Attenuating the problem of moral luck : how moral luck either does not exist or does not create a paradox for our moral systems

Bock, Ivan (2020-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In the 1970’s Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel formally introduced the problem of moral luck. Moral luck can be understood as the seeming paradox between the control principle and the moral judgements we confer on others. The control principle states that an agent can only be held morally responsible for an action if, and only if, said agent had control over it. Contrary to this, we often do judge people for many things out of their control. The consequences of our actions, the circumstances we find ourselves in, and our own characters are all things we either wholly or partially lack control over, yet, we hold people responsible for these things. This lack of control and accompanying moral judgements are what is referred to as “moral luck”, and we must therefore either conclude that agents cannot be held responsible for their actions, or that we can hold people responsible for things out of their control, both being framed as problems. Here, I will attempt to give a solution to the problem of moral luck. I will do this by discussing some of the most influential writings on the problem, each section of the thesis focusing on a separate type of luck, addressing the mistakes philosophers have made while inferring that moral luck is real. I will argue that each type of moral luck only exists because we have misunderstood important concepts, and once we revise our conception of control, agency, and responsibility the problem of moral luck disappears. In particular, I will argue that 1) Resultant luck is only a problem because we are focusing on the consequences of actions rather than the intentions of the agent, 2) Circumstantial luck is only a problem because we fallaciously transfer the luck of the world onto moral considerations, and 3) Constitutive luck is only a problem because we are misapplying the concept of control onto character. The thesis will also include a section on relevant implication if I am successful in solving the paradox, including theoretical and practical implications. My conclusion will thus be, contrary to the thesis of moral luck, that we can still hold agents morally responsible without having to reject the control principle, however, this is only possible if we accept revisions to important moral concepts.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die 1970's het Bernard Williams en Thomas Nagel die probleem van Morele Geluk formeel aangevoer. Morele Geluk kan verstaan word as die skynbare paradoks wat onstaan tussen die beheerbeginsel en die werklike morele oordele waaraan ons ander onderwerp. Die beheerbeginsel bepaal dat 'n agent slegs moreel verantwoordelik bepaalde optrede gehou kan word indien, en slegs indien, daardie agent die nodige beheer oor daardie optrede gehad het. In teenstelling hiermee, beoordeel ons mense dikwels vir dinge wat buite hul beheer is. Die gevolge van ons optrede, die omstandighede waarin ons onsself bevind en ons eie geaardhede is alles dinge waaroor ons, in geheel of gedeeltelik, nie beheer het nie, maar tog hou ons mense verantwoordelik vir al hierdie dinge. Hierdie gebrek aan beheer en die gepaardgaande morele oordele wat nogtans gemaak word, word 'Morele Geluk' genoem, en ons moet klaarblyklik dus óf tot die gevolgtrekking kom dat agente nie verantwoordelik gehou kan word vir hul optrede nie, óf dat ons mense verantwoordelik kan hou vir dinge wat buite hul beheer is. Albei opsies word as probleme voorgehou. Ek probeer hier om 'n oplossing vir die Probleem van Morele Geluk te ontwikkel. Ek doen dit deur enkele van die mees invloedryke werke wat die probleem aanvoer te bespreek en dan die foute wat elke filosoof begaan het toe hulle afgelei het dat Morele Geluk ʼn werklikheid is, uit te wys. Elke afdeling van die tesis fokus op 'n aparte soort Morele Geluk, soos ontwikkel in die literatuur. Ek argumenteer dat elke soort Morele Geluk slegs oënskynlik bestaan te danke aan die feit dat die betrokke filosowe die ter sake konsepte telkens verkeerd verstaan het. Ek wys dan uit dat sodra ons ons opvattings van “beheer”, “agentskap” en “verantwoordelikheid” uitklaar en hersien, verdwyn die probleem van Morele Geluk. Ek voer spesifiek aan dat 1) “Resulterende geluk” slegs ontstaan indien ons op die gevolge van optrede eerder as op die agent se voornemens, konsentreer; 2) “Omstandigheidsgeluk” ontstaan slegs indien ons alledaagse geluk verkeerdelik aan morele oorwegings toeskryf; en 3) “Konstitusionele geluk” slegs 'n probleem is omdat ons die konsep van beheer op die verkeerde wyse op “geaardheid” toepas. Ek spreek ook die teoretiese en praktiese implikasies van my oplossing van die oënskynlike paradoks aan. Ek kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat ons agente steeds moreel verantwoordelik kan hou vir hulle optrede sonder om die beheerbeginsel op te skort. Dit is egter slegs moontlik indien ons die nodige hersienings aan die ter sake belangrike morele konsepte aanbring.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107866
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