Manipulation and constitutive luck

Philosophical Studies 177 (8):2381-2394 (2020)
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I argue that considerations pertaining to constitutive luck undermine historicism—the view that an agent’s history can determine whether or not she is morally responsible. The main way that historicists have motivated their view is by appealing to certain cases of manipulation. I argue, however, that since agents can be morally responsible for performing some actions from characters with respect to which they are entirely constitutively lucky, and since there is no relevant difference between these agents and agents who have been manipulated into acting from a character bestowed upon them by their manipulators, we should give up historicism. After presenting this argument and defending it against some potential objections, I briefly criticize the standard structuralist alternative and propose a new structuralist position that is shaped by reflection on constitutive luck.

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Taylor W. Cyr
Samford University


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