Is he concerned that the driver will be blamed for the event of the child’s death or that the unlucky driver himself will be rated morally worse than the lucky driver (that is, blamed more)? If a person possesses a very dishonest character by luck, what feature of the person does luck reveal to us that (non-luckily) determines his moral status? She has been accused of reading too much Bernard Williams into Aristotle. This is usually done by suggesting that cases in which luck appears to make a moral difference are really cases in which luck makes an epistemic difference—that is, in which luck puts us in a better or worse position to assess a person’s moral standing (without actually changing that standing). The reality of moral luck, in this example at least, lies in its impact on character and personal and moral identity. …it offers… solace to a sense of the world’s unfairness” (1993a, p. 36). When do we consider the role of circumstances important enough to speak of circumstantial (or situational) moral luck? Many deniers of moral luck appeal to the intuitiveness of the control principle. This argument, glimpses of which can be found in Williams’ paper, is explicitly made in Thomas Nagel’s response to Williams. In the case of Gauguin, intrinsic luck is luck arising from Gauguin himself, since he is the only one involved in his project. Actually, that is what I do in the second half of the article: take a well-known argument against moral luck and turn it into an argument against relativism. Please check the sample of the previously written essay on the topic. We might wonder whether the problem Nagel presents is best thought of as a problem about luck or if it is really about control. How can we tell whether Gauguin’s decision to do this is rationally justified? The revised versions of these papers are also included in an excellent anthology edited by Daniel Statman (1993). He claims that we should not praise or condemn people for qualities that are not under the control of the will (and so not under their control). We might say this shows that, on occasion, we have reason to be glad that the morally correct thing did not happen. Therefore the control theory will not work for moral luck. Resultant luck has been called “consequential luck” (Mendus, 1988, p. 334), circumstantial luck has been called “situational luck” (Walker, 1993, p. 235), and causal luck has been called “determining luck” (Mendus, 1988, p. 334). Thus, how the revolution turns out, something which might be almost entirely a matter of resultant luck, seems to have a great deal to do with the moral credit or blame she will receive. Bill Gates may be richer than Jane Doe, but that does not mean he is a better person. We would be no less inclined to say that Jane was lucky to win the lottery. Nevertheless, we are often held responsible for actions that were intended as good, but that had bad consequences. His arguments against this assumption, specifically the ones from negligence, moral luck, and the incompatibility of determinism and free will, will shape the literature, perhaps by moving the pendulum back toward deterrence- and incapacitation-justifications. 2 The ‘Epistemic Argument’ As I advanced, the anti-moral-luck theorists claim that the phenomenon of moral luck is an illusion. Revised versions of both papers were published as chapters of Williams (1981) and Nagel (1979). Suppose that the expatriate would have behaved just as badly as the German if he had remained in Germany. This sort of move will eliminate the threat that rationality poses to morality’s supremacy, but this occurs at the expense of one of our deep commitments about morality, namely its invulnerability to luck. There can be more than one source of value so long as moral value trumps these others sorts of value. (1993), 235–250, Williams B (1981) [1976] “Moral Luck”, in Bernard Williams, Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers 1973–1980, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981, 20–39, Zimmerman MJ (1993) [1987] “Luck and moral responsibility”, in Statman (ed.) 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 true moral responsibility, and that this ambivalence undermines the only reason that Strawson gives for the self- … ), Walker (Coyne) MU (1993) [1991] “Moral luck and the virtues of impure agency”, in Statman (ed.) The intuitions, or moral opinions, purportedly supporting moral luck, once carefully characterized, can be accommodated consistently with there being no moral luck. At the heart of Williams’ argument is the claim that a rational justification for a particular decision can only be given after the fact. 155-158 and also Hurley, 1993, pp. A contextual view of character seems to me to be much more plausible, which entails diminished plausibility of the epistemic reductionist view that luck’s only influence may be that of revealing the character that the actor already had. Luck may bring us all sorts of hardship, but when it comes to the single most important sort of value, we are immune to luck. An event can be out of one’s control or, for that matter, anyone else’s, yet still not such that we would say one is lucky that it occurred. Nothing else seems to remain that can play a role in determining what we do. The fact that luck does seem to make moral differences would not be so troubling if we did not have the intuition that it is sometimes right that luck does this. Nagel’s example is of a person who lives in Germany during the Second World War and “behaves badly” (Nagel, 1993, p. 65). In Florida in 2003, a 20-year-old woke up after a night of drinking, gave his roommate permission to borrow his car, and went back to sleep. Because, Williams suggests, if moral value does depend on luck, it cannot be the sort of thing we think it is. U. S. A. Internalism and Externalism in Epistemology, Can luck make a difference in what a person is. What indication did he have that he had the potential to become a great painter? The problem is that the example of Gauguin suggests morality is not the supreme source of value after all. Although this lies beyond the confines of the present article, it would be interesting to investigate the relevance of this difference to the problem of moral luck. However, Ken adds, luck can affect the consequences of our actions, so while our choices determine our actions, the outcome of said actions is pure luck. Moral justification, as we have noted, is not supposed to be a matter of luck at all. The surgeon has to decide – we can assume that both treatments require instantaneous action, so that there is also no time to consult relatives of the patient. He then gives us a rough definition of the phenomenon of moral luck: Where a significant aspect of what someone does depends on factors beyond his control, yet we continue to treat him in that respect as an object of moral judgment, it can be called moral luck. 61-62). (Cf. (Although Williams never mentions it, presumably if Gauguin were to succeed due to good extrinsic luck, he would also be neither justified nor unjustified. So one might worry that it is only by investigating the nature of luck that we will be able to reach any sort of a final conclusion regarding the problem of moral luck. Some are born healthy; others with various sorts of handicaps. The worry about causal luck should be clear enough since it is precisely the sort of worry found in the debate on free will and determinism. Agent regret is a species of regret a person can feel only towards his or her own actions. Moral Luck challenges the Kantian idea that morality is immune from luck by defining and supporting the concept of ‘moral luck.’ Thus, just as it is essential to the notion of moral value that it is immune to luck, so, he claims, it is essential that moral value is the supreme sort of value. Remember Williams claims that morality “has an ultimate form of justice at its heart, and that that is its allure. Enoch and Marmor (2007: 431) mention another consequence: “A character-based theory of blame and responsibility straightforwardly entails that there is neither consequential nor circumstantial moral luck (…). For now, it is enough simply to bear both sorts of moral difference in mind. We should ask first of all, what exactly Williams means by “rational justification.” He never says, but he seems interested in the question of whether Gauguin was epistemically justified in thinking that acting as he did would increase his chances of becoming a great painter. Still, the same question lies at the heart of both papers and, indeed, at the heart of the literature on moral luck: can luck ever make a moral difference? Zipursky (2008: 119) suggests that “[t]he most charitable version of the moral luck critic (…) depicts him as agreeing that external performances are the objects of evaluation, but opposing the claim that whether that performance ripens into harm for reasons unrelated to the performance itself should have an impact on our judgment of the performer.” I believe, however, that this charitable interpretation does not apply to the epistemic reductionists discussed in this article, because they see character as the object of evaluation. The “standard picture” of justification here is admittedly an internalist one (see Internalism and Externalism in Epistemology). Like worries about the compatibility of free will and determinism, worries about moral luck get their start when we notice how much of what is supposed to be morally significant about us is simply thrust upon us whether we like it or not. Why can’t it just be an important sort of value (and, according to what value are the various sorts of value to be ranked anyway… The question then becomes what the noncollaborator is to blame for. See Rescher, 1995, for the beginnings of an account of luck.) So the problem of moral luck, as Nagel conceives of it, traps us between an intuition and a fact: (The problem could equally well be presented as a conflict between intuitions. Card (1996: 2) and Athanassoulis (2005: 24) have rightly observed that constitutive luck has been virtually ignored in the literature. Woodruff, P. (1989) “Review of Martha Nussbaum. Brynmor Browne (1992), for instance, has argued that moral luck is only troubling because we mistakenly tend to think of moral assessment as bound up with punishment. He claims the idea that morality is immune to luck is “basic to our ideas of morality” (1993a, p. 36). While it is plausible that resultant or circumstantial luck might make only epistemic differences, perhaps revealing or concealing a person’s character, it is not at all clear that constitutive luck can make only epistemic differences. In this essay we purport to suggest a comprehensive argument against the existence of moral luck. volume 12, pages267–277(2009)Cite this article. Circumstantial luck is luck in one’s circumstances that affects one’s moral standing, e.g., luck involving one’s choices and opportunities. I use the terms ‘character’ and ‘character traits’ without taking an essentialist position on their meaning. (Luck clearly can enter into rational justification in ways other than the one Williams has in mind. It involves an assessment of how much credit or discredit attaches directly to a person. In Williams’ words, it offers “solace to a sense of the world’s unfairness” (1993a, p. 36). For his actions that morning, he was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison.1Just over ten years later in Cleveland, a different man intentionally shot and killed a twelve-year-old child within seconds of encountering him. But as reasonable as this may sound, Nagel also claims we cannot refrain from making judgments about a person’s moral status based upon just this sort of uncontrollable feature. And so on. This clearly leaves room for clashes between the two sorts of justification, cases in which an action is morally unjustified, but rationally justified (or vice versa). This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Furthermore, while it is not defended here, one might argue that such an investigation will lead to the view that cases of moral luck are both inescapable and troubling; the problem of moral luck is both real and deep. Nagel says very little about causal luck and the same is true of those who have written about moral luck after him. It will be rational for him to wonder whether he could have done more to avoid this tragedy and so rational for him feel a special sort of regret at the death of the child. Althought these two papers by Nagel and Williams started the discussion of the problem of moral luck using the phrase “moral luck,” the relevant problem has been discussed before. It affects our success and our happiness. Yet we hold on to the idea of moral responsibility, and it seems wise to do so. Nagel suggests they should not. Learn more about Institutional subscriptions. Since success depends, to some extent anyway, on luck, Williams’ claim entails that rational justification depends, at least in some cases, on luck. Just as the problem of skepticism emerges from the clash of our intuition that knowledge should be certain and non-accidental with the fact that few, if any, of our true beliefs are entirely certain or free from accident, so: The erosion of moral judgment emerges not as the absurd consequence of an over-simple theory, but as a natural consequence of the ordinary idea of moral assessment, when it is applied in view of a more complete and precise account of the facts. One we have already seen is the case of the fortunate and unfortunate drunk drivers. Part of Springer Nature. tial luck. Problems only arise when we come to consider “where we place our gratitude” that Gauguin left his family and became a painter (Williams, 1993b, p. 255). Williams rightly observes that it is effectively impossible to foresee whether Gauguin will succeed in his attempt to become a great painter. Just as luck may interfere in the course of our actions to produce results that have a profound influence on the way we are morally judged, so our luck in being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time can have a profound effect on the way we are morally assessed. So what is the problem if luck makes a moral difference? If she succeeds she will be a hero, if she fails she will bear “some responsibility” for the terrible consequences of that failure (Nagel, 1993, pp. Consider the case of the fortunate and unfortunate drivers. First of all, I briefly sketch what the phenomenon of moral luck is about, and then I present and discuss the main arguments that intend to show that such a phenomenon is just an illusion that we must unmask after reflection. Polity Press, Cambridge, Enoch D, Marmor A (2007) The case against moral luck. This might be due to an intuition that the notion of constitutive luck threatens to undermine everything – to do with morality, that is. In Gauguin’s case, she claims that the value which competes with morality for supremacy is that of art and that even if Gauguin fails, “he has reason to think it worthwhile to have tried” (1988, p. On this picture, the mere fact that morality and rationality collide does not necessarily pose a problem. Andrew Latus Luck, we might think, cannot alter one’s moral standing one bit. Presumably luck can enter into moral justification in the same ways, but, with good reason, no one has ever suggested there is anything troubling about this.). Similarly, Williams claims the only thing that could show Gauguin to be rationally unjustified is failure. This, for Nagel, is the problem of moral luck: the tension between the intuition that a person’s moral standing cannot be affected by luck and the possibility that luck plays an important (perhaps even essential) role in determining a person’s moral standing. luck cannot play a role in our moral assessments, or else we acknowledge the inevitability of moral luck and then we must give up the condition of control. The mere fact that we do sometimes judge people for things that happen due to luck does not indicate that we should judge people for things that happen due to luck nor that we intend to. Nagel identifies the problem of moral luck as arising from a conflict between our practice and an intuition most of us share about morality. The nexus of the moral luck debate is the control principle, which says that people are responsible only for things within their control. 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