The problem of moral luck: An argument against its epistemic reduction

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Whom I call 'epistemic reductionists' in this article are critics of the notion of 'moral luck' that maintain that all supposed cases of moral luck are illusory; they are in fact cases of what I describe as a special form of epistemic luck, the only difference lying in what we get to know about someone, rather than in what (s)he deserves in terms of praise or blame. I argue that epistemic reductionists are mistaken. They implausibly separate judgements of character from judgements concerning acts, and they assume a conception of character that is untenable both from a common sense perspective and with a view to findings from social psychology. I use especially the example of Scobie, the protagonist of Graham Greene's novel The Heart of the Matter, to show that moral luck is real-that there are cases of moral luck that cannot be reduced to epistemic luck. The reality of moral luck, in this example at least, lies in its impact on character and personal and moral identity. © 2009 Springer Science Media B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-277
Number of pages11
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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