The Ockham Society (Friday - Week 1, HT20)

Ockham Society

The problem of Moral Luck suggests that we cannot consistently hold the following:

The Control Principle: An agent can be held morally responsible for all and only those things (such as character traits and actions) that are under their control.


Our Considered Intuitions suggesting that, in certain cases, an agent can be held morally responsible for things that are (seemingly) not under their control.

Most philosophers accept that some form of “control” is necessary for responsibility, but argue that the Control Principle properly understood does not undermine our considered intuitions. As such, moral responsibility is saved and the problem of Moral Luck is defused.

In this paper I first argue that all accounts of moral responsibility that accept some form of the Control Principle are doomed to incoherency. Yet, instead of accepting that we therefore cannot be “realistically” morally responsible at all (as Strawson famously argues) I argue that moral responsibility is “realistically” grounded independently of control. The majority of the paper is devoted to outlining and defending a novel account of moral responsibility, which holds that moral responsibility emerges in the first instance as a necessary presupposition of action. Taking influence from Korsgaard’s Kantian argument for the emergence of value, I argue that moral responsibility similarly emerges as a matter of practical necessity.

In the last part of the paper I defend this account, showing it to be no more liable to objection than Korsgaard’s Kantian account of value, and show how it can defuse the problem of Moral Luck by accommodating our Considered Intuitions.

Ockham Society Convenor: Sean Costello | Ockham Society Webpage