Philosophical Studies 178 (3):693-711 (2021)

Stefan Riedener
University of Zürich
Is it appropriate to blame people unequally if the only difference between them was a matter of luck? Suppose Alice would drive recklessly if she could, Belen drove recklessly but didn’t harm anyone, and Cleo drove recklessly and killed a child. Luck-advocates emphasize that in real life we do blame such agents very unequally. Luck-skeptics counter that people aren’t responsible for factors beyond their control, or beyond their quality of will. I’ll defend a somewhat reconciliatory view. I’ll concede to the skeptics that these agents are equally culpable. Nonetheless, I’ll suggest with the luck-advocates that it’s fitting to blame them unequally. That’s because their culpability is unequally significant for us: Cleo’s culpability concerns us more than Belen’s, and Belen’s more than Alice’s—just like the fault of a close aggressor concerns us more than that of an aggressor far off in place and time. And it’s fitting for us to respond with more blame to faults that concern us more. Indeed, blaming people simply in proportion to their culpability manifests a form of fetishism, or problematic mere-matter-of-principle concern. So while many skeptical tenets may hold, in substance the luck-advocates are right.
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-020-01452-9
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