Julia Markovits has recently argued for what she calls the ‘Coincident Reasons Thesis’: the thesis that one’s action is morally worthy if and only if one’s motivating reasons for acting mirror, in content and strength, the reasons that explain why the action ought, morally, to be performed. This thesis assumes that the structure of motivating reasons is sufficiently similar to the structure of normative reasons that the required coincidence in content and strength is a genuine possibility. But because motivating reasons have only one dimension of strength, while normative reasons have both justifying and requiring strength, one’s motivating reasons can no more coincide with the normative reasons of relevance to one’s action than a line can coincide with a square, or a square with a cube. It is possible to amend the Coincident Reasons Thesis so that it concerns only one dimension of normative strength: for example, requiring strength. But such an amended thesis yields implausible verdicts. In particular it requires us either to deny the existence of supererogatory action, or—still less plausibly—to hold that such action has less moral worth than does doing the morally required minimum.
Joshua Gert; Moral Worth, Supererogation, and the Justifying/Requiring Distinction. The Philosophical Review 1 October 2012; 121 (4): 611–618. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-1630858
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