Nagel moral luck. Notes on Thomas Nagel’s “Moral Luck” 2019-01-14

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Thomas Nagel on Moral Luck

nagel moral luck

It is most unlikely that any of these unrelated examples of successful reduction will shed light on the relation of mind to brain. I don't have the space to discuss Adams's suggestive paper, so I will just note one obvious problem with his argument: one may well accept that our practices involve the moral assessment of people's states of mind and, more generally, the assessment of people's characters, and yet deny that such assessments amount to judgments of moral responsibility. Follow 1000-Word Philosophy on , and subscribe to receive email notice of new essays at the bottom of. Now, in epistemology, it is often held that on the justified true belief conception of knowledge, knowledge is impossible because no subject is in the position to know whether or not her beliefs are in agreement with the object that they are about. But Kripke argues that one can easily imagine a situation where, for example, one's are stimulated but one is not in pain and so refute any such psychophysical identity from the armchair. Indeed, immunity from luck has been thought by many to be part of the very essence of morality.


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What is Moral Luck

nagel moral luck

For even if one's action is not determined, it can still be the case that the causes of one's action are one's own efforts and intention. This term, introduced by , has been developed, along with its significance to a coherent moral theory, by Williams and in their respective essays on the subject. You might then conclude that the teenager and my friend are moral equals, neither any relevantly worse than the other. In his ethical treatises, Aristotle states that the desired goal, or end, of all human action is happiness, and outlines how one can live a life of happiness, considering both internal and external determinants, including luck. Upon reflection, it seems that we morally assess people differently for what they do or who they are when their actions and personal qualities depend on luck of all kinds.

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Steinblog: Nagel on Moral Luck

nagel moral luck

One may simply not be able to attain the essential components that happiness requires because external circumstances refuse to cooperate. The suggestion is, then, that anyone or almost anyone would have done what this person actually did if placed in the same situation, and so the link between the action and this agent-the one who actually performed it-seems to vanish. So at this point the dialectic seems to face a stalemate. A Rawlsian state permits intolerable inequalities and people need to develop a more ambitious view of equality to do justice to the demands of the objective recognition of the reasons of others. He may be lucky in the sense that he escapes legal culpability and the punishment and shame he might otherwise have acquired but morally speaking, the man has done wrong; he is immoral. Finally, Zimmerman goes on to claim that his reasoning applies even to cases in which a person's actions are causally determined.

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What is Moral Luck

nagel moral luck

So this picture of control offers a principled way of distinguishing, on the one hand, those factors that block ascriptions of responsibility by exempting or excusing and, on the other, those factors that, despite escaping the agent's control and having a recognizable impact on what he does, are compatible with his being a responsible agent. Before turning to suggested solutions, a brief bit of ground-clearing will be necessary. If we want to accept incompatabilism and still talk about moral luck, then it seems like we would have to hold that no one is morally accountable for any actions they take because they were determined to take these actions and could not have acted other than they did. Wolf combines these two approaches in trying to reconcile the tensions associated with moral luck by introducing the concept of a virtuous agent. First, he can defend the idea that blameworthiness is strictly correlated with control, and yet contend that agents are morally expected to take responsibility for at least some of the unexpected consequences of their actions. Cases of resultant luck that are culpability-generating are those in which it is reasonable to expect of the agent that he foresees the potentially negative consequences of engaging in certain kind of behavior. The ideas that Nagel eventually bundles into moral luck have troubled philosophers, including Aristotle, for millennia, as they have overarching implications for moral and ethical philosophy.


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Moral luck

nagel moral luck

Causal Moral Luck Causal moral luck exists if how good an individual is can depend on anything about that individual despite the fact that everything about him or her is ultimately attributable to the laws of nature and antecedent circumstances. If there is not, then Williams has not shown that morality competes with, or is trumped by, some other value. In 2008, he was awarded a for his work in philosophy, the , and the honorary degree of from the University of Oxford. This goes along with the case of the man in Germany who becomes a Nazi simply by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and the say, the exact same man who leaves Germany just in time to prevent him from becoming a Nazi. In this rendering, control and luck aren't utterly incompatible and so the paradox fails to arise. 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. Since the fault here is equal, the agents should respond equally.

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Moral Luck (summary and notes) Thomas Nagel

nagel moral luck

Odds are good that the people being less careful will more likely add poor moral luck to their poor decisions but there isn't a problem really with holding the person who actually does the thing a little more accountable. If he did, he is praiseworthy-regardless of the fact that many factors that contributed to his acting in a praiseworthy way for instance, having a good character or finding himself in suitable circumstances escaped his control. But it is also possible to adopt a position of denying the possibility of moral luck while at the same time showing that the Control Principle, while true, prevents morality from playing the central role we might have hoped for it. Consistent with this is a kind of moral luck, however: one's blameworthiness can vary in degree as a function of harm done, where harm done may be affected by what is not in one's control. All of this is to say that there is no such thing as moral luck. This view is familiarly expressed as theism, in its aspect as an explanation of the existence and character of the natural world.

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Moral Luck (summary and notes) Thomas Nagel

nagel moral luck

I think the only solution is to regard action as a basic mental or more accurately psychophysical category — reducible neither to physical nor to other mental terms. Moral luck can be broadly defined as when the actions of an agent are dependent on factors beyond their control, but the agent and their actions, are still treated as objects of moral judgement despite this lack of control. 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. Thus, according to Moore, there is no contradiction in our everyday commitments. Sometimes the problem is thought to arise only if determinism is true, but this is not the case. When it comes to circumstantial luck, things are more difficult.


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Moral Luck

nagel moral luck

If our uninjured driver regularly drives under the influence and comes out unscathed every time, while the driver involved in the crash had only driven inebriated this once, Aristotle may conclude that our repeat offender is safeguarded by divine providence. The fish has a behavioural trait which allows it to move itself through water. Notable ideas , and points of view Website Thomas Nagel ; born July 4, 1937 is an American philosopher and University Professor of Philosophy and Law Emeritus at , where he taught from 1980 to 2016. One way this occurs is through the gradual erosion of what we do by the subtraction of what happens. The argument appears to rest on the idea that without moral luck, we would lack several virtues that allow us to help each other in most essential ways. More fundamentally, people should be assessed for their characters, of which their actions in different circumstances are manifestations.

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Steinblog: Nagel on Moral Luck

nagel moral luck

J P H Stephens said. If the analysis leaves something out, the problem will be falsely posed. New York Oxford: Oxford University Press. The effect of concentrating on the influence of what is not under his control is to make this responsible self seem to disappear, swallowed up by the order of mere events idem. Given two people in the same circumstance, one might opt to fight and the other might cower in fear and run.

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