Moral Worth and Supererogation

Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Ben Bradley


Blameworthiness, Moral worth, Praiseworthiness, Suberogation, Supererogation

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


In this dissertation, I offer a novel account of the moral praiseworthiness of actions that captures our commonsense intuitions, while enabling a reasons-based definition of moral supererogation. Morally supererogatory actions are typically understood as actions that have moral worth (i.e. an agent who performs such an action is morally praiseworthy for having performed it), yet they are beyond the scope of duty. For moral theorists, supererogatory actions have proven difficult to accommodate; however, I show that the definition of moral supererogation my account enables is resistant to objections that threaten competing accounts

According to my own "Two-Step" account of moral worth, in determining the moral praiseworthiness of a given action, we must begin, in the spirit of Julia Markovits's Coincident Reasons Thesis (CRT), by determining the extent to which the noninstrumental reasons recommending (if supererogatory) or requiring (if obligatory) the action coincide with the noninstrumental reasons motivating the agent. In this first step, we've determined an overlap percentage figure. Next, we must consider the moral justifying strength of the competing reasons (subjectively) confronting the deliberating agent in her deliberative scenario. Thus, an action a is morally praiseworthy to the extent that (I) the agent is (non-instrumentally) motivated by the noninstrumental reasons that either recommend or require a; and (II) the agent performs a in the face of competing reasons with moral justifying strength.


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