Aquinas, T. (c.1259–65) Summa contra gentiles (Synopsis [of Christian Doctrine] Directed Against Unbelievers), trans.
Bourke, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975.
(Defends the claim that the counsels recommend conduct required for perfection, but not for salvation.)
Aquinas, T. (1266–73) Summa theologiae (Synopsis of Theology), trans.
Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1981.
(Defends the claim that the counsels recommend more efficient ways of attaining salvation.)
Augustine (394) De sermone Domini in monte (Commentary on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount), trans. and ed.
Jepson, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1948, 1.1.2.
(Develops an account of ‘greater and lesser righteousness’ as an account of obligation and supererogation.)
Brandt, R.B. (1969) ‘A Utilitarian Theory of Excuses’, Philosophical Review
(Contains a discussion of obligation that is seminal for the approach to supererogation which holds that morally conclusive first-order considerations will be rationally overriding if and only if to disregard them is to display some vice – and hence to do what is morally impermissible.)
Calvin, J. (1536) Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans.
Battles, Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, revised edn, 1986, esp. 2.8.51, 56–57.
(Central Reformation critique of the concept of supererogation.)
Cicero (late 44) De officiis (On Duties), in three books, trans. with notes by M.
Griffin and E.M.
Atkins, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 1.3.8.
(Influential presentation of the Stoic distinction between duties suitable for the Sage, officia perfecta, and duties suitable for ordinary, ‘frail and fallible’ people, officia media.)
Dancy, J. (1993) Moral Reasons, Oxford: Blackwell, ch. 8.
(Contains the seminal presentation of the view that any action supported by morally conclusive reasons will be obligatory, while any action supported by reasons that are less than morally conclusive will be supererogatory; somewhat technical.)
Heyd, D. (1982) Supererogation: Its Status in Ethical Theory, London: Cambridge University Press.
(A very useful and accessible survey of historical and philosophical issues concerning supererogation.)
Heyd, D. (1988) ‘Moral Subjects, Freedom, and Idiosyncrasy’, in J.
Moravscik and C.C.W.
Taylor (eds) Human Agency, Language, Duty, and Value: Philosophical Essays in Honor of J.O. Urmson, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
(A discussion of the idea that supererogatory action are performed freely in a way that obligatory action cannot be.)
Mellema, G. (1991) Supererogation, Obligation, and Offence, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
(Clearly written, accessible, and theologically informed discussion of historical and philosophical questions about supererogation. Ch. 3 deals with Luther and Calvin’s criticism of the doctrine.)
Mill, J.S. (1843) A System of Logic, selections repr. in Utilitarianism and Other Essays, ed.
Ryan, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.
(6.12.7 provides a discussion of the pursuit of noble character.)
Mill, J.S. (1861) Utilitarianism, repr. in Utilitarianism and Other Essays, ed.
Ryan, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987, ch. 5.
(The locus classicus for the approach which suggests that while both supererogatory actions and obligatory actions are actions that maximize utility, and hence actions that one ought to perform, only obligation-making reasons are ‘overriding’.)
Nagel, T. (1986) The View from Nowhere, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ch. 10, section 4.
(Presents a contemporary version of Tertullian’s argument. The context is a very clear and thorough discussion of the tension between the moral and the self-interested points of view, which can be held to recommend conflicting courses of action in the same circumstances.)
Raz, J. (1975) ‘Permissions and Supererogation’, American Philosophical Quarterly
(Defence of an influential interpretation of supererogation, which is built on the premise that we regard both obligatory action and supererogatory action as supported by morally conclusive reasons.)
Scheffler, S. (1992) Human Morality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 120–132.
(Presents an accessible and suggestive discussion of the contemporary argument about supererogation, which holds both that there are two distinct and competing perspectives (the moral point of view and the self-interested point of view) and that this conflict is caused by a too-narrow conception of the moral realm.)
Slote, M. (1985) Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 82–86.
(Presents an alternative approach to the problem of overly-demanding obligations of benevolence, on which deontic terms are replaced with the scalar, non-deontic terms, ‘good’, ‘better’, and ‘best’. Pages 86 and following contain a very suggestive discussion of the relative merits of deontic and non-deontic terms in guiding the agent in what to do.)
Tertullian, Quintus Septimus Florens (c. 160–c.220) Exhortation to Chastity, in Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage: Ancient Christian Writers, The Works of the Fathers in Translation, vol. 13, trans.
Le Saint, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1951.
(Seminal early discussion of the counsels/precepts distinction.)
Trianosky, G. (1986) ‘Supererogation, Wrongdoing, and Vice’, Journal of Philosophy
(Elaboration of the distinction between deontic judgments and judgments of virtue and vice (aretaic judgments).)
Urmson, J.O. (1958) ‘Saints and Heroes’, in A.I.
Melden (ed.) Essays in Moral Philosophy, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
(Seminal contemporary discussion of the need for a category of supererogation.)
Wolf, S. (1982) ‘Moral Saints’, Journal of Philosophy
(Influential and engagingly written discussion of the conflict between morality and self-interest. Wolf concludes with suggestive remarks about the role of supererogation in resolving the conflict.)
Williams, B. (1985) Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 10.
(An influential and accessible critique of the conception of morality that underlies the putative conflict between the moral point of view and the self-interested point of view.)