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2 Tutorials that teach The Evaluation of Actions
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The Evaluation of Actions

The Evaluation of Actions

Author: Glenn Kuehn

In this lesson, students define and apply evaluative terms for actions.

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Video Transcription

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Hello. I'm Glenn. And this ethics tutorial is on the evaluation of actions. Let's look at some things to keep in mind, and then cover the contents for this tutorial and some key terms.

Things to keep in mind for this tutorial are the definition of action, relationship of ethics and actions, and the use of specific terms in evaluations.

In this tutorial, we will be covering the distinction between permissible and impermissible actions. Further, under permissible actions, we will be distinguishing between obligatory actions, neutral actions, and supererogatory actions. And then we will look at a situation and see how all of these factors may or may not be relevant. Here are some key terms to consider for this tutorial.

Key terms. Permissible-- an action that is not wrong to perform. Impermissible-- an action that is wrong to perform. Obligatory-- an action that is wrong not to perform. Neutral-- an action that is neither right nor wrong to perform. And supererogatory-- an action that morally exceeds that which is obligatory.

Let's look, first, at permissible and impermissible actions. All actions can be classified as either permissible or impermissible, and they are within a situation or context. So under the situation of going to college, a permissible action involved in going to college could be taking of an elective course. In other words, this is allowed. An impermissible action would be cheating on a test. This is not allowed because it is against the rules and subject to punishment.

Under the heading of permissible actions, we have three more categories-- obligatory, neutral, and supererogatory. These are subclasses of permissible actions. They are not wrong to perform and they are subject to evaluation. Let's look at a table where we can delineate the differences between them.

Under obligatory actions, we have ones that we must do. Neutral-- these are actions that we can do or not do. It's not required either way. Supererogatory actions are those that go above and beyond. And then impermissible actions are the ones that are not allowed.

So examples of each-- obligatory actions would be to abide by the rules of a game, we must complete required coursework for our class, and we must obey traffic laws. Neutral actions that are permissible-- drinking coffee at work, taking a walk, brushing my teeth. Supererogatory permissible actions are sacrificing your life to save another person, donating money to charities, or working overtime without pay to get a task done. And then three impermissible actions would be running a red light, taking office supplies from work, and driving on people's lawns.

Let's look at a specific situation and see how all of these considerations play out. The situation is buying a used car at a used car lot. A permissible action in this context would be that I may choose from a car on the lot. An impermissible action would be choosing any car from anywhere in the city. That is not allowed.

Under the permissibility of buying a car from a used car lot, an obligatory action would be that I have to pay for the car. A neutral action might be, should I give the car a name? And a supererogatory action would be that I could elect to pay more for the car than the price that is listed.

In review, we've looked at distinctions between permissible and impermissible actions. And under permissible actions, we've examined the differences between obligatory, neutral, and supererogatory actions. And then we looked at how all of these play out in a specific situation with their relevant considerations.

Terms to Know

An action that it is wrong to perform


An action that is neither right nor wrong to perform


An action that it is wrong not to perform


An action that is not wrong to perform


An action that morally exceeds that which is obligatory