Recasting the problem of resultant luck

Legal Theory 15 (4):267-300 (2009)

I offer in this paper an argument in support of the orthodox view that resultant luck should not affect judgments of blameworthiness—and so, for example, that we should not blame the successful assassin more than the attempted assassin who equally tries but fails. This view, though widely held among moral philosophers and legal scholars, has been severely challenged as implying either the implausible rejection of moral luck or an equally implausible theory of wrongness according to which actual consequences may play no wrong-making role. The argument I offer, however, assumes both challenges to be true and shows that the orthodox view is consistent with holding them. Indeed, I argue that all other things being equal, successful offenders are no more to blame than their unsuccessful counterparts, even though agents are responsible for what they actually do , and successful offenders do more wrong than their unsuccessful counterparts do . The reason is that the difference in the amount of wrong done by one and the other offender, I show, is counterbalanced by a difference in the degree to which the successful offense and the unsuccessful one are attributable to their respective agents—blameworthiness being a function of both amount of wrong done and degree of attributability
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DOI 10.1017/s1352325209990073
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