Date of Award

8-2012

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy and Religion

Committee Chair

Samuel Bruton

Committee Chair Department

Philosophy and Religion

Committee Member 2

David Holley

Committee Member 2 Department

Philosophy and Religion

Committee Member 3

Paula Smithka

Committee Member 3 Department

Philosophy and Religion

Abstract

In 1958, J.O. Urmson's landmark article "Saints and Heroes" was the first in the history of philosophy to treat supererogation in a systematic manner. Arguing that the traditional threefold classification system consisting of duties, permissible acts, and wrong acts was insufficient, he went on to propose a fourth category of moral actions that while morally praiseworthy, are not obligatory. This in turn opened the door to a host of other philosophers to write on supererogation over the past few decades. In light of this, Christian ethicists must ask the question, "Are supererogatory actions possible in Christian ethics?" This question must be broken down into two questions to account for the central role God plays in Christian ethics. The first question is, "Is it possible for a Christian to perform a supererogatory deed toward God?" and the second question is, "Is it possible for a Christian to perform a supererogatory deed toward another person?" While it is not possible for a Christian to perform a supererogatory act toward God, it is possible toward another person. Thus, the task remains for Christian ethicists to search out in each specific area what in fact is a duty and what actions are supererogatory. The specific area chosen is the opportunity that American Christians of relative affluence have to give aid to rescue lives overseas.

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