SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Moral luck, risk and control
(Responsibility and Agency, English)

A''Moral Luck'' is the paradoxical phenomenon of allowing luck to affect the attribution of moral responsibility while simultaneously conceiving moral responsibility as inherently associated with the concept of control. I contend that we can make use of some arguments from the luck-egalitarian debate in order to solve this paradox on moral responsibility, given that both philosophical discussions revolve around the problem of the relation between luck and responsibility. Specifically, Dworkin's distinction between brute and optional luck can be proved useful in order to justify why in some cases we permit luck to influence the attribution of responsibility. Dworkin contends that in cases of optional luck, it is justifiable to allow individuals to take risks. While that assumption of risk renders persons vulnerable to the outcomes of luck, it is justified because it is the consequence of a voluntary choice among equal alternatives.

This idea of a voluntary choice among equal opportunities could be used into the moral responsibility debate. In various cases, it seems justified to accept that identical acts entail different degrees of responsibility because luck has caused the occurrence of different outcomes. In the example of the drunk driver that accidentally killed a child, we consider him as much more blameworthy than the similarly drunk driver who does not cause any accident. By taking the risk of driving while drunk, the driver has taken, at least to a minimal extent, the risk of killing someone by accident. Given that he had the opportunity to abstain from alcohol and drive sober, he made the voluntary choice to ''gamble'' and thus should be held responsible for the luck-dependent consequences of his choice. This line of reasoning leads us to reconciliation between luck and moral responsibility. I contend that moral luck, when derived from taking a risk, can be reconciled with the condition of control, if we understand the latter as a condition which gives fair, available opportunities to alternative choices. Contrary to an understanding of control as the complete command of an action's causes and effects, I favor a conception of control which is identified with the existence of available opportunities to avoid wrongdoing.

Time: 18:20-18:50, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Athanasios Pappas 
(Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Greece)

Athanasios Pappas is a postgraduate student in the Institute of Philosophy at KU Leuven. He has graduated from the Faculty of Law of Athens, in which he has also successfully completed a Master degree in Philosophy of Law. His research interests focus on the normative foundations of political and legal institutions, with specific emphasis on the question of fair and equal distribution. He currently works on the Rawlsian constructivism and his political conception of justice.

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