Moralluck occurs when factors beyond an agent’s control positively affect how much praise or blame she deserves. Kinds of moralluck are differentiated by the source of lack of control such as the results of her actions, the circumstances in which she finds herself, and the way in which she is constituted. Many philosophers accept the existence of some of these kinds of moralluck but not others, because, in their view, the existence (...) of only some of them would make morality unfair. I, however, argue that this intermediary approach is unstable, because either morality is fair in ways that rule out resultant, circumstantial, and constitutive moralluck (and this leads to moral responsibility skepticism), or morality is unfair in ways that permit the existence of those kinds of moralluck. Thus, such intermediary approaches lack the motivation that their proponents have long taken them to have. In the appendix, I point to ways in which morality is unfair concerning the scope of moral responsibility, moral obligation, moral taint, being a good or bad person, and flourishing. (shrink)
A new volume of philosophical essays by Bernard Williams. The book is a successor to Problems of the Self, but whereas that volume dealt mainly with questions of personal identity, MoralLuck centres on questions of moral philosophy and the theory of rational action. That whole area has of course been strikingly reinvigorated over the last deacde, and philosophers have both broadened and deepened their concerns in a way that now makes much earlier moral and political (...) philosophy look sterile and trivial. MoralLuck contains a number of essays that have contributed influentially to this development. Among the recurring themes are the moral and philosophical limitations of utilitarianism, the notion of integrity, relativism, and problems of moral conflict and rational choice. The work presented here is marked by a high degree of imagination and acuity, and also conveys a strong sense of psychological reality. The volume will be a stimulating source of ideas and arguments for all philosophers and a wide range of other readers. (shrink)
I introduce an underdiscussed type of moralluck, which I call interpersonal moralluck. Interpersonal moralluck characteristically occurs when the actions of other moral agents, qua morally evaluable actions, affect an agent’s moral status in a way that is outside of that agent’s capacity to control. I suggest that interpersonal moralluck is common in collective contexts involving shared responsibility and has interesting distinctive features. I also suggest that many (...) philosophers are already committed to its existence. I then argue that agents who are susceptible to interpersonal moralluck are usually for this reason defeasibly entitled to make demands of those agents who are the source of that luck. This is the phenomenon of normative entanglement. I conclude by discussing some of the important ways in which normative entanglement can shape the norms that govern the actions of agents in collective contexts as well as explain some of our intuitions about what participants in these contexts owe one another. (shrink)
This paper discusses a puzzling tension in attributions of moral responsibility in cases of resultant moralluck: we seem to hold agents fully morally responsible for unlucky outcomes, but less-than-fully-responsible for unlucky outcomes brought about differently than intended. This tension cannot be easily discharged or explained, but it does shed light on a famous puzzle about causation and responsibility, the Thirsty Traveler.
Galen Strawson’s Basic Argument is that because self-creation is required to be truly morally responsible and self-creation is impossible, it is impossible to be truly morally responsible for anything. I contend that the Basic Argument is unpersuasive and unsound. First, I argue that the moralluck debate shows that the self-creation requirement appears to be contradicted and supported by various parts of our commonsense ideas about moral responsibility, and that this ambivalence undermines the only reason that Strawson (...) gives for the self-creation requirement. Second, I argue that the self-creation requirement is so demanding that either it is an implausible requirement for a species of true moral responsibility that we take ourselves to have or it is a plausible requirement of a species of true moral responsibility that we have never taken ourselves to have. Third, I explain that Strawson overgeneralizes from instances of constitutive luck that obviously undermine moral responsibility to all kinds of constitutive luck. (shrink)
Moralluck, until recently, has been understood either explicitly or implicitly through using a lack of control account of luck. For example, a case of resultant moralluck is a case where an agent is morally blameworthy or more morally blameworthy or praiseworthy for an outcome despite that outcome being significantly beyond that agent's control . Due to a shift in understanding the concept of luck itself in terms of modal robustness, however, other accounts (...) of moralluck have surfaced. Both Duncan Pritchard and Julia Driver have offered an alternative way of understanding moralluck by employing versions of a modal account of luck. This essay considers some problems with these accounts and attempts to resolve them. (shrink)
Clinicians regularly work as teams and perform joint actions that have a great deal of moral significance. As a result, clinicians regularly share moral responsibility for the actions of their teams and other clinicians. In this paper, we argue that clinicians are exceptionally susceptible to a special type of moralluck, called interpersonal moralluck, because their moral statuses are often affected by the actions of other clinicians in a way that is not (...) fully within their control. We then argue that this susceptibility partly explains why a conscientious clinician has reason to avoid participating in unvirtuous healthcare teams. We also argue that this susceptibility partly explains the special systems of entitlements that characterize healthcare teams and set healthcare teams apart from other teams of workers. (shrink)
I argue that certain kinds of luck can partially determine an agent’s praiseworthiness and blameworthiness. To make this view clearer, consider some examples. Two identical agents drive recklessly around a curb, and one but not the other kills a pedestrian. Two identical corrupt judges would freely take a bribe if one were offered. Only one judge is offered a bribe, and so only one judge takes a bribe. Put in terms of these examples, I argue that the killer driver (...) and bribe taker are more blameworthy than their counterparts. I offer three arguments for that view, and, in doing so, I exemplify a general way to advance the moralluck debate. First, I argue against an account of moral responsibility that implies that the judges are equally blameworthy. Second, I argue that the killer driver is more blameworthy than the merely reckless driver. Third, I locate an alternative sense in which the agents in each case pair are morally on par. (shrink)
When Thomas Nagel originally coined the expression “moralluck,” he used the term “luck” to mean lack of control. This use was a matter of stipulation, as Nagel’s target had little to do with luck itself, but the question of how control is related to moral responsibility. Since then, we have seen several analyses of the concept of luck itself, and recent contributors to the moralluck literature have often assumed that any (...) serious contribution to the moralluck debate must begin with a robust concept of luck simpliciter. I argue here that this assumption is a mistake, on the basis of three reasons: the issue was originally conceived as an issue about responsibility and control, analyses of luck tend to distort and needlessly to complicate what is at issue when shoehorned into the moralluck debate, and these analyses have very little (if anything) to contribute to the discussion. (shrink)
'Moralluck' refers to the phenomenon whereby one's degree of blameworthiness for what one has done varies on account of factors beyond one's control. Applying concepts of Dworkin's from the domain of distributive justice, I draw a distinction between 'option moralluck,' which is that to which one has exposed oneself as the result of one's voluntary choices, and 'brute moralluck,' which is that which is unchosen and unavoidable. I argue that option (...) class='Hi'>moralluck is not ruled out on grounds of unfairness. I also offer a non-fairness-based rejection of brute moralluck and defense of option moralluck. (shrink)
Some luck, in a decision of Gauguin's kind, is extrinsic to his project, some intrinsic; both are necessary for success, and hence for actual justification, but only the latter relates to un- justification. If we now broaden the range of cases slightly, ...
If we want to see justice done with regard to responsibility, then we must either (i) allow that people are never morally responsible, (iia) show that luck is not ubiquitous or at least that (iib) ubiquitous luck is not moral, or (iii) show that ascriptions of responsibility can retain justice despite the omnipresence of luck. This paper defends (iii); ascriptions of responsibility can be just even though luck is ubiquitous.
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. ;Typically we maintain two incompatible standards towards right action and good character, and the tension between these polarities creates the paradox of moralluck. In practice we regard actions as right or wrong, and character as good or bad, partly according to what happens as a result of the agent's decision. Yet we also think that people should not be held responsible for matters beyond their control. ;This split underpins (...) Kant's assertion that only the good will is securely good, that its goodness is impervious to outcome ill-luck. Some commentators, such as Martha Nussbaum and to some extent Bernard Williams, think that this simply writes off the paradox. Williams asserts that the paradox is insoluble, and that its inescapability threatens the notion of agent responsibility. In contrast Thomas Nagel argues that agents' most cherished projects may be indeed be subject to luck, but that does not mean that their deepest motivations are moral. This, I suggest, is one of several means whereby we might limit the effect of the paradox without denying that the tension exists. But I also argue that it is wrong to accuse Kant of ignoring the paradox. ;Ethical consequentialists, on the other hand, appear to have no problem with moralluck, because the paradox depends on a dichotomy between the outside world and the locus of moral worth in the individual agent. But this turns out not to be true. The problem of moralluck is not some strange Kantian fixation, but a general dilemma: a variant on what Nagel terms "the problem of excess objectivity" which cuts across all of ethics and metaphysics. ;Retaining a broadly Kantian notion of agent-responsibility, but limiting what agents are responsible for, requires us to delineate the realm of ethics more narrowly than has been done by those who believe that the rational and/or prudential are coterminous with the ethical. This strategy for minimising the paradox's impact is explored in two areas from medical ethics, the allocation of scarce medical resources and informed consent, and two from public policy, secrecy and nuclear deterrence. Throughout, the analysis seeks to test Nagel's maxim that the best we can hope for is to act in such a manner that we would not have to revise our opinion of how we should have acted once the consequences of our actions become apparent. (shrink)
This book considers two different approaches to moralluck--the Aristotelian vulnerability to factors outside the agent's control and the Kantian ambition to make morality immune to luck--and concludes that both approaches have more in common than previously thought. At the same time, it also considers recent developments in the field of virtue ethics and neo-kantianism.
Moralluck – which seems to appear when circumstances beyond a person’s control influence our moral attributions of praise and blame – is troubling in that modern moral theory has supposed morality to be immune to luck. In business, moralluck commonly influences our moral judgments, many of which have economic consequences that cannot be reversed. The possibility that the chance intervention of luck could influence the way in which we assign (...)moral accountability in business ethics is unsettling. This paper argues that if we cannot explain moralluck away, we should give consideration to moral risk in our moral judgments and the associated assignment of economic rewards regarding episodes in which moralluck plays a role. (shrink)
Is there a difference in moral blameworthiness between a murderer and an attempted murderer? Should there be a legal difference between them? These questions are particular instances of the question of moralluck and legal luck (respectively). In this paper, I survey and explain the main argumentative moves within the general philosophical discussion of moralluck. I then discuss legal luck, and the different ways in which this discussion may be related to that (...) of moralluck. (shrink)
Adversaries of MoralLuck (AMLs) are at pains to explain why wrongdoers are liable to bear burdens (punishment, compensation etc.) which are related to the harm they cause, because the consequences of what we do are a matter of luck. One attempt to solve this problem suggests that wrongdoers who cause more harm are liable to bear a greater burden not because they are more blameworthy but rather because they get the short straw in a liability lottery (...) (represented by the apparently indeterminate causal process). In this paper I argue that this attempt fails on several grounds. Apart from the fact that it is hard to see how the implementation of liability lotteries can be motivated and the fact that such scheme presupposes a political order (whereas the notion of liability does not seem to presuppose one), detaching liability from the outcomes of a culpable action undermines whichever justifications there were for imposing liability in the first place. Moreover, relying on the determination of the causal process as a good indication of the wrongdoer’s degree of culpability is mistaken, because the luck brought about through the causal process is not necessarily the only element involved in cases of harmful conduct which lies beyond the wrongdoers’ control. (shrink)
This paper concerns the problem of moralluck—the fact that our moral judgements appear to depend, perhaps unjustifiably, on matters of luck. The history and scope of the problem are discussed. It is suggested that our result-sensitive sentiments have their origin in views about moral pollution we might now wish to reject in favour of a volitionalist ethics.
Moral philosophers and psychologists often assume that people judge morally lucky and morally unlucky agents differently, an assumption that stands at the heart of the Puzzle of MoralLuck. We examine whether the asymmetry is found for reflective intuitions regarding wrongness, blame, permissibility, and punishment judg- ments, whether people’s concrete, case-based judgments align with their explicit, abstract principles regarding moralluck, and what psychological mechanisms might drive the effect. Our experiments produce three findings: First, in (...) within-subjects experiments favorable to reflective deliberation, the vast majority of people judge a lucky and an unlucky agent as equally blameworthy, and their actions as equally wrong and permissible. The philosophical Puzzle of MoralLuck, and the challenge to the very possibility of systematic ethics it is frequently taken to engender, thus simply do not arise. Second, punishment judgments are significantly more outcome- dependent than wrongness, blame, and permissibility judgments. While this constitutes evidence in favor of current Dual Process Theories of moral judgment, the latter need to be qualified: punishment and blame judgments do not seem to be driven by the same process, as is commonly argued in the literature. Third, in between-subjects experiments, outcome has an effect on all four types of moral judgments. This effect is mediated by negligence ascriptions and can ultimately be explained as due to differing probability ascriptions across cases. (shrink)
My objective in this project is to explore the concept of moralluck as it relates to sports. I am especially interested in constitutive luck. As a foundation I draw from both Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel’s classic handling of moralluck, generally. Within the philosophy of sport are similar explorations of this nexus by Robert Simon and David Carr that also factor into the present work. My intent is to put a new lens in (...) front of a puzzle drawn from Torbjörn Tännsjö’s well-known article ‘Is Our Admiration of Sports Heroes Facistoid?’ Specifically, the idea that we might admire an athlete who excels without having worked hard for it. If we may call this puzzle ‘the talent problem,’ the questions driving the present work are as follows: what is the relationship between moralluck and the talent problem, and can this relationship provide a prescription for morally assessing the talent problem? The thesis that this exploratory work suggests that more complex games (and... (shrink)
The aims of this paper are fourfold. The first aim is to characterize two distinct forms of circumstantial moralluck and illustrate how they are implicitly recognized in pre-theoretical moral thought. The second aim is to identify a significant difference between the ways in which these two kinds of circumstantial luck are morally relevant. The third aim is to show how the acceptance of circumstantial moralluck relates to the acceptance of resultant moral (...)luck. The fourth aim is to defuse a legitimate concern about accepting the existence of circumstantial moralluck, namely the fact that its existence implies substantial moral risks. (shrink)
There is a contradiction in our ideas about moral responsibility. In one strand of our thinking, we believe that a person can become more blameworthy by luck. Consider some examples in order to make that idea concrete. Two reckless drivers manage their vehicles in the same way, and one but not the other kills a pedestrian. Two corrupt judges would each freely take a bribe if one were offered. By luck of the courthouse draw, only one judge (...) is offered a bribe, and so only one takes a bribe. Luck is the salient difference between the agents in each case. After all, the spatial location of the pedestrian is outside of each driver’s control, and being offered a bribe is outside of each judge’s control. But we blame the killer driver more than the merely reckless driver, and we blame the bribe-taker more than the mere would-be bribe-taker. This is because we believe that the killer driver and the bribe-taker are more blameworthy than each of their counterparts. Nevertheless, the idea that luck affects moral responsibility contradicts another feature of our thinking captured in this moral principle: A person’s blameworthiness cannot be affected by that which is not within her control. This moral principle yields the verdict that the drivers are equally blameworthy and that the judges are equally blameworthy. So, to put the contradiction in concrete terms, our thinking about moral responsibility implies that the drivers are and are not equally blameworthy, and the same is true for the judges. -/- I argue that only the first strand of our thinking is correct. Certain kinds of luck in results, circumstances, and character can partially determine a person’s praiseworthiness and blameworthiness. In terms of the examples, I argue that the killer driver and the bribe-taker are more blameworthy than each of their counterparts. But if I am to make genuine progress in the moralluck debate, my arguments cannot appeal to case intuitions such as ‘the killer driver is more blameworthy,’ because the problem of moralluck is fundamentally a clash of intuitions. So, I offer arguments from diverse areas in philosophy in order to ensure that they do not bottom out in standard pro-moralluck intuitions. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to explore the relation between the right to self-defense against an innocent attacker and the notion of moralluck. It argues that those who accept the existence of such a right rely on the assumption that mere agency makes a significant moral difference – which is precisely the assumption that underlies the view held by believers in moralluck. Those who believe in the right to self-defense against innocent attackers (...) are thus committed to the idea of moralluck much more than they usually acknowledge. The paper also argues that the arguments offered in support of moralluck, in particular the one based on the relation between agency and self-identity, might help to shed light on the rather puzzling above right. (shrink)
Issue Title: MoralLuck, Social Networking Sites, and Trust on the Web I argue that the problem of 'moralluck' is an unjustly neglected topic within Computer Ethics. This is unfortunate given that the very nature of computer technology, its 'logical malleability', leads to ever greater levels of complexity, unreliability and uncertainty. The ever widening contexts of application in turn lead to greater scope for the operation of chance and the phenomenon of moralluck. (...)Moralluck bears down most heavily on notions of professional responsibility, the identification and attribution of responsibility. It is immunity from luck that conventionally marks out moral value from other kinds of values such as instrumental, technical, and use value. The paper describes the nature of moralluck and its erosion of the scope of responsibility and agency. Moralluck poses a challenge to the kinds of theoretical approaches often deployed in Computer Ethics when analyzing moral questions arising from the design and implementation of information and communication technologies. The paper considers the impact on consequentialism; virtue ethics; and duty ethics. In addressing cases of moralluck within Computer Ethics, I argue that it is important to recognise the ways in which different types of moral systems are vulnerable, or resistant, to moralluck. Different resolutions are possible depending on the moral framework adopted. Equally, resolution of cases will depend on fundamental moral assumptions. The problem of moralluck in Computer Ethics should prompt us to new ways of looking at risk, accountability and responsibility.[PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]. (shrink)
Despite bernard williams's and thomas nagel's attempts to show that moralluck poses deep problems about the reality of morality or the tenability of our actual moral concepts, It is argued that moralluck has this sort of alarming result only if we are (roughly) kantians about moral agency. Minus certain implausible assumptions, Moralluck is neither contradictory, Paradoxical, Or even surprising.
Moralluck occurs when factors beyond an agent’s control affect her blameworthiness. Several scholars deny the existence of moralluck by distinguishing judging blameworthy from blame-related practices. Luck does not affect an agent’s blameworthiness because morality is conceptually fair, but it can affect the appropriate degree of blame for that agent. While separatism resolves the paradox of moralluck, we aim to show it that it needs amendment, because it is unfair to treat (...) two equally blameworthy people unequally. We argue that separatists should conceive fairness as a pro tanto reason for blame. By locating fairness as a ground for blame within a wider axiology of blame, separatism could resolve the challenge of blaming fairly. In such an axiology, reasonable and fair blame diverge. (shrink)
A case of MoralLuck occurs whenever we normatively assess agents for things that depend on factors beyond their control. The paper takes a comparative approach and examines how morality and law deal with such cases. The comparative perspective allows us to explain the problem of MoralLuck as a tension inherent in normative orders: While normative orders are based on a strong connection between responsibility and voluntariness, this idealist assumption is at least partly at odds (...) with their functional requirements as social orders. The paper examines how law and morality converge and differ in resolving this tension in cases of MoralLuck. Finally, the paper concludes with a brief discussion of some more general features of the normative orders of morality and the law that follow from this “bottom-up” analysis of MoralLuck. (shrink)
This paper argues that "moralluck", understood as a susceptibility of moral desert to lucky or unlucky outcomes, does not exist. The argument turns on the claim that epistemic inquiry is an indissoluble part of moral responsibility, and that judgment on the moral decision making of others should and can adjust for this fact; test cases which aim to isolate moral dilemmas from epistemic consideration misrepresent our moral experience. If the phenomena believed by (...) some philosophers to exemplify the need to admit moralluck as part of their explanation are analysed in the light of this insight, the case for "moralluck" dissolves. (shrink)
In the modern moralluck debate, Kant is standardly taken to be the enemy of moralluck. My goal in this paper is to show that this is mistaken. The paper is divided into six sections. In the first, I show that participants in the moralluck literature take moralluck to be anathema to Kantian ethics. In the second, I explain the kind of luck I am going to focus on (...) here: consequence luck, a species of resultant luck. In the third, I explain why philosophers have taken Kantian ethics to reject moralluck and, in particular, consequence luck. In the fourth, I explain why these philosophers are mistaken, and I set out Kant’s theoretical framework for consequence luck. In the fifth, I clarify and defend this framework, and in the sixth, I interrogate and attack it. (shrink)
In contrast to the Kantian principle that we are morally accountable only for those actions over which we have control, Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel, and others have argued that luck plays a significant role in the moral life. Put briefly, moralluck is at play when we are appropriately praised or blamed for our moral actions despite the fact that at least some aspects of what we are being judged for lie beyond our control. In (...) this essay, Ann Chinnery discusses the concept and various types of moralluck, and draws on two news stories from the summer of 2013 in order to suggest that a nonideal approach to moral education could go some way toward mitigating the morally limiting effects of “constitutive bad luck.”. (shrink)
This paper warns of two threats to moral responsibility that arise when accounting for omissions, given some plausible assumptions about how abilities are related to responsibility. The first problem threatens the legitimacy of our being responsible by expanding the preexisting tension that luck famously raises for moral responsibility. The second threat to moral responsibility challenges the legitimacy of our practices of holding responsible. Holding others responsible for their omissions requires us to bridge an epistemic gap that (...) does not arise when holding others responsible for their actions—one that we might often fail to cross. (shrink)
The problem of moralluck is a genuine moral problem faced by all of us where the conflict arises on how and upon whom one should place the burden of moral responsibility when the situation is beyond one‟s control. On one hand, people commonly think that a person cannot be justly praised or blamed for his actions unless he controls them. On the other hand, ordinary moral judgments of persons routinely vary based on the actual (...) consequences caused by the person, even when partly or wholly beyond his control. The problem lies in the apparent conflict between the idea that a morally responsible agent must control his actions and the standard practice of blaming people more simply for causing worse results even when the factors are beyond his control. My paper will focus on the various types of moralluck as explained by Thomas Nagel and analyze that the seemingly hopeless situations in the various cases of moralluck can be satisfactorily resolved by a proper theory of moral responsibility. (shrink)
There is no such thing as moralluck or everyone is profoundly mistaken about its nature and a radical rethinking of moralluck is needed. The argument to be developed is not complicated, and relies almost entirely on premises that should seem obviously correct to anyone who follows the moralluck literature. The conclusion, however, is surprising and disturbing. The classic cases of moralluck always involve an agent who lacks control over (...) an event whose occurrence affects her praiseworthiness or blameworthiness. Close examination of what it is to have control or to lack it reveals the logical space for counterexamples that do not fit the pattern constitutive of moralluck, and so unravel the whole. (shrink)