Heather J. Gert
Received: 12 September 2016 / Accepted: 3 September 2017 /
Published online: 23 September 2017
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017
Abstract Nagel’s constitutive moral luck is one important type of moral luck, but
discussions of it have tended to focus on temperament. Luck in how aware a person is
of morally relevant aspects of her situation—awareness luck—though similar in some
ways, also raises different issues. Luck in temperament impacts how difficult a person
finds it to behave well, while awareness luck impacts whether she even recognizes that
the situation is making a moral demand on her. For this reason, awareness luck raises
some unique challenges for those who would deny the existence of moral luck.
Keywords Moral luck
In his 1979 book, Mortal Questions, Thomas Nagel observed an apparent contradiction
in our moral thinking. (Nagel 1979)
On the face if it, we are right to hold a person
morally accountable for her actions only insofar as she was in control of what she did:
how she is assessed for her actions should not be a matter of luck.
But even though this
intuition is firm and essentially universal, in actual cases we often assign moral
responsibility despite knowing full well that luck played a significant role. Perhaps
the most commonly discussed case of this type is what Nagel called Bluck in
Philosophia (2018) 46:131–140
Bernard Williams noted the same contradiction at about the same time. (Williams 1981). Unlike Williams,
however, much of Nagel’s paper is devoted to categorizing specific types of moral luck. For this reason, in
what follows I will be addressing Nagel’s writings, rather than Williams’.
Questions have recently been raised about whether the problem of moral luck might be better addressed by
taking seriously the issue of what the word Bluck^ means in this context. Almost all writers have assumed,
generally in a rather loose way, that to say an agent has bad (or good) moral luck is to say that part of what
determines the agent’s blameworthiness (or praiseworthiness) was beyond her control. I will continue in this
tradition, but for alternatives and reasons to consider them, see: Hales (2015); Whittington (2014); Driver
(2013); and Pritchard (2014).
* Heather J. Gert
Department of Philosophy, UNC Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA