Moral Luck and The Unfairness of Morality

Philosophical Studies 176 (12):3179-3197 (2019)
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Moral luck occurs when factors beyond an agent’s control positively affect how much praise or blame she deserves. Kinds of moral luck are differentiated by the source of lack of control such as the results of her actions, the circumstances in which she finds herself, and the way in which she is constituted. Many philosophers accept the existence of some of these kinds of moral luck but not others, because, in their view, the existence of only some of them would make morality unfair. I, however, argue that this intermediary approach is unstable, because either morality is fair in ways that rule out resultant, circumstantial, and constitutive moral luck (and this leads to moral responsibility skepticism), or morality is unfair in ways that permit the existence of those kinds of moral luck. Thus, such intermediary approaches lack the motivation that their proponents have long taken them to have. In the appendix, I point to ways in which morality is unfair concerning the scope of moral responsibility, moral obligation, moral taint, being a good or bad person, and flourishing.

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Robert J. Hartman
Ohio Northern University


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