Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
First published Mon Jun 20, 2005; substantive revision Fri Apr 11, 2014
Some people end up worse off than others partly because of their bad luck. For instance, some die young due to a genetic disease, whereas others live long lives. Are such differential luck induced inequalities unjust? Many are inclined to answer this question affirmatively. To understand this inclination, we need a clear account of what luck involves. On some accounts, luck nullifies responsibility. On others, it nullifies desert. It is often said that justice requires luck to be ‘neutralized’. However, it is contested whether a distributive pattern that eliminates the influence of luck can be described. Thus an agent's level of effort—something few would initially see as a matter of luck—might be inseparable from her level of talent—something most would initially see as a matter of luck— and this might challenge standard accounts of just deviation from equality (or, for that matter, other favored distributive patterns). Critically, relational egalitarians argue that so-called luck egalitarians' preoccupation with eliminating inequalities reflecting differential bad luck misconstrues justice, which, according to the former, is a matter of social relations having a suitably egalitarian character.
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