified, is surely not without interest. Finally, as the Ross-like paradoxes for obligation carry over not only to what is supererogatory on the proposed analysis, but also to what the minimum involves and what the maximum involves, it is arguable that the result in the case of supererogation is an artifact of common features of the standard approaches to deontic operators. I am unaware of any way to block the Ross-like paradoxes for supererogation (or the other operators, including that for obligation) without deviating from the standard framework--something contrary to the limited purposes of this paper, one of which is to show just how much of an increase in expressive power is to be gleaned by simply combining the two most familiar semantic approaches to standard deontic logic. So in this respect, the current work (like almost all our work) can be viewed as a finger pointing.

The following three rules of inference, "the Contingency of the Supererogatory", "the Replacement of Provable Equivalents for Supererogation", and a principle to the effect that the permissible implicators of the supererogatory are supererogatory, are intuitively plausible:

If p is noncontingent then [??]SUp is a logical truth.

If p and q are logically equivalent, so are SUp and SUq.

If p logically implies q then if PEp and SUq then SUp.

So we will have such logical truths as: [??]SU(p [disjunction] [??]p), [??]SU(p & [??]p), SUp [equivalence] SU[??][??]p, and (PE(p & q) & SUq) [right arrow] SU(p & q). To illustrate the latter, if it is permissible to both mumble "Feet don't fail me now!" and rescue the infant, where the rescue itself is supererogatory, then it is supererogatory to see to both.

Let's take a glimpse at the productivity of our analysis of supererogation. First, consider the last inference rule. Suppose that q is a logical consequence of p, and that PEp and SUq. By definition, since SUq, it follows that MI[??]q. But since q is a consequence of p, it follows that MI[??]p (from SDL for MI), and then by definition again, we get SUp. Similarly, consider the previously motivated impossibility of supererogatory conflicts. Given our definition, (SUp & SU[??]p) entails (MI[??]p & MI[??][??]p), but the latter is precluded by SDL for MI.

The optional non-indifference of supererogation, SUp [right arrow] (OPp & [??]INp), is also now derivable. First, consider SUp [right arrow] OPp. By definition, SUp [right arrow] (PEp & MI[??]p), but (MI[??]p [right arrow] PE[??]p). So SUp [right arrow] (PEp & PE[??]p). Secondly, since by definition, SUp [right arrow] MI[??]p, and MI[??]p [right arrow] [??]IN[??]p (by IE), we get SUp [right arrow] [??]IN[??]p. But then by IIN, we get SUp [right arrow] [??]INp. The fact that these principles for supererogation are all derivable solely from the positive principles cited for obligation, indifference and minimality, reflects the explanatory power of the analysis.

There are various peculiarities of the operation of supererogation under disjunction and conjunction. I will simply list a few implications and non-implications.

1. SU(p & q) [??] SUp

2. SU(p & q) [??] SU(p [disjunction] q)

3. (SUp & SUq) [??] SU(p & q)

4. (SUp & SUq) & PE(p & q) .[right arrow]. SU(p & q)

5. If p is a logical truth, so is SUq [right arrow] SU(p & q)

6. SUp [??] SU(p [disjunction] q)(18)

7. (SUp [disjunction] SUq) [??] SU(p [disjunction] q)

Here are some quick intuitive illustrations. For (1), it may be supererogatory to both feed your children and give 10% of your earnings to charity without it being supererogatory to feed your children. Similarly, for (2). For (3), it may be supererogatory to give 10% of your earnings to charity 1 and supererogatory to do so for charity 2, but forbidden to do both, as you must feed your children first. However, for (4), if it is permissible to give to both charities and it is supererogatory to give to each, then it is supererogatory to give to both. For (5), if it is supererogatory to give to charity then it is supererogatory to see to it that you both give to charity and either have ice cream or don't. For (6), it may be supererogatory to give to charity without it being supererogatory to see to it that either you treat yourself to ice cream or give to charity. For (7), it may be that either it is supererogatory to give to charity or supererogatory to have ice cream without it being supererogatory to see to it that either you give to charity or have ice cream.

1.8 Supererogation and permissible suboptimizing

Many philosophers have characterized supererogation in such a way that they at least suggest that it entails optimizing.(19) But it is a mistake to do so. Consider two variations of our earlier rescue scenario. First of all, what if there is now a second potential rescuer, and if the mailwoman didn't go in, he would--where the resulting outcomes would be in parity? In such a case, our mailwoman has optimal alternatives where she goes in and optimal alternatives where she doesn't. So going in is not required in order to optimize. (Indeed, even a utilitarian would have to deem her rescue optional!) Now suppose she places her hand on the man's shoulder, says "I'll go", and does. As a result, he stays behind. Her sacrifice was still surely supererogatory.(20) Now consider a less special and more revealing case. Instead of two rescuers, there are now two potential rescuees, Tiny Tim and Tiny Tara. Assume that although our mailwoman could in fact rescue both, no rescue on her part is required (though rescuing either one or both is permissible). Now suppose she rescues only one, say Tiny Tim. Then she still supererogated. For she did something better than she could have done while doing the minimum (which would have taken her down the block to the fire alarm). Still, she would not yet have conducted herself optimally. To do that, she would have to go back in again and rescue Tiny Tara as well.(21)

We should expect that we can sometimes meet morality's demands in a variety of acceptable, yet better and better ways.(22) There is nothing intuitive in the supposition that we can only do it in one of two ways: the minimal and maximal ones. (We have already seen the need for a permissible minimum.) So one can supererogate while still falling short of an optimal performance. On the other hand, since all obligatory acts are involved in doing what is optimal, the fact that something is involved in doing the maximum doesn't rule out the possibility that it is obligatory and hence not supererogatory. So we have two negative results:

SUp [??] MAp

MAp [??] SUp

However, a positive connection is derivable. If satisfying morality's demands optimally involves p and satisfying them minimally involves [??]p, then p must be supererogatory:

(MAp & MI[??]p) [right arrow] SUp.

Permissible suboptimizing, a notion whose presence is perhaps as conspicuous in much of the literature on common sense morality as is the absence of the notion of supererogation, is easily defined. Something will be permissibly suboptimal just in case it is permissible and precluded by doing the maximum:

PSp [=.sub.d.sub.f] PEp & MA[??]p.

That this simply falls out of our framework for supererogation should really come as no surprise, for the permissibly suboptimal is essentially the mirror image of the supererogatory (cf. "the permissibly super-minimal").(23) As indicated in the last example involving Tiny Tim and Tiny Tara, one can supererogate while nonetheless permissibly suboptimizing:

SUp [??] [??]PSp.

Before moving on, let me bring your attention to the two geometric diagrams in the Appendix: "The Deontic Octodecagon" (Parts I & II), and "The Twelve-Fold Partition". These are the respective analogues of the Deontic Square and the Traditional Threefold Classification. With these diagrams, the increased complexity and richness of the proposed framework is obvious at a glance.

2. Semantic and substantive underpinnings

2.9 Sketch of the semantic underpinning

I would like to give a quick and dirty sketch of a simple interpreted model-theoretic underpinning for this conceptual scheme. We need only a few familiar concepts blended in an unfamiliar way.(24) As is standard practice, I will continue to suppress reference to a fixed time and agent of evaluation. Each model will contain a set of worlds and a two-place relation, here called "acceptability", with the intended interpretation in mind. From the standpoint of a given world, some worlds will be morally acceptable alternatives and others will not be. As in the most familiar frameworks, seriality holds: each world has acceptable alternatives. (This sanctions No Conflicts for OB.) Furthermore, for each world, say "homey", we impose a connected weak ordering on that world's acceptable alternatives. That is, each such world-relative ordering relation is transitive, reflexive and connected (cf. at least as tall as confined to people).(25) Thus homey's acceptable worlds need not all be on a par morally speaking. Some may be morally preferable to others (and some pairs may be tied).


That's it for the underlying structures.(26)

The five fundamental statuses do not depend on the ordering at all. For them, the ranked set of homey's acceptable alternatives might just as well be homogeneous. Something is obligatory for homey if it holds in all homey's acceptable alternatives, permissible if it holds in some, impermissible if it holds in none and gratuitous if it fails to hold in some. Finally, something is optional for homey if it holds in one of homey's acceptables and fails to hold in some other.






For the remaining operators, the ordering concept is crucial. Something is involved in doing the minimum (for homey) if it holds in all the lowest ranked acceptable alternatives; whereas something is involved in doing the maximum (optimum) if it holds in all the highest ranked acceptable alternatives. Thus, as expected, the minimum and the maximum are tied to the respective poles of the ranked acceptable alternatives and are thus mirror images of one another. Given our definition of supererogation as an act that's is permissible but precluded by doing the minimum, something will be supererogatory if it holds in some acceptable alternative, but fails to hold in any of the lowest ranked acceptable alternatives. Similarly, something will be permissibly suboptimal if it holds in some acceptable alternative, but fails to hold in any of the highest ranked acceptable alternatives. Finally, we come to moral indifference and moral significance. Since we are allowing ties for homey's ranked acceptable alternatives, they can be divided into various "levels"--the subsets of the acceptable alternatives whose members are of equal rank. Something will then be a matter of moral indifference if at every such level its performance and its nonperformance occurs somewhere therein. Conversely, something will be morally significant if there is some level that uniformly includes it or uniformly excludes it.







Let's now see what sort of confirmation we can provide for the framework.

2.10 Semantic prediction of the logic--some illustrations

This interpreted model-theoretic framework has the explanatory power to ratify all of the implications and non-implications cited previously. Here I give a quick sample. Since whatever occurs invariably throughout homey's acceptables must also occur invariably at each of the poles, whatever is obligatory is involved in doing the minimum and in doing the maximum:


In contrast, the converse implication fails. Even if something holds at one, or both, of the poles, it may still fail to hold somewhere between the poles. Yet clearly, if something does nonvacuously occur throughout either one of the poles, then it thereby occurs in some acceptable alternative. So whatever is involved in either the minimum or the maximum will be permissible.



Urmson's Constraint is also met. If at every level of the acceptable alternatives something both occurs somewhere within and fails to occur somewhere within that same level, then, trivially, there must be at least one acceptable alternative where it occurs and one where it doesn't. So indifference implies optionality. On the other hand, all it takes for something to be optional is for there to be one acceptable alternative where it holds and one where it doesn't. But this is clearly compatible with there being any number of levels where it (or its negation) holds throughout. So optionality does not entail indifference--no Moral Rigour here.



Furthermore, supererogation plainly implies optional non-indifference. For if something is supererogatory, its occurrence in some acceptable alternative guarantees that it is permissible and its nonvacuous uniform nonoccurrence at the minimal level guarantees that non-performance is also permissible while not being a matter of indifference. Finally, it will not follow that whatever is supererogatory is involved in doing the maximum. For it may be that at the lower level of your acceptable alternatives you rescue neither Tiny Tim nor Tiny Tara, at "the middle" levels, you rescue just one, and at the upper level you rescue both throughout. In the latter two cases, you have still supererogated.



And so forth. A useful exercise is to verify Mare's Principle and IE.

2.11 Ethical theories and our semantic framework

I believe that any adequate framework for common sense morality will provide the resources to generate model structures with ranked acceptable alternatives. Of course, in such a framework, the set of acceptable alternatives and the ranking thereof might themselves be derivative. Although this point deserves more thorough treatment, let me make a few suggestive remarks. First consider a stiff deontological theory, such as a divine command theory. An available alternative course might be deemed acceptable here just in case my performance in it is consistent with all of God's commands. (Assume His commands must be consistent with some future course available to me.) This will generate familiar results for the five fundamental statuses. But we get a considerably enriched theory, what I call "A Divine Foundation Theory", if we now add a ranking of all my available alternatives (acceptable or otherwise) according to God's preferences, rather than his commands.(27) We can then derivatively rank the set of acceptable alternatives according to their ordering with respect to His preferences. All our deontic operators are now representable and the result is a considerable enrichment of traditional divine command theory--one that is more suitably in tune with dominant strains in Christian theology, where the notion of supererogation is salient even, pivotal.

Similarly, consider rule utilitarianism. Here, an available alternative will be acceptable for me just in case I violate no correct rule in it (where "correct rule" is to be spelled out in some rule utilitarian way). But we can also rank all my available alternatives directly according to the extent to which they promote the general welfare, and then "tease out" a derivative ordering of the acceptable alternatives according to their ranking with respect to welfare promotion. As we should expect, some unacceptable alternatives may have a higher welfare-promotion ranking than others that are acceptable (cf. McNamara 1990, Ch. 4). Or, if a less hybrid rule-utilitarian theory is wanted, conceive of an enriched ideal code utilitarianism that ranks moral codes, construed as pairs consisting of a set of mandatory rules (e.g. rules which, following Mill, are to have violation sanctions of some sort attached to them) and a set of non-mandatory ideals (e.g. ideal role models or values that are to be merely recommended or encouraged).(28) These binary codes might be ranked according to the extent to which their widespread promotion and subscription will maximize utility. Such a theory will breed both a set of acceptable alternatives and a ranking on them according to the extent to which I live up to the ideals in them. (The previous hybrid theory can really be construed as a special case, where the only ideal in the best code might be "one who maximizes utility when consistent with the mandatory rules is morally exemplary".) Although these are no more than impressionistic sketches, they do suggest the possibility of significant enrichments of rule utilitarian schemes, enrichments that buttress a considerably larger array of normative statuses.

But we can go even further. We might generate the acceptable alternatives themselves by way of a direct ordering of alternatives. For even the two theories just discussed could first rank my available alternatives according to the extent to which I obey God's commands or according to the extent to which I obey the correct utilitarian rules, respectively. The acceptable worlds could then be selected from this first ranking of alternatives according to whether or not they were maximal with respect to obedience to God's commands or to the correct rules. We could them proceed from there as indicated above in terms of what would now be a second ordering of my alternatives ranked according to God's preferences, the social welfare or proximity to the ideals.(29)

This point is general. Suppose we have two orderings of the available worlds, say O1 and O2. A world might be deemed acceptable just in case it is top-ranked relative to O1. We could then take the acceptables so construed and give them the comparative ordering they have relative to O2, thereby generating the ordered acceptables.(30) Abstractly:


As a further illustration, consider a non-utilitarian act consequentialist theory. The first ordering might represent my available worlds ranked according to the extent to which justice fares in them. The best of these would be identified with the acceptable worlds. (This ranking could be impersonal since it could itself derive from a singular justice ordering of all the worlds, the derivation stemming from restriction to just the worlds available to a given agent.) Our second ordering might represent all the worlds ordered according to how humans (or animals) fare collectively in them. We could then use this second welfare ordering to generate the ordering of the acceptables: the best available justice-promoting worlds reordered according to the extent to which the general welfare is promoted.

In contrast, we can get a related non-consequentialist underpinning that differs from the first in that the worlds are not impersonally ranked according to the extent to which justice and welfare (respectively) are promoted, but according to the extent to which justice and beneficence (respectively) are honored by me (cf. Pettit 1991). This would constitute an agent-relative ordering in both cases, since the worlds are not abstractly ranked according to how much justice or welfare there is, but according to how just or beneficent my performance is in those worlds available to me (cf. McNamara 1990, Ch. 4). Maximizing just outcomes may call for quite unjust behavior on my part to purchase counterbalancing increases in justice elsewhere, whereas maximizing the extent to which I honor justice--the extent to which I comport myself justly--may not countenance injustice for justice sake. Similarly for promoting welfare versus honoring the associated virtue: beneficence. We thereby generate the ranked acceptables in an agent-relative way as those worlds in which the homage I pay to justice is maximal, ranked according to the extent to which I honor beneficence in them.

Such theories will have expressive and discriminatory powers beyond those touched on herein. For instance, with two such independent orderings, we could define a still stronger notion of indifference: an act would be indifferent if both its performance and its non-performance occurred within every level of my available worlds in both orderings. Or consider the following constraint on models: that the ranking of the acceptable alternatives (stemming from O2) must be according to their overall value impersonally construed and if one alternative produces a better overall impersonal outcome (per O2) than a second that is acceptable, then the first must also be acceptable (see McNamara 1990, Ch. 4). All satisfying theories must endorse this constraint, but classical deontological theories and non-collapsing rule utilitarian theories will not. The key point here is that there is a rich terrain of substantive theories that, on the one hand, can buttress the simple structures of ranked acceptable alternatives, and on the other, are themselves suggested by reflection on these structures, in particular, by reflection on the question: "Where might the simple structures of ranked acceptables come from?".

2.12 Conclusion

Although any substantive theory of common sense morality must seek confirmation at a wide variety of points, the framework presented here provides one such point. If it were right in every detail, and I am sure it is not, no substantive theory could be complete that didn't ratify it fully. If much of it is on target, and I am convinced that it is, then it should still provide a useful checkpoint for such theories. For the concepts that I have identified, as well as many of the logical connections I have proposed, are presupposed by common sense morality. Furthermore, as I hope my brief excursion into substantive underpinnings suggests, this framework can itself play a role in the discovery of still richer and more detailed accounts of common sense morality. The very fact that we can coherently articulate the general features of common sense morality that we have articulated, and that our framework can accommodate a wide variety of substantive ethical theories, is not without significance. Perhaps these facts support enough qualified optimism about a robust coherent core for common sense morality to warrant continuing the search for expressively richer and more structurally intricate models of it. In my own opinion, the verdict on common sense morality will primarily hinge on the outcome of a vigorous and widespread search for full-bodied theoretical models--and, as Parfit rightly says (1984, pp. 453-4), that has only just begun. But whatever the long-term outcome for common sense morality, be it eventual vindication or an eventual consensus that it is without a suitable substantive rationale, I believe that the framework sketched here, or some variation thereof, is very deeply rooted in our pre-theoretic moral life, and thus reveals something about where moral reflectivity begins. Such knowledge is worth having in either event.(31),(32)


Abbreviated Principles Cited

TDS: The Traditional Definitional Scheme, PEp =df [??]OB[??]p; GRp =df [??]OBp; IMp =df OB[??]p; OPp =df [??]OBp & [??]OB[??]p.

DS: The Deontic Square of Opposition (see page 418)

TTC: The Traditional Threefold Classification, the obligatory, the impermissible and the optional, are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive.

NC: No Conflicts, [??](OBp & OB[??]p).

OS: The Optionality of Supererogation, SUp [right arrow] OPp.

NIS: The Non-Indifference of Supererogation, SUp [right arrow] [??]INp.

ONIS: The Optional Non-Indifference of Supererogation, SUp [right arrow] (OPp & [??]INp).

OI: The Optionality of Indifference, INp [right arrow] OPp.

OWD: Optionality With a Difference, "OPp & [??]INp" is satisfiable.

IIN: The Indifference of Indifference to Negation, INp [equivalence] IN[??]p.

ION: The Indifference of Optionality to Negation, OPp [??] OP[??]p.

MPR: Mares Principle, [OB(p [right arrow] q) & OB(q [right arrow] r) & INp & INr] [right arrow] INq.

NSC: No Supererogatory Conflicts, [??](SUp & SU[??]p).

MR: Moral Rigor, OPp [equivalence] INp.

STC: Strong Threefold Classification, the obligatory, the impermissible and the indifferent, are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive.

SEXH: Strong Exhaustion, OBp [disjunction] INp [disjunction] IMp.

UC: Urmson's Constraint, INp [equivalence] OPp, but not OPp [equivalence] INp.

IE: Indifference Exclusion, INp [right arrow] ([??]OBp & [??]MIp & [??]MAp & [??]OB[??]p & [??]MI[??]p & [??]MA[??]p).




The Twelve Finest Classes Expressed via Schemata:

OB (MI & MA & [??]OB)

IN (MI & MA[??])

OB[??] (MI & [??]MA & [??]MA[??])

MI[??] & MA) ([??]MI & [??]MI[??] & MA)

MI[??] & MA[??] & [??]OB[??]p) ([??]MI & [??]MI[??] & MA[??])

(MI[??] & [??]MA & [??]MA[??]) ([??]MI & [??]MI[??] & [??]MA & [??]MA[??] & [??]IN).


Attfield, Robin 1979: "Supererogation and Double Standards". Mind, 88, pp. 481-99.

Aqvist, Lennart 1984: "Deontic Logic", in D. Gabbay and F. Guenthner 1984, pp. 605-714.

Brown, Marcia 1987: "Kantian Ethics and Supererogation". The Journal of Philosophy, 84, 5, pp. 237-62.

Brown, Mark A. and Jose Carmo 1996: Deontic Logic, Agency and Normative Systems. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Burchill, Lorenne M. 1965: "In Defense of Saints and Heroes". Philosophy, 60, pp. 152-7.

Chisholm, Roderick M. 1963: "Supererogation and Offense: A Conceptual Scheme for Ethics". Ratio, 5, pp. 1-14.

--1964: "The Ethics of Requirement". American Philosophical Quarterly, 1, pp. 147-53.

Chisholm, Roderick M. and Ernest Sosa 1966: "Intrinsic Preferability and the Problem of Supererogation". Synthese, 16, pp. 321-31.

Gabbay, D. and Guenthener, F 1984: Handbook of Philosophical Logic Volume II: Extensions of Classical Logic. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

Feldman, Fred 1978: Introductory Ethics. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

--1986: Doing the Best We Can. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

Follesdal, Dagfinn and Hilpinen, Risto 1971: "Deontic Logic: An Introduction", in Hilpinen 1971, pp. 1-36.

Gert, Bernard 1988: Morality: A New Justification of the Moral Rules. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hahn, Lewis E., (ed.): The Library of Living Philosophers: Roderick Chisholm. Illinois: The Open Court Publishing Company. (In Progress.)

Heyd, David 1982: Supererogation: Its Status in Ethical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hilpinen, Risto, (ed.) 1971: Deontic Logic: Introductory and Systematic Readings. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

Hrushka, Joachim and Joerden, Jan C. 1987: "Supererogation: Vom Deontologischen Sechseck zum Deontologischen Zehneck". Archiv fur Rechts und Sozialphilosophie, 73, 1, pp. 93-123.

Jones, Andrew J. I. and Porn, Ingmar 1985: "Ideality, Sub-Ideality and Deontic Logic". Synthese, 65, pp. 275-90.

Kagan, Shelly 1989: The Limits of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mares, Edwin and McNamara, Paul forthcoming: "Supererogation in Deontic Logic: Metatheory for DWE and Some Close Neighbors". Studia Logica.

McConnell, Terence C. 1980: "Utilitarianism and Supererogatory Acts". Ratio, 22, pp. 3-38.

McNamara, Paul F. 1988: "Supererogation, Utilitarianism and Urmson's Criterion: A Compatibility Thesis". Philosophy Colloquium at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Typescript.

--1990: "The Deontic Quadecagon". Doctoral Dissertation. University of Massachusetts.

--1996a: "Must I Do What I Ought? (Or Will the Least I Can Do Do?)", in Brown and Carmo 1996, pp. 154-73.

--1996b: "Some Extended Andersonian Deontic Logics". Typescript.

--forthcoming a: "Doing Well Enough: Toward a Logic for Common Sense Morality". Studia Logica, 57.

--forthcoming b: "Chisholm on Supererogation and Deontic Logic". In Hahn.

--forthcoming c: "Toward a Framework for Deontic Conditionals". In Nute.

Melden, A. I., (ed.) 1958: Essays in Moral Philosophy. Washington: University of Washington Press.

Mellema, Gregory 1991: Beyond the Call of Duty: Supererogation, Obligation, and Offence. Albany: SUNY Press.

New, Christopher 1974: "Saints, Heroes and Utilitarians". Philosophy, 49, pp. 179-89.

Nute, Donald, (ed.): Defeasible Deontic Logic: Essays in Nonmonotonic Normative Reasoning. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co. (In Progress.)

Parfit, Derek 1984: Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pettit, Philip 1991: "Consequentialism", in Singer 1991.

Raz, Joseph 1975: "Permissions and Supererogation". American Philosophical Association, 12, 2, pp. 161-8.

Scheffler, Samuel 1982: The Rejection of Consequentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schumaker, Millard 1977: Supererogation: An Analysis and a Bibliography. Edmonton: St. Stephen's College.

Sider, Theodore 1993: "Asymmetry and Self-Sacrifice". Philosophical Studies, 70, pp. 117-32.

Singer, Peter, (ed.) 1991: A companion to Ethics. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell Ltd.

Slote, Michael 1984: "Morality and Self-Other Asymmetry". The Journal of Philosophy, 81, pp. 179-92.

--1985: Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Stocker, Michael 1996: "Supererogation". Doctoral Dissertation. Harvard.

--1967: "Acts, Perfect Duties, and Imperfect Duties". Review of Metaphysics, 20.

--1968: "Supererogation and Duties". In N. Rescher ed. 1968: Studies in Moral Philosophy. Liverpool: Basil Blackwell, pp. 53-63.

Trianosky, Gregory 1986: "Supererogation, Wrongdoing, and Vice: On the Autonomy of the Ethics of Virtue". Journal of Philosophy, 83, pp. 26-40.

Urmson, J.O. 1958: "Saints and Heroes", in Melden 1958, pp. 198-216.

Wolff, Susan 1986: "Above and Below the Line of Duty". Philosophical Topics, 14, 2, pp. 131-48.

Zimmerman 1993: "Supererogation and Doing the Best One Can". American Philosophical Quarterly, 30, 4, pp. 373-80.

(1) One notable exception is the classic work of Roderick Chisholm and Ernest Sosa. See Chisholm (1963), Chisholm (1964) and Chisholm and Sosa (1966). Chisholm's landmark contributions will be discussed in McNamara (forthcoming b). For helpful reviews of much of the literature, see Heyd (1982) and Mellema (1991).

(2) For example, note its absence from and relevance to Scheffler's seminal work on these topics (1982). Michael Slote is the key exception here. See especially Slote (1984) and Slote (1985).

(3) The framework elaborated here is a variation of that in "The Deontic Quadecagon" (McNamara 1990).

(4) See McNamara (forthcoming a) and McNamara (1990, pp. 42-6). In general, I will refrain from providing demonstrations for such claims here as they are contained in McNamara (forthcoming a). The exception will be in [sections]1.7 where a few proofs will illustrate the productivity of the analysis of supererogation I offer.

(5) By the "Traditional Scheme", I am simply referring to a bit of unsystematic deontic folklore--what many of us heard in analytic ethics courses--exhausted by the mention of TDS plus DS and TTC. See McNamara (forthcoming a) and McNamara (1990, Ch. 1).

(6) I take up a conflict-allowing version of this scheme in McNamara (forthcoming c).

(7) I also believe that casting a logic for supererogation this way will yield a deeper insight into the "paradoxes" that constitute some of the main objections to SDL. More on this below in [sections]1.7 (pp. 428-32).

(8) Such displayed formulae should be taken as elliptical for the claim that the material conditional is a logical truth; a crossed out arrow should be interpreted as denying that claim.

(9) Cf. McNamara (1990, pp. 448-9). Although IIN seems a very plausible constraint on any indifference concept, some have endorsed schemes that preclude it, e.g. Mellema (1991).

(10) See p. 420 above. All principles with an abbreviated label are listed in the Appendix, p. 444 below.

(11) This charge is defended explicitly in McNamara (1990, Ch. 2) and in McNamara (1988). Once again, Chisholm's work is an exception.

(12) Urmson's conflation is discussed explicitly in McNamara (1988) and McNamara (1990, Ch. 2).

NOTE: (13) This diagram is similar to diagrams independently arrived at by Joachim Hrushka and Jan C. Joerden (1987). Thanks go to Roderick Chisholm for pointing this out to me. See McNamara (1990, Appendix D, p. 525) for a brief statement of the differences between their scheme and mine.

(13) We are assuming that obligations do not conflict.

(14) The argument for this category is unique in not relying on the notion of "offense". See McNamara (forthcoming b).

(15) This is why I suggested that glossing "supererogation" as exceeding the minimum morality demands is particularly revealing.

(16) Ross's paradox pertains to the thesis of SDL: OBp [right arrow] OB(p [disjunction] q). Briefly, the paradox is that q may be forbidden, so that your obligation to see to p seems to entail obligations that can be satisfied by doing forbidden things.

(17) See McNamara (1990, Ch. 8) for an elaboration of these points.

(18) SU(p [disjunction] q) [right arrow] SUp also fails for the reasons already discussed when we considered the Ross-like objection to our proposed analysis.

(19) This "optimific thesis", that a supererogatory act must either be the best available to an agent (or perhaps just such that it is best that it occurs), is explicitly endorsed in New 1974 and arguably implied by remarks by Burchill (1965), Chisholm (1964) and Raz (1975). See McNamara (1990, pp. 103-8). I have heard it endorsed umpteen times in conversation with philosophers. The optimific thesis also encourages us to overlook the minimum, and thus the structures called for by supererogation, since it leaves us focused on the overall optimal acts, arguing about whether all of them are obligatory or not.

(20) In McNamara (1988), I employ this case to argue that, contrary to the traditional wisdom, even utilitarianism is compatible with the possibility of some supererogation. I then provide an extension of utilitarianism that employs two orderings, one to determine obligation, the other to determine a species of supererogation that is compatible with utilitarianism. Zimmerman (1993) likewise employs two orderings, one to determine obligation, the other to determine supererogation, in order to argue for the obvious generalization: optimizing consequentialism is compatible with supererogation. He also suggests the novel thesis that any theory of supererogation must employ two such orderings. (We have seen that it must employ one: we must allow for permissible alternatives, with some better than others.) However, the only defense of the novel thesis appears to be that it is possible to construe any one-ordering theory of supererogation as possessing a second, perhaps vacuous or feigned, ordering. This fact is not without interest, but it only supports a trivial version of the novel thesis (see [sections]2.11 below).

(21) Similarly for the earlier contact case, provided that we add that you have finally acquired a phone and that now I can contact you in three successively better ways: by sending you a note, calling you up, or stopping by.

(22) This important point is implicit in McConnell (1980).

(23) Actually the symmetries for commonsense morality run much deeper than indicated in this paper. See McNamara (forthcoming a).

(24) See McNamara (forthcoming a) for a precise statement of the whole framework and a brief comparison with the standard semantic approaches to SDL.

(25) An exact specification of a more general framework, along with completeness proofs is contained in Mares and McNamara (1995).

NOTE: (27) Here, as throughout the paper, I am assuming upper and lower bounds on the acceptables (i.e. an exact minimum and exact maximum level), and will do like-wise in stating operator truth conditions. This is not strictly essential to the framework. The needed adjustments are in McNamara (forthcoming a).

(26) There are many alternatives here. Some are discussed below. Cf. Mares and McNamara (1995), and McNamara(1990), (1996b) and (1988).

(27) Various constraints might be in order; for example, that God prefers all worlds where His commands are met over any where they are not.

(28) Bernard Gert has long championed the importance of distinguishing the highlighted concepts. Gert's underpinning is a disarmingly simple and impressively comprehensive version of "morality as impartial rationality". Perhaps unsurprisingly then, his theory, unlike most others, is already ripe as it stands to accommodate the framework sketched here--and vice versa of course. See Gert (1988).

(29) To be sure, this first ranking might be of limited substantive interest in these two cases; but if nothing else, we can just have two levels: the top level consisting of the alternatives where God's commands are uniformly obeyed and no correct mandatory rules are violated; the bottom level consisting of all the other alternatives, respectively. However, I think the subsequent examples will suggest that there might be dual-ranking theories where both rankings are more robust.

(30) I employed this sort of structure for supererogation in McNamara (1988). We could also use such structures to generate "contrary to duty" operators in the usual manner for ordering semantics. See Follesdal and Hilpinen (1971, pp. 26-31) for a quick sketch of the general approach and McNamara (1990, Ch. 8) for a sketch of the extension to all the operators herein.

(31) Although it is beyond the scope of this paper, I argued elsewhere that there is a quite independent evidential path to the same conceptual scheme and the same underlying semantic framework sketched herein. If right, this would boost the overall evidence beyond the mere sum generated by either path alone. I also believe that there is a greater range of application for the logical and semantical structures given a deontic interpretation in this paper. See McNamara (1990, esp. Ch. 3), and McNamara (1996a), or McNamara (forthcoming a) for a brief sketch.

(32) I wish to thank my old friends, Blake Barley and Brant Witte, as well as the members of my dissertation committee, Ed Gettier, Fred Feldman, John Robison and Ede Zimmermann--with special thanks to John for his support for this project from its very inception and to Fred for both introducing me to world utilitarianism and for the challenge provided by his dogged skepticism. I would also like to thank my colleagues, Bill de Vries and Timm Triplett for advice on this paper. I had the honor of reading ancestors of this paper at the 1993 Society for Exact Philosophy meeting in Toronto, May 15, and at the second biannual international conference on deontic logic, "Deon 94", held in Oslo on January 5, 1994. I have benefited from discussions with Lennart Aqvist, Dan Bonevac, Susan Dimock, Bernard Gert, Lou Goble, Robert Koons, Tom Maibaum, Michael Morreau, David Makinson, Donald Nute, Peter Schotch, Krister Segerberg, and especially Ed Mares. I also benefitted from suggestions from the editor of this journal as well as from an anonymous referee who collectively provided the most helpful set of comments I have ever received on a paper. Finally, I would like to dedicate this paper to Roderick Chisholm--for both inspiration and supererogatory support over the years.
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Title Annotation:supererogation and common-sense morality
Author:McNamara, Paul
Date:Jul 1, 1996
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