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)
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)
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)
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)
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' 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 (Nagel ). 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)
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.
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)
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)
In a series of ten preregistered experiments (N=2043), we investigate the effect of outcome valence on judgments of probability, negligence, and culpability – a phenomenon sometimes labelled moral (and legal) luck. We found that harmful outcomes, when contrasted with neutral outcomes, lead to increased perceived probability of harm ex post, and consequently to increased attribution of negligence and culpability. Rather than simply postulating a hindsight bias (as is common), we employ a variety of empirical means to demonstrate that (...) the outcome-driven asymmetry across perceived probabilities constitutes a systematic cognitive distortion. We then explore three distinct strategies to alleviate the hindsight bias and its downstream effects on mens rea and culpability ascriptions. Not all are successful, but at least some prove promising. They should, we argue, be taken into consideration in criminal jurisprudence, where distortions due to the hindsight bias are likely considerable and deeply disconcerting. (shrink)
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)
Philosophers often consider problems of free will and moralluck 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 moralluck 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 moralluck. First, I argue that what makes the above problems of free will and moralluck 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 moralluck, on the other. (shrink)
Many of us are inclined to accept something like the following principle: We can only be properly morally assessed for what is in our control. And yet our ordinary practices seem to frequently violate this principle. The resulting tension, and the attempt to resolve it, is the problem of moralluck. For example, we tend to punish and think worse of the negligent driver who kills a child than we do the equally negligent driver who was lucky there (...) was no child in his path. Thus, the lucky outcomes of our actions do seem to affect the extent to which we hold and are held responsible, but these are not things over which we exercise control. And, as Thomas Nagel famously illustrated in his response to Bernard Williams (the two of which papers form the founding documents of the moralluck debate), the influence of luck is not limited to outcomes. For the circumstances in which we find ourselves and, indeed, our very constitution are also shaped by luck. Since the publication of Williams's and Nagel's papers, the existence and breadth of moralluck has been hotly debated. This debate is not a mere intellectual trifle but, as the essays in this volume illustrate, a debate which lies at the heart of free will, responsibility, identity, causation, and self-creation. (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.
The study discusses the three roles of normative assumption in the theory and practice of innovation management: (1) they define the value of innovation, (2) specify its luck, and (3) determine some goals and methodologies of managing the luck of innovations. The crucial questions of the investigation are as follows: What does ‘luck’ mean in theories of innovation management?, and What is luck in the practice of innovation management? The conceptual analyses present logical links which occur (...) between the normative premises of some canonical theories of metaethics and definitions of luck. In the context of these analyses the study discusses some prerequisites for responsible decisions relating to innovations. The paper illustrates some ways of using philosophical methods in the theory of innovation management. (shrink)
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)
In most countries, failed criminal attempts are punished less severely than those that succeed. Many philosophers, including myself, have argued that differential punishment can be justified. However, in a recent paper, Hanna raises objections to defenses of differential punishments, claiming that such policy goes against our “desert intuitions” and also cannot be justified on utilitarian grounds. I argue in this paper that Hanna’s desert-based and utilitarian objections can be undermined. Further, they are valid only within moral theories that take (...) the agent to be an independent self, whose responsibility rests on his or her intentions and deliberations alone. However, differential punishment can be justified in a different kind of moral theory, in which there are good reasons to giveluck a role to play. (shrink)
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)
I raise two challenges for theological determinism. The first challenge concerns the accounts of human moral responsibility available to them. The second challenge concerns the responses to the problem of evil available to them. We will also see that the two challenges converge in an interesting way.
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, ...
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)
Thomas Hardy is notorious for persecuting his characters mercilessly with coincidences and untimely chance and luck. I suggest that this idiosyncrasy is his exploration of the problem of "moralluck" to confront the reader with such fundamental ethical questions as how to make moral judgments and attribute moral responsibility.Making moral judgments is an essential part in our life, and our moral thoughts and beliefs invariably find expression mainly in the form of judgments. When (...) we make moral judgments we are applying moral concepts to ourselves and others to make sense of our lives, to provide a common ground for interpersonal moral communication and to enable our moral growth. Making such judgments is also an .. (shrink)
In resultant moralluck, blame and punishment seem intuitively to depend on downstream effects of a person’s action that are beyond his or her control. Some skeptics argue that we should override our intuitions about moralluck and reform our practices. Other skeptics attempt to explain away apparent cases of moralluck as epistemic artifacts. I argue, to the contrary, that moralluck is real—that people are genuinely responsible for some things beyond (...) their control. A partially consequentialist theory of responsibility justifies moralluck. But this justification is no mere rationalization of the status quo. Recent experimental and evolutionary work on punishment and learning suggests that the very same reasons that justify moralluck have also shaped the evolution of our luck-sensitive moral practices. (shrink)
An ongoing debate in the philosophy of action concerns the prevalence of moralluck: instances in which an agent’s moral responsibility is due, at least in part, to factors beyond his control. I point to a unique problem of moralluck for agents who depend upon Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) for bodily movement. BCIs may misrecognize a voluntarily formed distal intention (e.g., a plan to commit some illicit act in the future) as a control command (...) to perform some overt behavior now. If so, then BCI-agents may be deserving of punishment for the unlucky but foreseeable outcomes of their voluntarily formed plans, whereas standard counterparts who abandon their plans are not. However, it seems that the only relevant difference between BCI-agents and their standard counterparts is just a matter of luck. I briefly sketch different solutions that attempt to avoid this type of moralluck, while remaining agnostic on whether any succeeds. If none of these solutions succeeds, then there may be a unique type of moralluck that is unavoidable with respect to deserving punishment for certain BCI-mediated behaviors. (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)