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NMSU philosophy professor presents work at symposium

Jean-Paul Vessel, assistant professor of philosophy at New Mexico State University, recently presented his work at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Pasadena, Calif.



Jean-Paul Vessel, professor of philosophy at NMSU, recently presented his work at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Pasadena, Calif. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Vessel presented his essay "Supererogation for Utilitarianism." The symposium consisted of a 50-minute presentation, two 20-minute critical commentaries and a 10- to 15-minute rebuttal after which the floor was opened to the audience and commentators for questions and objections.

"Symposium slots at the Pacific Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association rank among the most prestigious, competitive philosophical venues in the world," Vessel said.

Each year, only six to eight philosophers are selected via a blind-review process. This is the second year Vessel has received the distinction.

According to Vessel, in recent decades many ethical theories have been ignored or disregarded due to the contemporarily popular belief that "consequentialist" ethical theories do not allow for "supererogatory" action, action that goes "above and beyond the call of moral duty" in efforts to benefit others.

In his essay Vessel argues that this view is false. He states that classic utilitarianism, the archetype of consequentialist theory, does indeed allow supererogatory actions. He then examines similar theories, discussing their supererogatory qualities and concludes with the construction of "a novel form of consequentialism that exhibits very rich supererogatory properties, properties that should satisfy the bulk of critics whose supererogatory cravings have yet to be satiated."