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PHIL 3020 (3)
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Moral Luck and Responsibility.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 3020
Professor
Shyam Ranganathan
Semester
Fall

Description
Class 09: Moral Luck and Responsibility Thomas Nagel: “Moral Luck” Moral luck, is a sociological fact, that our guilty or innocent in a crime is cogent upon a factor of control -Nagel talks about ethical theory in terms of luck, Kant’s View on Moral Goodness “The good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes or because of its adequacy to achieve some proposed end; it is good only because of its willing, i.e., it is good of itself. And, regarded for itself, it is to be esteemed incomparably higher than anything which could be brought about by it in favor of any inclination or even of the sum total of all inclinations. Even if it should happen that, by a particularly unfortunate fate or by the niggardly provision of a stepmotherly nature, this will should be wholly lacking in power to accomplish its purpose, and if even the greatest effort should not avail it to achieve anything of its end, and if there remained only the good will (not as a mere wish but as the summoning of all the means in our power), it would sparkle like a jewel in its own right, as something that had its full worth in itself. Usefulness or fruitlessness can neither diminish nor augment this worth.” -Goodness of will has nothing to do with intention, nothing else counts as good except for will Corollary of Kant’s View Bad will is bad regardless of whether it accomplishes its evil ends. Motive for Kant’s View Goodness and Badness of a will cannot be a function of luck or chance, which plays a great part in determining whether an action has good or bad consequences it produces, outside of its will, turn out the way in which the will works Goodness and Badness must be under the control of an agent and thus must purely be about intention or will. 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. Such luck can be good or bad.” Problem that Moral Luck Illustrates “Ultimately, nothing or almost nothing about what a person does seems to be under his control.” -There is so many ways in which luck can be approached that we cannot control this Analogy in Epistemology “External and internal causes produce our beliefs. We may subject these processes to scrutiny in an effort to avoid error, but our conclusions at this next level also result, in part, from influences which we do not control directly. The same will be true no matter how far we carry the investigation. Our beliefs are always, ultimately, due to factors outside our control, and the impossibility of encompassing those factors without being at the mercy of others leads us to doubt whether we know anything. It looks as though, if any of our beliefs are true, it is pure biological luck rather than knowledge.” Four types of Moral Luck: the way luck plays a role, any choice we make plays a role of luck (1) Constitutive Luck: “the kind of person you are, where this is not just a question of what you deliberately do, but of your inclinations, capacities, and temperament” -Basically the personal character of one (2) Luck in Circumstance: “the kind of problems and situations one faces” (3) Antecedent Luck: “luck in how one is determined by antecedent circumstances” (4) Outcome Luck: “luck in the way one's actions and projects turn out” Moral Luck and Blame Nagel thinks that whether or not we are blameworthy has less to do with our will and a lot to do with these various kinds of luck. Examples include: (a) The difference between DUI badly and hurting no one and DUI and killing someone. (b) The difference between manslaughter, murder and attempted murder. -In both cases someone is doing something wrong, therefore Nagel does not bring luck into the case, but rather he uses luck to findout how that person has done something bad or liable (c) Failing to get one’s breaks properly maintained and hurting no one, and failing to get one’s breaks properly maintained and hitting someone with one’s car due to break failure. (d) The difference between succeeding in political revolutions and failing. Nagel on Moral Luck Condemnation implies that one should not be a certain way, not that it is unfortunate that one is the way one is., rather that criticising that person for doing something wrong Kant’s solution to this problem was to take luck out of the equation and judge people solely in terms of their will Kant’s solution is “intuitively” unacceptable. “The view that moral luck is paradoxical is not a mistake, ethical or logical, but a perception of one of the ways in which the intuitively acceptable conditions of moral judgment threaten to undermine it all.” “If one cannot be responsible for consequences of one's acts due to factors beyond one's control, or for antecedents of one's acts mat are properties or temperament not subject to one's will, or for the circumstances that pose one's moral choices, then how can one be responsible even for the stripped-down acts of the will itself, if they are the product of antecedent circumstances outside of the will's control?” “The area of genuine agency, and therefore of legitimate moral judgment, seems to shrink under this scrutiny to an extensionless point. Everything seems to result from the combined influence of factors, antecedent and posterior to action, that are not within the agent's control. Since he cannot be responsible for them, he cannot be responsible for their results - though it may remain possible to take up the aesthetic or other evaluative analogues of the moral attitudes that are thus displaced.” “The problem arises, I believe, because the self which acts and is the object of moral judgment is threatened with dissolution by the absorption of its acts and impulses into the class of events. Moral judgment of a person is judgment not o
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