Nagel uses as an example a truck driver who accidentally runs over a child. The additional positive weight is supplied by experience itself, rather than by any of its consequences. Resultant luck poses a different challenge, and I will treat it separately in section 5. In this section I will finish off the dissolving process by making explicit how a fair opportunity account of control can coexist with luck of the four kinds Nagel identifies and, consequently, why the paradox vanishes. One question that might be raised here is whether we are left with enough of our ordinary conception of morality to include genuine notions of blame and responsibility.
That is to say that a man may do everything that is within his power to do an action A and still do not-A. For discussion see , chs. For example, whether any of our intentions are realized in action or not depends on some factors outside of our control. The human intellect has this power even if circumstance dictates that now one believes falsely that-p. Aristotle attempts to avoid an infinite regression by concluding that there must be some prime or unmoved mover whose natural state is motion and change.
The moral luck paradox Nagel describes the paradox of moral luck as follows: A person can be morally responsible only for what he does; but what he does results from a great deal that he does not do; therefore he is not morally responsible for what he is and is not responsible for. Nagel identifies four kinds of luck in all: resultant, circumstantial, constitutive, and causal. How do you all feel about it? Cases of circumstantial luck are trickier, since here the comparison might engage a thoroughly abhorrent agent and a saintly one. This reasoning can be extended still further to cover the case of constitutive and even one kind of causal luck. For example, we can ask whether there is any sense in which Williams' Gauguin ought to have left his family, despite the fact that the result was so welcome. That is familiar from the literature on Free Will.
If his decision to quit his job as a merchant and abandon his family was the result of flippancy or boredom then the beauty of his art does not render his action in any way morally justified. This argument essentially retains the rationalist claim that equal fault is equally deserving of blame while also retaining the consequentialist claim that different outcomes should result in moral agents feeling and acting differently. Imagine that two otherwise conscientious people have forgotten to have their brakes checked recently and experience brake failure, but only one of whom finds a child in the path of his car. When normative competence and situational aptness are in place, the agent has responsibility-relevant control over his actions. In the essay, Nagel gives an illustration of the moral problem and examines the moral reasoning behind luck. The external uncontrollable event, of course, is the woman crossing the street.
So, for example, it is reasonable to expect of the negligent driver that he foresees an obvious possible result of his negligence, namely, that he may be involved in a situation in which optimally functioning brakes would be needed-precisely the ones he would lack. One traditional problem of free will is posed by the following line of reasoning: if determinism is true, then no one can act freely, and, assuming that freedom is necessary for responsibility, no one can be responsible for their actions. According to motivated desire theory, when a person is motivated to moral action it is indeed true that such actions are motivated — like all intentional actions — by a belief and a desire. Thus, the agent herself as a substance, exercising her causal powers is an undetermined cause of her intentions. The recent wave of reductionist euphoria has produced several analyses of mental phenomena and mental concepts designed to explain the possibility of some variety of materialism, psychophysical identification, or reduction. The problem, according to Nagel, is that the degree to which we lack control is greater than we ordinarily recognize.
Moral luck describes circumstances whereby a moral agent is assigned moral blame or praise for an action or its consequences even though it is clear that said agent did not have full control over either the action or its consequences. Notice that this is so because we can pinpoint a very specific situational factor that deprived me of the fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing. Normative competence consists in a host of cognitive and volitional abilities that together make an agent a reasons-responsive one: the possession of these abilities allows the agent to recognize and respond to salient moral considerations-not always, of course, but with enough frequency so as to count as a competent moral agent. Though I cannot define the idea of the active self that is thus undermined, it is possible to say something about its sources. It thus follows from this conception of the nature of moral judgment that anything that merely happens to the agent-anything outside the agent's control-cannot be taken into account when we judge him morally.
For example, it has been argued against Wolf's view, in particular, that once we acknowledge the appropriateness of greater self-blame in cases of greater harm, no good reason for denying moral luck remains, and indeed we have good reason for accepting it. Nagel insists, and his opponent denies, that the presupposition of total control is intertwined with the nature of judgments of responsibility. For even if someone deliberated after having deliberated, he did not deliberate in turn about that; there is a certain starting point. To move the discussion forward, consider the following: if Nagel's conception of responsibility judgments is right, a certain form of global skepticism about responsibility follows. Thus, she who acts from a good will who does wrong is no less moral than she who acts from a good will who does right.
In my account, by contrast, whether circumstances excuse has to be decided on a case by case basis, by assessing whether the constituents of control were disrupted by specific situational factors. Whether or not we accept, reject, or qualify the Control Principle has implications for the law, and for punishment in particular. The only disparity is that in the case of Driver A, an external uncontrollable event occurred, whereas it did not in the case of Driver B. The different philosophical frameworks that Nagel and Aristotle attack moral luck with is the main driver in their differing ideas. But, if in 1929, those people were moved to some other country, away from the coming hostilities by their employers, it is quite possible that they would have led very different lives, and we could not assign the same amount of moral blame to them.
So judgments of responsibility form a class of judgments that have to do with moralized praise and blame and the associated reactive attitudes. Intuitively, the most obvious injustice of the system of natural liberty is that it permits distributive shares to be improperly influenced by these factors so arbitrary from a moral point of view. At the same time, when it comes to countless particular cases, we morally assess agents for things that depend on factors that are not in their control. Such is an example of constitutive luck, as we might blame the agent who displayed cowardice despite their predispositions that were out of their control. For a forceful reply to Domsky, see. For example, consider Nazi collaborators in 1930's Germany who are condemned for committing morally atrocious acts, even though their very presence in Nazi Germany was due to factors beyond their control Nagel 1979. He then attended the on a and received a in 1960; while there, he studied with , and.
All explanations come to an end somewhere. At this point in the debate, those who accept moral luck offer ordinary judgments and responses in their defense, while moral luck skeptics offer alternative explanations of those practices and hold up the Control Principle itself, together with other reflective intuitive judgments, as reason to reject moral luck. Thus, much is at stake in the resolution of the problem of moral luck. Quite the contrary: the control that affords the fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing is compatible with the fact that, by and large, the central traits of our character aren't up to us. This, for Nagel, elevates contingent conditions of our make-up into criteria for that which is real. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. This is, of course, a familiar thought-that ascriptions of culpability presuppose the ability to do otherwise.