Agency and Luck

31 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2009 Last revised: 4 Dec 2013

See all articles by Joseph Raz

Joseph Raz

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; Columbia University - Law School; King's College London - The Dickson Poon School of Law

Date Written: October 12, 2009


Advancing an account of responsibility which is based on the functioning of our rational capacities, the paper revisits some central aspects of the moral luck puzzle. It proposes a new variant of Williams’ agent-regret, but concludes that its scope does not coincide with cases of moral luck. It then distinguishes different ways in which the factors beyond our control feature in our engagement with the world which show how the guidance principle (we are responsible for actions guided by our rational powers) recognises a narrower range of situations of moral luck than is often supposed, allowing to distinguish between responsibility for intentions, (some) attempts and actions, as well as for responsibility for thoughts and emotions. Finally, relying on the fact that for each person some actions are within his or her range of secure competence the paper argues that responsibility extends beyond the guidance principle. It concludes with a brief outline discussion of the relations between responsibility and blame.

Keywords: moral luck, agent-regret, responsibility, blame, rational powers, negligence, Bernard Williams.

Suggested Citation

Raz, Joseph, Agency and Luck (October 12, 2009). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 09-214, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 46/2009, Available at SSRN: or

Joseph Raz (Contact Author)

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Columbia University - Law School ( email )

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King's College London - The Dickson Poon School of Law ( email )

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