Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 10, pp 2845–2865 | Cite as

Against luck-free moral responsibility



Every account of moral responsibility has conditions that distinguish between the consequences, actions, or traits that warrant praise or blame and those that do not. One intuitive condition is that praiseworthiness and blameworthiness cannot be affected by luck, that is, by factors beyond the agent’s control. Several philosophers build their accounts of moral responsibility on this luck-free condition, and we may call their views Luck-Free Moral Responsibility (LFMR). I offer moral and metaphysical arguments against LFMR. First, I maintain that considerations of fairness that often motivate LFMR do not require its adoption. Second, I contend that LFMR has counterintuitive implications for the nature and scope of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness and that LFMR is vulnerable to a reductio ad absurdum. Third, I state some common reasons for thinking that LFMR’s commitment to true counterfactuals of libertarian freedom is problematic, and I argue that if there are no such true counterfactuals and if LFMR is true, a person is praiseworthy and blameworthy at most for a tiny fraction of her actions. Fourth, I argue that proponents of LFMR cannot escape this skeptical cost by appealing to a different kind of counterfactual of freedom. Fifth, I develop an anti-skeptical motivation to affirm the idea that luck can affect moral responsibility.


Luck Moral luck Moral responsibility Fairness Counterfactuals of freedom Michael J. Zimmerman 



I am grateful to Joel Archer, Donald Bungum, John Greco, Daniel Haybron, Brandon Rdzak, Jeremy Skrzypek, Eleonore Stump, and an anonymous referee for comments on some version of this essay. I am also thankful for questions from audience members at the ninth Felician Ethics Conference.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA

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