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Moral luck

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

The term ‘moral luck’ was introduced by Bernard Williams in 1976 to convey the idea that moral status is, to a large extent, a matter of luck. For example, that Bob grows up to be vicious and Tom to be virtuous depends very much on their different family conditions and educational background. Following Williams, Thomas Nagel widened the scope of moral luck. The position taken by both stands in stark contrast to the widely-held view, influenced by Kant, that one is morally accountable only for what is under one’s control, so that moral accountability is not a matter of luck. This idea is so deeply entrenched in our modern concept of morality that rejecting it would call for a rethinking and reformulation of the most basic notions of morality. Some have argued that the paradox of moral luck provides a strong reason to abandon traditional moral theories, and lends support to virtue ethics.

Citing this article:
Statman, Daniel. Moral luck, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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