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 moral luck debate, my arguments cannot appeal to case intuitions such as ‘the killer driver is more blameworthy,’ because the problem of moral luck 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-moral luck intuitions. (shrink)
Moral luck occurs when factors beyond an agent’s control positively affect how much praise or blame she deserves. Kinds of moral luck 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 moral luck 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 moral luck (and this leads to moral responsibility skepticism), or morality is unfair in ways that permit the existence of those kinds of moral luck. 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)
Luck permeates our lives, and this raises a number of pressing questions: What is luck? When we attribute luck to people, circumstances, or events, what are we attributing? Do we have any obligations to mitigate the harms done to people who are less fortunate? And to what extent is deserving praise or blame a ected by good or bad luck? Although acquiring a true belief by an uneducated guess involves a kind of luck that precludes knowledge, does all luck undermine (...) knowledge? And how accurate are our luck attributions anyway? The academic literature has seen growing, interdisciplinary interest in luck, and this volume brings together and explains the most important areas of this research. It consists of 39 newly commissioned chapters, written by an internationally acclaimed team of philosophers and psychologists, for a readership of students and researchers. Its coverage is divided into six sections: (i) The History of Luck, (ii) The Nature of Luck, (iii) Moral Luck, (iv) Epistemic Luck, (v) The Psychology of Luck, and (vi) Future Research. The chapters in these sections cover a wide range of topics, from the problem of moral luck, to anti-luck epistemology, to the relationship between luck attributions and cognitive biases, to meta-questions regarding the nature of luck itself, to a range of other theoretical and empirical questions currently being investigated by ethicists, epistemologists, and psychologists. By bringing this research together, the Handbook serves as both a touchstone for understanding the relevant issues and a first port of call for future philosophical and psychological research on luck. (shrink)
Martin Luther affirms his theological position by saying “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Supposing that Luther’s claim is true, he lacks alternative possibilities at the moment of choice. Even so, many libertarians have the intuition that he is morally responsible for his action. One way to make sense of this intuition is to assert that Luther’s action is indirectly free, because his action inherits its freedom and moral responsibility from earlier actions when he had alternative possibilities and (...) those earlier directly free actions formed him into the kind of person who must refrain from recanting. Surprisingly, libertarians have not developed a full account of indirectly free actions. I provide a more developed account. First, I explain the metaphysical nature of indirectly free actions such as Luther’s. Second, I examine the kind of metaphysical and epistemic connections that must occur between past directly free actions and the indirectly free action. Third, I argue that an attractive way to understand the kind of derivative moral responsibility at issue involves affirming the existence of resultant moral luck. (shrink)
One way to frame the problem of moral luck is as a contradiction in our ordinary ideas about moral responsibility. In the case of two identical reckless drivers where one kills a pedestrian and the other does not, we tend to intuit that they are and are not equally blameworthy. The Character Response sorts these intuitions in part by providing an account of moral responsibility: the drivers must be equally blameworthy, because they have identical character traits and people are originally (...) praiseworthy and blameworthy in virtue of, and only in virtue of, their character traits. After explicating two versions of the Character Response, I argue that they both involve implausible accounts of moral responsibility and fail to provide a good solution to the problem of moral luck. I close by noting how proponents of moral luck can preserve a kernel of truth from the Character Response to explain away the intuition that the drivers are equally blameworthy. (shrink)
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 moral luck 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)
Every account of moral responsibility has conditions that distinguish between the consequences, actions, or traits that warrant praise or blame and those that do not. One intuitive condition is that praiseworthiness and blameworthiness cannot be affected by luck, that is, by factors beyond the agent’s control. Several philosophers build their accounts of moral responsibility on this luck-free condition, and we may call their views Luck-Free Moral Responsibility (LFMR). I offer moral and metaphysical arguments against LFMR. First, I maintain that considerations (...) of fairness that often motivate LFMR do not require its adoption. Second, I contend that LFMR has counterintuitive implications for the nature and scope of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness and that LFMR is vulnerable to a reductio ad absurdum. Third, I state some common reasons for thinking that LFMR’s commitment to true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom is problematic, and I argue that if there are no such true counterfactuals and if LFMR is true, a person is praiseworthy and blameworthy at most for a tiny fraction of her actions. Fourth, I argue that proponents of LFMR cannot escape this skeptical cost by appealing to a different kind of counterfactual of freedom. Fifth, I develop an anti-skeptical motivation to affirm the idea that luck can affect moral responsibility. (shrink)
It is almost unanimously accepted that Kant denies resultant moral luck—that is, he denies that the lucky consequence of a person’s action can affect how much praise or blame she deserves. Philosophers often point to the famous good will passage at the beginning of the Groundwork to justify this claim. I argue, however, that this passage does not support Kant’s denial of resultant moral luck. Subsequently, I argue that Kant allows agents to be morally responsible for certain kinds of lucky (...) consequences. Even so, I argue that it is unclear whether Kant ultimately endorses resultant moral luck. The reason is that Kant does not write enough on moral responsibility for consequences to determine definitively whether he thinks that the lucky consequence for which an agent is morally responsible can add to her degree of praiseworthiness or blameworthiness. The clear upshot, however, is that Kant does not deny resultant moral luck. NOTE: I will self-archive this paper after the embargo period ends on September 2021. If you want a copy, email me at email@example.com. (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 moral luck 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)
The problem of moral luck is that a general fact about luck and an intuitive moral principle jointly imply the following skeptical conclusion: human beings are morally responsible for at most a tiny fraction of each action. This skeptical conclusion threatens to undermine the claim that human beings deserve their respective eternal reward and punishment. But even if this restriction on moral responsibility is compatible with the doctrine of the final judgment, the quality of one’s afterlife within heaven or hell (...) still appears to be lucky. Utilizing recent responses to the problem of moral luck, I explore several Molinist accounts of the final judgment that resolve both theological problems of moral luck. Some of these accounts entirely eliminate moral luck while others ensure that the moral luck involved in the judgment is overall good luck. (DOWNLOAD the published version at the external link below.). (shrink)
We examine the following consequentialist view of virtue: a trait is a virtue if and only if it has good consequences in some relevant way. We highlight some motivations for this basic account, and offer twelve choice points for filling it out. Next, we explicate Julia Driver’s consequentialist view of virtue in reference to these choice points, and we canvass its merits and demerits. Subsequently, we consider three suggestions that aim to increase the plausibility of her position, and critically analyze (...) them. We conclude that one of those proposed revisions would improve her account. NOTE: I will self-archive the paper after the 24 month embargo period ends. If you want a copy, just email me. (shrink)
Every tenable ethical theory must have an account of moral virtue and vice. Julia Driver has performed a great service for utilitarians by developing a utilitarian account of moral virtue that complements a broader act-based utilitarian ethical theory. In her view, a moral virtue is a psychological disposition that systematically produces good states of affairs in a particular possible world. My goal is to construct a more plausible version of Driver’s account that nevertheless maintains its basic integrity. I aim to (...) accomplish this goal by developing four problems concerning admiration and luck for Driver’s account. Subsequently, I modify the account in a way that partially or entirely mitigates each difficulty. Finally, I attempt to undermine Driver’s rationale for rejecting the modification and explore how well the modified account of moral virtue fits with utilitarian accounts of right action. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen famously offers a version of the luck objection to libertarianism called the ‘Rollback Argument.’ It involves a thought experiment in which God repeatedly rolls time backward to provide an agent with many opportunities to act in the same circumstance. Because the agent has the kind of freedom that affords her alternative possibilities at the moment of choice, she performs different actions in some of these opportunities. The upshot is that whichever action she performs in the actual-sequence is (...) intuitively a matter of mere chance. I explore a new response to the Rollback Argument. If there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom, then the agent performs the same action each time she is placed in the same circumstance, because that is what she would freely do in that circumstance. This response appears to negate the chancy intuition. Ultimately, however, I argue that this new response is unsuccessful, because there is a variant of the Rollback Argument that presents the same basic challenge to the libertarian on the assumption that there are true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom. Thus, true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom do not provide the libertarian with a solution to the Rollback Argument. (shrink)
Richard Swinburne argues that belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for faith, and he also argues that, while faith is voluntary, belief is involuntary. This essay is concerned with the tension arising from the involuntary aspect of faith, the Christian doctrine that human beings have an obligation to exercise faith, and the moral claim that people are only responsible for actions where they have the ability to do otherwise. Put more concisely, the problem concerns the coherence of the (...) following claims: (1) one cannot have faith, (2) one has an obligation to have faith, and (3) ought implies can. To solve this dilemma, I offer three solutions that I believe have the philosophical resources to demonstrate the consistency of these claims. Thus, I defend the claim that it is logically possible for a person to be culpable for an involuntary failure to have faith in God. (shrink)
This book presents Robert S. Hartman’s formal theory of value and critically examines many other twentieth century value theorists in its light, including A.J. Ayer, Kurt Baier, Brand Blanshard, Paul Edwards, Albert Einstein, William K. Frankena, R.M. Hare, Nicolai Hartmann, Martin Heidegger, G.E. Moore, P.H. Nowell-Smith, Jose Ortega y Gasset, Charles Stevenson, Paul W. Taylor, Stephen E. Toulmin, and J.O. Urmson.
The purpose is to determine logically the difference between philosophy and science. It is concluded that the fundamental logical difference is: in the analytic concepts of philosophy intension and extension vary inversely whereas in the synthetic concepts of science they vary directly. The scientific concept is the ideal limit of the more and more intensive specification of philosophical concepts. (staff).
The reason for this spell--which was already felt in Anselm's life time-cannot be solely Anselm's subject matter, for this has been treated by many before and after with less than intriguing effects. It must be, to a large degree, his method. But what can there be so exciting about a logical demonstration?
Formal axiology, as does every scientific system, stems from the unfolding of its axiom or axioms. The axiom of formal axiology is the following: Value is the degree in which a thing fulfills the attributes contained in the intension of its concept. "Fulfillment" means the possession by a thing of a set of properties corresponding to the set of attributes in the intension of its concept. A thing is good if it possesses all the properties in question. The development of (...) this axiom constitutes an axiological system, which establishes the dimensions of value, a hierarchy of value, a language of value and a logic of value. (shrink)
Review of Manipulated Agents: A Window into Moral Responsibility. By Alfred R. Mele -/- NOTE: I will self-archive the review after the embargo period ends in October 2021. If you want a copy, email me.
D. M. Armstrong famously claims that deterministic laws of nature are contingent relations between universals and that his account can also be straightforwardly extended to irreducibly probabilistic laws of nature. For the most part, philosophers have neglected to scrutinize Armstrong’s account of probabilistic laws. This is surprising precisely because his own claims about probabilistic laws make it unclear just what he takes them to be. We offer three interpretations of what Armstrong-style probabilistic laws are, and argue that all three interpretations (...) are incompatible either with some feature of Armstrong’s broader metaphysics or with essential features of his account of laws (or both). (shrink)
Some philosophers contend that concomitant ignorance preserves moral responsibility for wrongdoing. An agent is concomitantly ignorant with respect to wrongdoing if and only if her ignorance is non-culpable, but she would freely have performed the same action if she were not ignorant. I, however, argue that concomitant ignorance excuses. I show that leading accounts of moral responsibility imply that concomitant ignorance excuses, and I debunk the view that concomitant ignorance preserves moral responsibility.
Philosophers often consider problems of free will and moral luck in isolation from one another, but both are about control and moral responsibility. One problem of free will concerns the difficult task of specifying the kind of control over our actions that is necessary and sufficient to act freely. One problem of moral luck refers to the puzzling task of explaining whether and how people can be morally responsible for actions permeated by factors beyond their control. This chapter explicates and (...) assesses skeptical, compatibilist, and libertarian approaches to moral luck. First, I argue that what makes the above problems of free will and moral luck distinct is largely their emphasis on different kinds of luck. Second, I describe and evaluate skeptical arguments from constitutive and circumstantial luck that it is impossible to act freely. Third, I explicate and assess various support and implication relationships between various kinds of compatibilism and libertarianism, on the one hand, and causal, constitutive, circumstantial, and resultant moral luck, on the other. (NOTE: Email me for a copy; I will self-archive after embargo ends.). (shrink)
Human persons can act with libertarian freedom in heaven according to one prominent view, because they have freely acquired perfect virtue in their pre-heavenly lives such that acting rightly in heaven is volitionally necessary. But since the character of human persons is not perfect at death, how is their character perfected? On the unilateral model, God alone completes the perfection of their character, and, on the cooperative model, God continues to work with them in purgatory to perfect their own character. (...) I argue that although both models can make sense of all human persons enjoying free will in heaven on various assumptions, the cooperative model allows all human persons in heaven to enjoy a greater degree of freedom. This consideration about the degree of heavenly freedom provides a reason for God to implement the cooperative model. (NOTE: Email me for a copy. I will self-archive after the embargo ends.). (shrink)