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Monday, May 14, 2018

No Luck for Moral Luck

Markus Kneer, University of Zurich Edouard Machery, University of Pittsburgh
Draft, March 2018


Moral philosophers and psychologists often assume that people judge morally lucky and morally unlucky agents differently, an assumption that stands at the heart of the puzzle of moral luck. We examine whether the asymmetry is found for reflective intuitions regarding wrongness, blame, permissibility and punishment judgments, whether people's concrete, case-based judgments align with their explicit, abstract principles regarding moral luck, and what psychological mechanisms might drive the effect. Our experiments  produce three findings: First, in within-subjects experiments favorable to reflective deliberation, wrongness, blame, and permissibility judgments across different moral luck conditions are the same for the vast majority of people. The philosophical puzzle of moral luck, and the challenge to the very possibility of systematic ethics it is frequently taken to engender, thus simply does not arise. Second, punishment judgments are significantly more outcome-dependent than wrongness, blame, and permissibility  judgments. While this is evidence in favor of current dual-process theories of moral  judgment, the latter need to be qualified since punishment does not pattern with blame. Third, in between-subjects experiments, outcome has an effect on all four types of moral  judgments. This effect is mediated by negligence ascriptions and can ultimately be explained as due to differing probability ascriptions across cases.

The manuscript is here.