Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 533–547 | Cite as

Luck and Oppression



Oppression can be unjust from a luck egalitarian point of view even when it is the consequence of choices for which it is reasonable to hold persons responsible. This is for two reasons. First, people who have not been oppressed are unlikely to anticipate the ways in which their choices may lead them into oppressive conditions. Facts about systematic phenomena (like oppression) are often beyond the epistemic reach of persons who are not currently subject to such conditions, even when they possess adequate information about the particular consequences of their choices. Second, people may be (much) less responsible for remaining in oppressive conditions, even if they are responsible for entering circumstances of oppression. Oppression that results from a person’s choice may cause or contribute to dramatic changes in that person, and these changes may be sufficient to undermine the person’s responsibility for the results of her earlier choice.


Choice Equality Luck egalitarianism Oppression Responsibility 



I am grateful for helpful feedback from Amanda Burgess-Proctor, Simon Cushing, Samuel Freeman, Fritz McDonald, Shawn Murphy and Kok-Chor Tan. I also thank an editor and two anonymous referees of this journal for their suggestions and comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

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