Law Philos 26:405–436, Franzoi SL (2006) Social psychology. Such cases are perhaps better covered by Duncan Pritchard’s more technical definition of luck, which invokes the idea of possible worlds. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, Card C (1996) The Unnatural Lottery: Character and Moral Luck. So much the worse for morality, it loses its position as the supreme sort of value to a sort of value which is affected by luck. Yet, Nagel claims that, despite our having this intuition, we frequently do make moral judgments about people based on factors that are not within their control. 514-515 for this point.) The paradox of moral luck arises from our common notions of control and responsibility. In doing so, Williams takes himself to be challenging not just Kantian thinking about morality, but also commonplace ideas about it. This seems the natural way to introduce it. By the so-called epistemic argument they claim that what luck really does is not only to interfere with someone’s moral status, but to interfere with our knowledge of her/him, given that we are not omniscient beings and our knowledge is The same could be said of the moral status of his decision: what counts is the information he had at the time, not how things turned out. But, as Williams observes, we would think much less of the driver if he showed no regret at all, saying only “It’s a terrible thing that has happened, but I did everything I could to avoid it.” Williams suggests that a conception of rationality that does not involve retrospective justification has no room for agent regret and so is “an insane concept of rationality” (1993a, p. 44). Nagel’s example is of a person who lives in Germany during the Second World War and “behaves badly” (Nagel, 1993, p. 65). In the end, says Williams, “the only thing that will justify his choice will be success itself” (1993a, p. 38). The Problem of Moral Luck: An Argument Against its Epistemic Reduction. A case of moral luck occurs whenever luck makes a moral difference. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice For a critique of the notions of character and character traits see, for instance, Harman (2000) and Harman (2001), Merritt (2000), and Ross and Nisbet (1991). 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.). I argue that epistemic reductionists are mistaken. Athanassoulis N (2005) Morality, moral luck and responsibility: Fortune’s web. Suppose that determinism is true (and we were aware of this), such that it would have been possible in, say, 1897 to correctly predict that Jane would win the lottery this weekend. Google Scholar, Coyne MU (1985) Moral luck? Our temptation is to avoid the other sorts of luck by focusing on what the person really is. Various sorts of difference have been considered. No plagiarism and custom research is guaranteed. Her views on these matters are controversial. b. the self is threatened with dissolution by the absorption of its acts into the class of events. Now consider the former notion (free will). (See, in particular, Rescher, 1995, pp. (It is, however, possible to concede that morality is not the supreme source of value, but not give up the claim that our lives are, in some important respect, free of luck. 61-62). We are sure we can handle writing a new unique essay on this topic within the tight deadlines. Two sorts of difference are discussed in the literature on moral luck, although these are not always clearly distinguished. Metaphilosophy 37(1):1–25 January 2006, Rescher N (1993) “Moral Luck”, in Statman (ed.) None of this is to deny that the way things turn out may figure in the justifications people give for their past actions. Clearly cases of moral luck fly in the face of the above stated intuition about morality. The literature on moral luck began in earnest in the wake of papers by Thomas Nagel and Bernard Williams. Williams appears to want constitutive luck to encompass what we have called “circumstantial” and “causal” luck (Williams, 1993a, p. 36). The general question is whether we can assess a people's morality based on things that are outside of their control. 2 The ‘Epistemic Argument’ As I advanced, the anti-moral-luck theorists claim that the phenomenon of moral luck is an illusion. It rests on a claim about rational justification that can quite easily be made to look doubtful. 197-198.) Not every success, however, confers justification, nor does every failure signal lack of justification. Concepcion (2002: 458): “Advocates of the epistemic argument for immunity from luck improperly over-generalize its limited conclusion.”. Because despite the shakiness of the argument he in fact gives, he has pointed the way towards a much more interesting and troubling argument about moral luck. This leads him to suspect there is a real paradox in the notion of morality. While appealing, the difficulty with this response to the problem of moral luck is that it tends to work better for some sorts of luck than others. Nagel identifies four ways in which luck plays into our moral assessments: Nagel identifies, but does not give names to all four types of luck. This claim turns upon a substantive claim about the nature of luck, a topic that has been surprisingly absent from the literature on moral luck. Like determinism, then, it seems that we needn’t worry about whether people possess free will when discussing moral luck. The problem Nagel points out, however, is that when we consider the sorts of things that influence us “Ultimately, nothing or almost nothing about what a person does seems to be under his control” (Nagel, 1993, p. 59) That is, everything we do seems at some level to involve luck. Questions about the nature of luck have been dealt with remarkably little in the literature on moral luck. 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. The problem of moral luck had been discussed before Nagel’s and Williams’ articles, although not under the heading of “moral luck.” Though Nagel’s paper was written as a commentary on Williams’, they have quite different emphases. Luck gives some head starts and holds others back. (Nagel, 1993, 59). CiteSeerX - Document Details (Isaac Councill, Lee Giles, Pradeep Teregowda): In this paper I argue against the idea that the existence of moral luck is an illusion. The revised versions of these papers are also included in an excellent anthology edited by Daniel Statman (1993). 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. Andrew Latus Since the world contains irreducible chance, many unintended consequences of our actions are out of our control. (1993), 217–233, Zipursky BC (2008) Two dimensions of responsibility in crime, tort, and moral luck. 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. 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. I came across an argument against moral responsibility that follows like this: P1 A person P is morally responsible for the occurring of an event only if the event was not a matter of luck. It is not clear, for instance, that moral value has to be the supreme sort of value. As Nagel says, we “pare each act down to its morally essential core, an inner act of pure will assessed by motive and intention” (1993, p. 63). Success of whatever kind we might seek is not equally available to all. Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout. Williams begins the drive towards this dilemma by focusing on rational justification rather than moral justification. 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). Suppose that Gauguin’s decision to leave his family is morally unjustified. What indication did he have that he had the potential to become a great painter? But while they cover some of the same territory, the notions upon which the problems turn are quite different. (Cf. The biggest threat moral luck poses is that it threatens to reduce all moral responsibility to … As Williams points out, however, this will be cold comfort if morality doesn’t matter much. Are we willing to say that those of us who would have failed had we been in such circumstances should be assessed in the same way as the German who actually failed? His claim was not that morality is the only source of value, but that it is the supreme source of value. Thus, the problem posed by the Gauguin case is not simply, as Andre suggests, that there might be other sources of value than morality floating around. Shafer-Landau is much stronger on metaethics, as is especially apparent in Chapter 21. On the other hand, if, at the start of his project, a freak accident causes him to sustain an injury which prevents him from ever painting again, he will be neither justified nor unjustified since his project is never really carried out. Nevertheless, we are often held responsible for actions that were intended as good, but that had bad consequences. Why? See, for instance, Joel Feinberg (1962). It is against this picture of morality that Williams’ argument must be understood. (Although Williams never mentions it, presumably if Gauguin were to succeed due to good extrinsic luck, he would also be neither justified nor unjustified. (Luck clearly can enter into rational justification in ways other than the one Williams has in mind. The problem is that, in any plausible case of this sort, it will not be rational for the driver to believe that he could not have driven more safely. So what is the problem if luck makes a moral difference? Despite all the attention that Williams’ article has generated, his argument is actually fairly unimpressive. When it has been made, the approach has usually been to suggest that, if cases of moral luck are troubling, this is only because we have a mistaken view of morality. The answer is both. Keywords Moral luck • Epistemic luck • Character • Graham Greene The problem of moral luck: an argument against its epistemic reduction Agent regret exists because we can almost never be sure we did “everything we could.” Thus, it provides us with no reason to believe there is a retrospective component to rational justification (and so no reason to conclude that luck plays the role in justification that Williams suggests). (1993), 167–180, Ross L, Nisbet RE (1991) The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology. I’ll crit-icize the standard argument against circumstantial luck. He argues that, once we correct our thinking, cases of moral luck cease to be troubling. Nothing else seems to remain that can play a role in determining what we do. He gives the example of someone who must decide whether to instigate a revolution against a brutal regime. Susan Mendus argues that, while the case of Gauguin shows that morality is not the supreme source of value, the only values which compete with morality for supremacy are themselves free from luck. (1962) “Problematic Responsibility in Law and Morals.”, Hurley, S. L. (1993) “Justice Without Constitutive Luck.”, Kant, I. Whom I call ‘epistemic reductionists’ in this article are critics of the notion of ‘moral luck’ that maintain that all supposed cases of moral luck are illusory; they are in fact cases of what I describe as a special form of epistemic luck, the only difference lying in what we get to know about someone, rather than in what (s)he deserves in terms of praise or blame. 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. 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). Since both the condition of control and the prevalence of moral luck seem philosophically plausible, perhaps even compelling, the dilemma points to a Responses to the problem have been of two broad sorts: The first sort of response has been the least popular. Frankfurt cases (also known as Frankfurt counterexamples or Frankfurt-style cases) were presented by philosopher Harry Frankfurt in 1969 as counterexamples to the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), which holds that an agent is morally responsible for an action only … volume 12, pages267–277(2009)Cite this article. The problem is that the idea of luck making a moral difference is deeply counterintuitive. Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, You can also search for this author in …it offers… solace to a sense of the world’s unfairness” (1993a, p. 36). (Martha Nussbaum’s The Fragility of Goodness (1986) is an important work in which she considers Greek views towards luck and ethics. Yet we hold on to the idea of moral responsibility, and it seems wise to do so. Bill Gates may be richer than Jane Doe, but that does not mean he is a better person. Card (1996: 2) and Athanassoulis (2005: 24) have rightly observed that constitutive luck has been virtually ignored in the literature. Andre, J. Yet, it seems we allow luck into our moral judgments all the time. Nagel thinks that luck should be understood as operating where control is lacking, so for him the problem about control and the problem about luck are one and the same. We do think less of the unfortunate driver. Some stumble into great wealth; others work hard, but always remain poor. That is, the question is whether it was rational (given Gauguin’s interests) for him to do as he did. 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. 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. We might well think, however, that morality is the one arena in which luck has no power. Similarly, Williams claims the only thing that could show Gauguin to be rationally unjustified is failure. I use the terms ‘character’ and ‘character traits’ without taking an essentialist position on their meaning. 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. Nagel also makes much of decisions, particularly political ones, made under uncertainty. We know that luck enters into our lives in countless ways. In an argument reminiscent of Williams, Margaret Urban Walker (1993) claims that cases of moral luck are only troubling if we adopt the mistaken view of agency she calls “pure agency.” She argues that this view has repugnant implications and so should be rejected in favour a view of agency on which moral luck ceases to be troubling (namely “impure agency”). For this reason, it is in terms of luck rather than lack of control that we shall hereafter frame the problem. The problem of moral luck: an argument against its epistemic reduction 269 acts, and build on this in section 4, where I also draw on findings from social psychology that problematize epistemic reductionists’ assumptions about character and its relation to action. Take the latter notion (determinism) first. Nagel gives us several examples of resultant luck. 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-creation requirement. Williams’ example is of a lorry driver who “through no fault of his” runs over a small child (Williams, 1993a, p. 43). There can be more than one source of value so long as moral value trumps these others sorts of value. Some are born healthy; others with various sorts of handicaps. If he had just been a little more alert or driving a little closer to the centre of the road. Despite all the attention that Williams’ article has generated, his argument is actually fairly unimpressive. MIT Press, Cambridge (MA), pp 117–127, Merritt M (2000) Virtue ethics and situationist personality psychology. It may be that, in a given situation, Jane did not act with good intentions, but perhaps this was because Jane was unlucky enough to be born a bitter or spiteful person. Luck is an essential part of any discussion of moral responsibility.Some critics have tried to mistakenly make it an objection to libertarian free will. But, as we have noted, there is more than one way in which luck might make a moral difference. Morality thus provides us with a sort of comfort. The intuition is mistaken: there is nothing wrong with luck making a moral difference. Did he have reason to believe a move to the South Seas would help him achieve his goal? Suppose, as Williams clearly means us to, that his Gauguin, like the real one, becomes a great artist (and that this does not happen as the result of extrinsic luck). And thus, for Richards, luck may influence how we ought to treat someone, “not by changing what he deserves, but by changing the grounds on which we are obliged to judge” (1993: 170). (1992) “A Solution To The Problem of Moral Luck.”, Farwell, P. (1994) “Aristotle, Success, and Moral Luck.”, Feinberg, J. Most philosophers I’ll discuss restrict their anti-moral luck claims to claims about responsibility, ‘Circumstantial luck’ (or ‘situational luck’) points to the role of circumstances, the situation one is in – for instance, one may be exposed to temptations others will never have to face. The most obvious is, perhaps, a difference in what a person is morally responsible for, but it has also been suggested both that luck affects the moral justification of our actions and that it affects a person’s moral status in general (that is, that it affects how morally good or bad a person is). Regardless, those favouring adding external considerations to an account of justification are no more inclined to factor in how things turn out than internalists (see, for instance, Goldman, 1989). The cornerstone of his argument is the claim that rational justification is a matter of luck to some extent. We do hold him responsible for the death of the child. They were originally published in the Aristotelian Society Supplementary of 1976 and republished (with some revisions) in Williams (1981) and Nagel (1983) [first edition 1979].
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