MIT24_231F09_lec26 - 24.231 Ethics Handout 25 Nagel, Moral...

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1 24.231 Ethics – Handout 25 Nagel, “Moral Luck” Control Principle : People cannot be morally assessed for what is due to factors beyond their control. Corollary to the CP : Two people ought not to be morally assessed differently if the only other differences between them are due to factors beyond their control. Moral Luck : Where a significant aspect of what someone does depends on factors beyond his control, yet we continue to treat him in that respect as an object of moral judgment, it can be called moral luck . Some initial examples: We think manslaughter is worse than reckless driving that does not result in a death. We think murder is worse than attempted murder. Someone who was an officer in a concentration camp might have led a quiet and harmless life if the Nazis had never come to power in Germany (assume this was something he could not control), but we still judge him harshly. Problem : Because of the many ways in which the shape of our lives and intentions and effects of our actions are beyond our control, if the condition of control is consistently applied, it threatens to erode most of the moral assessments we find it natural to make. So is this just evidence that the CP is false? Nagel: No. “When we undermine moral assessment by considering new ways in which control is absent, we are not just discovering what would follow given the general hypothesis, but are actually being persuaded that in itself the absences of control is relevant in these cases too.” (p. 443) Analogy to Skepticism : Formal analogy: When we recognize that the kinds of things we think would generally undermine our claim to know something (e.g, we would think it even if it were false, or our evidence supports an alternative thesis equally well, or the reasons we believe it are unconnected with it’s truth…) have much broader application, this has a tendency to undermine our confidence that we know anything, rather than just leading us to reject the relevant standards for knowing. ubstantive analogy:
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This note was uploaded on 01/25/2012 for the course PHIL 201H1F taught by Professor Derekallen during the Fall '10 term at University of Toronto- Toronto.

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MIT24_231F09_lec26 - 24.231 Ethics Handout 25 Nagel, Moral...

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