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October 16, 2004


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A few comments:

1. If Lucky deserves to deserve to be blamed, as you suggest, then, in order for him to get what he deserves, it seems that he would need to run over a child (or do something similarly blameworthy). But it's odd to say that Lucky deserves to run over a child. For one thing, it's often regarded as a good thing that people get what they deserve; but Lucky's running over a child surely would not be a good thing.

2. On your proposal, as I understand it, we satisfy our intuitions regarding moral luck by saying that Lucky and Unlucky are equally deserving of being blameworthy. But then we have a choice: either we say that both deserve to be blameworthy, or we say that neither deserves to be blameworthy. So how do we decide between these?

3. I don't understand your discussion of Conscientious. You say:

Although we would expect Conscientious to feel very bad about this outcome, we would not blame her for the death of this child, and I think that we would not think she ought to blame herself. The reason is that Conscientious did not deserve to deserve such blame.

But why is that the reason? It seems more natural to say that the reason is simply that Conscientious doesn't deserve to be blamed. Why do we need to go to the second-order level here?

On reflection, I'm not sure that I accept your claim:

(2) Unlucky is deserving of blame in a way that Lucky is not.

Here's your argument for (2):

Lucky and Unlucky cannot possibly be equally deserving of blame, since Lucky cannot possibly be blamed for something that Unlucky clearly can be blamed for: the death of a child.

But what if we respond as follows? We can blame or praise people only for the choices they have made. But Unlucky did not choose to kill the child. And Lucky did not choose to avoid killing a child. Thus, just as Lucky cannot be praised for not killing a child, so Unlucky cannot be blamed for killing a child. However, both Lucky and Unlucky did make a blameworthy choice: they both chose to take a significant, and unacceptable, risk of killing a child. So they are equally deserving of blame.

More generally, the idea is that blame and praise should depend on the expected consequences of people's actions, rather than the actual consequences. The actions of Lucky and Unlucky differ in their actual consequences; Unlucky's action results in the death of a child, whereas Lucky's action does not. But they do not differ in their expected consequenes (or so we may suppose); both actions were likely to result in the death of child. So, again, they're equally blameworthy.

Interesting idea, but what about this simpler one, which if I remember correctly is part of Michael Zimmerman's view from a paper in J Phil: Just deny that the degree to which a person is blameworthy is determined by the number of things for which he is to blame (or the "extent" of his blameworthiness). Lucky and Unlucky have the same degree of blameworthiness - they deserve an equal amount of blame - even though Unlucky is blameworthy for more things. This still requires some account of what determines someone's degree of blameworthiness, but maybe to resolve the apparent inconsistency you're worried about it's enough to say that the number of things for which one can be blamed won't be part of the true account.

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