16 kant grounding supra note 15 at viviii 17 see

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16. Kant, Grounding, supra note 15, at vi–viii. 17. See Judith Andre, Nagel, Williams, and Moral Luck, 43 Analysis 202, 202 (1983) (describing Kantian view that morality is “the sphere of life in which, no matter what our circumstances, each of us can become worthy” and suggesting “moral worth is the highest worth of all, and so there is a kind of ultimate justice in the world”). 18. Williams, Moral Luck, supra note 1, at 39.
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2011] MANAGING MORAL RISK 1885 moral thinking. 19 That, indeed, was Williams’s aim. 20 Williams sought to dislodge moral theory’s focus on universal accounts of right and wrong action and to replace it with attention to individual reflection about one’s own actions. According to Williams, a person’s rational justification of his own actions to himself is the better site of moral theory. He wished to demonstrate that this type of reflection necessarily and appropriately turns on matters of luck, especially how one’s actions, undertaken with various purposes, actually turn out. 21 When actions turn out such that, in hindsight, one would have rather not committed them, one experiences what he calls agent-regret. 22 In his equally well-known reply to Williams, Thomas Nagel was un- willing to give up the traditional account of morality centered on how individuals can and should justify their voluntary acts to one another. 23 Nagel, nevertheless, identified four systematic ways in which luck per- vades the moral sphere. 24 First, constitutive luck concerns the “kind of person you are, where this is not a question of what you deliberately do, but of your inclinations, capacities, and temperament.” 25 Second, circum- stantial luck concerns “the things we are called upon to do, the moral tests we face.” 26 Third, causal luck is concerned with all that determines what we (choose to) do. 27 Finally, the most well-known, resultant luck, covers the uncertain outcomes of our actions. 28 These four kinds of luck overlap considerably but nevertheless help map out the many paths by which arbitrary factors contaminate the moral domain. Nagel’s version of moral luck calls for less wholesale revision of the basic tenets of Kantian moral theory than Williams’s account. Nagel did not come to terms with moral luck by rejecting the proposition that moral blame attaches only where conduct is blameworthy in the eyes of others for reasons that can be articulated at the time of the action in question. Williams’s aim in raising the problem of moral luck was to re- 19. It disrupted theoretical understandings of morality, which take moral agency to entail control over the moral quality of actions. See supra note 13 (discussing importance of individual control to conceptions of morality). It similarly disrupted the basic intuition that many have that we ought not to be credited or blamed for things beyond our control.
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  • Spring '11
  • daimenfleming
  • Columbia Law Review, moral risk

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