The lottery of life and moral desert: An empirical investigation

Philosophical Psychology 29 (8):1112-1127 (2016)

As John Rawls makes clear in A Theory of Justice, there is a popular and influential strand of political thought for which brute luck – that is, being lucky in the so-called “lottery of life” – ought to have no place in a theory of distributive justice. Yet the debate about luck, desert, and fairness in contemporary political philosophy has recently been rekindled by a handful of philosophers who claim that desert should play a bigger role in theories of distributive justice. In the present paper, we present the results of our attempts to fill in some of the missing empirical details of this debate. Our findings provide some preliminary evidence that, contrary to what most contemporary political philosophers have assumed, people are not as worried by natural luck as previously thought. Instead, people’s worries seem to be focused exclusively on inequalities generated by social luck.
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2016.1240362
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