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Philosophers Nagel And Kant On Moral Luck

1554 words - 7 pages

How can we determine what actions, if any, we're morally responsible for? At first the concept of the control principle was in practice until people came to realize that they didn’t actually practice this to the fullest degree; this lead to the creation of the idea of Moral Luck. Two philosophers with opposing viewpoints on the concept of Moral Luck were Nagel and Kant. I believe Kant has a good base for what he believes, but I don’t think he has all the answers as far as the role luck plays in our decisions.
To start things off we should discuss what the control principle is. "The control principle states: We should morally assess an agent on the basis of a factor, F, only if F is under the agent’s control". Basically we should only morally judge actions only on factors that the agent has control over. An example of this would be if we had two drivers on the road heading home. Assume that both of them are following all the rules and regulations of the road. All the sudden, a dog runs out in front of one of the drivers resulting in the dog dying. If you were to follow the control principle then both drivers would be morally assessed the same. The dog being killed was an uncontrollable factor to the agent. We should not morally judge him more harshly than the other driver because an uncontrollable misfortunate event took place.
The problem with the control principle is that if you follow it exactly then you really can’t hold anyone morally responsible for their actions. A lot of factors go into decisions and actions. It would be next to impossible to decipher every little detail of whether it was within the agents control or not. So, if following this principle, you would pretty much be saying no one is morally responsible for their actions. This is what led to the concept of moral luck.
Moral Luck states that: "An agent can be subjected to moral judgment, even though the act he is being assessed on depends on factors that are beyond his control". Let’s say we have two individuals to be sentenced; one of them for murder and the other for attempted murder. In the attempted murder case, the would have been victim tripped and fell as soon as the bullet would have made fatal contact. The one charged with murder is going to be morally judged harsher than the other individual charged with attempted murder. So even though they both intended for the same act to take place one of them got “lucky” in a sense that their act, due to a factor out of their control, didn’t get carried out. This "lucky" factor provided them with a less harsh moral judgment. A "lucky" factor is to be assumed as a piece to an act that the agent had no control over nor any pre thoughts about. A response to this from the control principle would be that both individuals be morally assed the same. They both were acting on the same intentions; just one of them wasn’t entirely carried out. Had the unforeseeable event or "lucky" factor not happened, the act...

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