Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Mark Wunderlich




supererogatory, moral, acts, ethical, morally


An act is supererogatory just in case it goes above and beyond one’s moral duty. Little work has been done by ethical theorists on examining those acts that fall under the supererogatory camp. My thesis will explore the ways in which we make these distinctions about our moral duties. It is also important that we parse out the underlying themes in ethical egoism that directly speak to the supererogatory. For we must explore why those inclined to support a moral theory that puts self-interest at its forefront are also more likely to deem, what some might call, our duties to others as supererogatory acts. Ethical egoism is the moral theory that states an action is morally right if it maximizes one’s self interest, and morally wrong if it does not. Unlike ethical egoism, supererogation is not as concerned with acts you are morally required to do, but rather, with those acts that you are not morally required to do. One deems an act to be supererogatory if it goes above and beyond one’s moral duty. There has been much controversy over whether or not supererogatory actions can exist at all. I will argue that the concept of supererogation is simply an attempt to mask the egoist approach to morality that suggests that we have no obligation to anyone other than ourselves, and that we should be praised when acting against our self interest.