Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 1, pp 45–64 | Cite as

On being difficult: towards an account of the nature of difficulty

  • Hasko von KriegsteinEmail author


This paper critically assesses existing accounts of the nature of difficulty, finds them wanting, and proposes a new account. The concept of difficulty is routinely invoked in debates regarding degrees of moral responsibility, and the value of achievement. Until recently, however, there has not been any sustained attempt to provide an account of the nature of difficulty itself. This has changed with Gwen Bradford’s Achievement, which argues that difficulty is a matter of how much intense effort is expended. But while this account captures something important about the relationship between difficulty and achievement, it fails to account for the fact that part of what makes achievements great is that they are difficult in a moderately agent-neutral kind of way. Nor is this thought captured by any other extant account. I argue that to fill this gap we should think of (one kind of) difficulty in terms of low probability of success.


Difficulty Achievement Degrees of Responsibility Demandingness Value of achievement 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ted Rogers School of ManagementRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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