Supererogation and Intentions of the Agent

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11 Citations (Scopus)


It has been claimed, by David Heyd, that in order for an act to count as supererogatory the agent performing the act must possess altruistic intentions (1982 p.115). This requirement, Heyd claims, allows us to make sense of the meritorious nature of acts of supererogation. In this paper I will investigate whether there is good reason to accept that this requirement is a necessary condition of supererogation. I will argue that such a reason can be found in cases where two people act in the same way but with only the person who acted with altruistic intent counting as having performed an act of supererogation. In such cases Heyd’s intention requirement plays an important role in ruling out acts that intuitively are not supererogatory. Despite this, I will argue that we should reject Heyd’s requirement and replace it with a moral intention requirement. I will then investigate how to formulate this requirement and respond to two objections that might be raised against it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-462
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Supererogation
  • intentions
  • Moral Philosophy


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