Holding people responsible for what they do not control

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (4):355-377 (2008)
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A crucial question for egalitarians, and theorists of distributive justice in general, is whether people can be held responsible for disadvantages they bring upon themselves. One response to this question states that it would be inegalitarian to hold people responsible on the basis of their actions if their actions are not ultimately under their control and reflect instead the good or bad luck the agent had in being the type of person who happens to act in a given way. I argue that even if we accept that there is something inegalitarian about holding people responsible on the basis of actions they did not ultimately control, the alternative (that is, not holding people responsible) is even more inegalitarian. Therefore, egalitarians, including so-called luck egalitarians, can and should hold people responsible on the basis of their actions, even if people lack free will and their actions are ultimately a matter of luck. Key Words: responsibility • egalitarianism • luck egalitarianism • fairness • distributive justice.



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Zofia Stemplowska
University of Warwick

Citations of this work

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