Utilitarianism and Supererogatory Acts

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Terrance C. McConnell, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Utilitarianism is the veiw that an act X is right if and only if the doing of X will have consequences at least as good as the consequences of any alternative act open to the agent. Among the many standard objections raised against this theory is the claim that it requires too much, We ordinarily classify some actions as supererogatory; that is, we say of some actions that, though they are ideal and morally meritorious, they are not obligatory because they require the agent to sacrifice or risk too much. But, the objection goes, the utilitarian theory cannot allow for the category of supererogatory acts. If an action is the one among the alternatives open to the agent that will maximize the good, then the agent is obligated to perform the action regardless of the sacrifice involve. This seems much too austere, and so utilitarianism conflicts with our ordinary beliefs about the moral life.

Additional Information

Ratio XXII (June 1980), pp. 36-38.
Language: English
Date: 1980
Moral obligation, Utilitarianism, Supererogatory

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