Philosophical Studies

, Volume 169, Issue 2, pp 313–332 | Cite as

Luck, blame, and desert

  • Michael Cholbi


T.M. Scanlon has recently proposed what I term a ‘double attitude’ account of blame, wherein blame is the revision of one’s attitudes in light of another person’s conduct, conduct that we believe reveals that the individual lacks the normative attitudes we judge essential to our relationship with her. Scanlon proposes that this account justifies differences in blame that in turn reflect differences in outcome luck. Here I argue that although the double attitude account can justify blame’s being sensitive to outcome luck, it cannot justify allocating blame differently when agents with the same attitudes differ only with respect to the luck-based outcomes of their actions. However, Scanlon’s own contractualist theory of morality can be invoked to show that the double attitude account is compatible with blame-based sanctions (e.g., compensation mandated when negligence or reckless result in harm) being sensitive to outcome luck. The resultant view of blame and luck remains desert-based while making sense of the common intuition that differences in outcome luck can matter to how lucky and unlucky individuals are justifiably treated.


Moral luck Blame Desert Compensation Negligence and recklessness T.M. Scanlon 



A number of colleagues provided valuable feedback on earlier versions of this article, including David Adams, Carl Cranor, John Davis, Kory de Clark, Margaret Gilbert, Aaron James, Steve Munzer, Peter Ross, Michael Smith, and Rivka Weinberg. I also gratefully acknowledge the feedback of an anonymous Philosophical Studies reviewer.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State Polytechnic University, PomonaPomonaUSA

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