Gauguin's Lucky Escape: Moral Luck and the Morality System

In Sophie Grace Chappell & Marcel van Ackaren (eds.), Ethics Beyond the Limits: New Essays on Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. London, UK: pp. 129-47 (2019)

Gerald Lang
University of Leeds
Williams’s attack on the ‘morality system’ in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy was preceded by his famous but misunderstood essay ‘Moral Luck’. This essay pursues two principal aims. First and foremost, I take a fresh look at Williams’s argument in ‘Moral Luck’, to assess its defensibility. Second, I investigate how Williams’s treatment of moral luck shapes and informs the wider assault on the ‘morality system’ which reached its fullest expression in the later work. We can learn something about both of Williams’s projects—his defence of moral luck, and his attack on the morality system—by seeing how each of these projects contributes to the other. Drawing on Williams’s discussion of Gauguin’s desertion of his family for a life of artistic endeavour in Tahiti, six interpretations of Williams’s argument are suggested. While some of these are better than others, none is completely satisfying or convincing. It is suggested, in conclusion, that the attack on anti-luckism does not make an indispensable contribution to Williams’s attack on the morality system.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 59,700
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Moral Luck From Bernard Williams’ Point of View.Zahra Khazai Tamaddon & Fatemeh - 2016 - Journal of Philosophical Investigations at University of Tabriz 10 (18):189-218.
Moral Luck and Business Ethics.Christopher Michaelson - 2008 - Journal of Business Ethics 83 (4):773-787.
Luck and Identity.Meir Dan-Cohen - 2008 - Theoretical Inquiries in Law 9 (1):1-22.
Moral Luck and The Unfairness of Morality.Robert J. Hartman - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (12):3179-3197.
Goals, Luck, and Moral Obligation: R. G. Frey.R. G. Frey - 2010 - Social Philosophy and Policy 27 (2):297-316.
Moral and Epistemic Luck.Duncan Pritchard - 2006 - Metaphilosophy 37 (1):1–25.
Semantic and Moral Luck.Axel Arturo Barceló Aspeitia - 2012 - Metaphilosophy 43 (3):204-220.
On Moral Luck and Nonideal Moral Education.Ann Chinnery - 2015 - Educational Theory 65 (2):169-181.
Free Will Pessimism.Paul Russell - 2017 - In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Volume 4. New York, NY, USA: pp. 93-120..
Moral Responsibility and "Moral Luck".Brian Rosebury - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (4):499-524.


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes