Manipulation and constitutive luck
I argue that considerations pertaining to constitutive luck undermine historicism—the view that an agent’s history can determine whether or not she is morally responsible. The main way that historicists have motivated their view is by appealing to certain cases of manipulation. I argue, however, that since agents can be morally responsible for performing some actions from characters with respect to which they are entirely constitutively lucky, and since there is no relevant difference between these agents and agents who have been manipulated into acting from a character bestowed upon them by their manipulators, we should give up historicism. After presenting this argument and defending it against some potential objections, I briefly criticize the standard structuralist alternative and propose a new structuralist position that is shaped by reflection on constitutive luck.
KeywordsConstitutive luck Historicism Manipulation Moral responsibility Structuralism
For comments on earlier drafts of this paper, I am grateful to John Fischer and Michael Nelson; the members of the Agency Workshop at the University of California, Riverside, especially Zac Bachman, Dave Beglin, Andrew Law, Meredith McFadden, Jonah Nagashima, and Debbie Nelson; my commentator at the 2017 Pacific APA in Seattle, Ben Matheson; the audience at that APA, especially Craig Agule, Garrett Pendergraft, Michael Robinson, Philip Swenson, and Neal Tognazzini; and to an anonymous reviewer for this journal. I am also grateful to Al Mele for discussion of the main argument of this paper.
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