The Case Against Moral Luck
Hebrew University - The Philosophy Department and the Law School
University of Southern California - Gould School of Law
USC Law and Public Policy Research Paper No. 03-23
In this essay we purport to suggest a comprehensive argument against the existence of moral luck. We argue that once some crucial distinctions are taken into account, our moral judgments are not as sensitive to luck as the proponents of moral luck suggest. The intuitions, or moral opinions, purportedly supporting moral luck, once carefully characterized, can be accommodated consistently with there being no moral luck. Those moral luck intuitions that cannot be thus accommodated do indeed have to be rejected, but doing so, we proceed to argue, comes with an intuitive price that is not unreasonable given the importance of the relevant version of the control condition. Indeed, one way of explaining these moral luck intuitions away is attributing them to a failure to distinguish between them and the more benign intuitions that are consistent with there being no moral luck.
We concentrate on three out of the four main categories of (purportedly) moral luck: luck about consequences of actions (consequential luck), luck in the morally relevant circumstances one encounters (circumstantial luck), and luck about moral character (constitutive luck). As is now common in the literature on moral luck, we try to abstract from the larger issues concerning the freedom of the will, which is why we do not discuss the fourth category, concerning luck in how one's will is caused. There is a worry, however, that abstracting from these (even) larger issues is not philosophically legitimate. We address this worry, though in a somewhat preliminary way, in the last section.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39working papers series
Date posted: December 3, 2003
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