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Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory


Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory Week Thirteen: Kant s Groundwork: Chapter One * Blackburn Misses Mill s Point Of course, this is just Mill s point, although his ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory

Philosophy E166 Ethical Theory
  • Week Thirteen
  • Kants Groundwork Chapter One

Tonights Agenda
  • Mills justification for rule-utilitarianism
  • Mills proof of utilitarianism in general
  • Kants rejection of consequentialism in general,
    which entails rejecting utilitarianism

Review Mills Response to Bentham in Chapters
III V of Utilitarianism
  • Against Benthams psychological egoism
  • Against Benthams narrow account of motivation
  • Against Benthams act utilitarianism
  • All three elements represent a much wider
    perspective than Benthams of the job (my term)
    of utilitarianism the job of maximizing utility
  • All three elements of Mills opposition to
    Bentham contribute to Mills rule-utilitarianism

The Motivation Problem in Utilitarianism
  • Bentham seems almost entirely to have ignored the
    motivation problem
  • Why would we be motivated to act according to the
    principle of utility?
  • Problem more difficult due to his psychological
  • He does recognize a role for punishment
    external sanction, as Mill calls it and much
    of Principles is taken up with it
  • What Bentham says wont do
  • So Mill has the problem of showing that acting on
    the basis of the Greatest Happiness Principle can
    be consistent with the way humans are motivated
  • It obviously wont do merely to hold that humans
    should be so motivated to act according to the
    principle of utility whether in fact they ever do

The Two Kinds of Motivation and the Role of
The Social Feelings of Mankind in Chapter Three
  • External sanctions
  • Rewards
  • Benthams punishments
  • Internal sanctions
  • conscience
  • conscientiousness
  • consciousness of duty
  • The importance to both sorts of motivation of
    the social feelings of mankind
  • (a) Equality
  • (b) Cooperation
  • (c) Sympathy

A Concern That a Utilitarian Should Address
  • While cooperation does require common interests,
    there can be no cooperation without individual
    interests and thus the distinction between the
    interests of oneself and the interests of others.
    Cooperation is possible where interests overlap.
    But cooperation is different from servility,
    where one has an interest that coincides with
    interests others have only because others have
    those interests.
  • Mill must somehow make the distinction.
  • Consider these three cases.

Case One Weak Self Case
  • Jill always gives into Jacks desires. They go
    camping if Jill wants to go camping, they go to
    the movies if Jill wants to go to the movies,
    they stay home if Jill wants to stay home. Jack
    doesnt have contrary desires. He has no strong
    desires of his own. The utilitarian says that
    its right, all other things equal, for Jack to
    do want Jill wants. But since it would be fairer
    for the two to share better, alternating what
    they do, the utilitarian gets it wrong.

Case Two Utility Monster Case
  • Benny is a utility monster because of his
    personality it takes a lot to satisfy him. He
    has a lot of interests and those who are with him
    quickly find themselves overwhelmed by his needs,
    his interests, his projects. Perhaps we can say
    that Benny is capable of more and better
    pleasure, because his life has more orientation
    toward the higher quality of pleasure and Benny
    is better able to attain it. The utilitarian says
    that its right that Bennys interests should
    dominate, since pleasure is maximized in that
    way. But it would be fairer for Benny to
    cooperate with others more, taking into account
    their pleasures, even at the cost of some of his

Case Three Low Cost Case
  • If your pleasures, while having just the same
    quality as mine, come more cheaply, then given a
    fixed amount of money, and everything else equal,
    we maximize utility by always realizing your
    pleasures at the expense of mine. But thats
    unfair, undermining the Principle of Utility.

Rawlss Question about Act and Rule Utilitarianism
  • On p. 258 of Lectures on the History of Political
    Philosophy, in his first lecture on Mill, Rawls
    mentions recent discussions as to whether Mill
    is an act utilitarian or a rule utilitarian or
    something else.
  • Rawls says that he will touch on this question
    briefly in the next lecture.
  • He does not, at least he does not do so
    explicitly, so I want to tease out from what he
    says and from what Mill says what the facts are.
  • I want to do this in order to set the stage for
    seeing what is distinctive, and what Rawls thinks
    to be distinctive, about Mills utilitarianism.

Looking First at Bentham
  • Bentham is an act utilitarian (though he doesnt
    use that phrase himself), since the principle of
    utility, as he sets it out, is that every action
    whatsoever is approved or disapproved according
    to the tendency it appears to have to augment or
    diminish the happiness of the party whose
    interest is in question.
  • Whether by an individual or a government.
    (Principles, ch. 1)
  • That is, the principle of utility evaluates
    actions directly, rather than by their conformity
    to rules that maximize happiness.  
  • Problem of government not that of selecting

The Act Utilitarians Analysis of The Candy
  • The Candy Problem You promise to give a little
    girl some candy. On your way to give her the
    candy you meet two older children who would love
    some candy. But since you have spent all your
    money, you only have two choices to give them
    the candy or to give it to the little girl you
    promised. What should you do?
  • Benthams Principle of Utility says you should
    break the promise, assuming equal enjoyment of
    candy among the three children (and that each
    gets equal pleasure even if the candy is
    divided), so long as the little girls
    displeasure doesnt outweigh the two older
    childrens pleasure, since every action is
    approved or disapproved according to the
    tendency to augment or diminish happiness.
  • Notice that according to Benthams principle you
    should give the candy to the two older children
    rather than the little girl, even if it would
    create only a small amount more of pleasure to do
  • Importantly, all thats relevant about your
    promise is the result of your promising namely,
    the displeasure you create.

Is Mill an Act Utilitarian?
  • Mill likewise allows sometimes even requires
    the breaking of rules for greater utility.
  • Toward the conclusion of Utilitarianism, he
    writes that to save a life, it may not only be
    allowable, but a duty, to steal, or take by
    force, the necessary food or medicine, or to
    kidnap, and compel to officiate, the only
    qualified medical practitioner (Utilitarianism,
    V 37).

Mill On Rules
  • However, this passage is a bit misleading.
  • Here, Mill is describing cases where exceptions
    are possible, and of course exceptions are not
    possible unless there are rules for them to be
    exceptions to.
  • Mill suggests that rules give us quick and easy
    guidance about what to do in particular cases.
  • More importantly, they provide a standpoint for
    constructing a standard for the whole sentient
  • They also provide us with what he calls
    secondary principles as the basis of our
    notions of rights and of justice.

Mills Use of Rules in Responding to the Lack of
Time Objection
  • At the end of Chapter II of Utilitarianism, Mill
    responds to the objection that people dont have
    the time to do all the calculation that the
    Principle of Utility requires (e.g., applying it
    by way of the Hedonic Calculus)
  • Again, defenders of utility often find
    themselves called upon to reply to such
    objections as thisthat there is not time,
    previous to action, for calculating and weighing
    the effects of any line of conduct on the general
    happiness. This is exactly as if any one were to
    say that it is impossible to guide our conduct by
    Christianity, because there is not time, on every
    occasion on which anything has to be done, to
    read through the Old and New Testaments. The
    answer to the objection is, that there has been
    ample time, namely, the whole past duration of
    the human species. There is no difficulty in
    proving any ethical standard whatever to work
    ill, if we suppose universal idiocy to be
    conjoined with it (24).
  • He takes this to be a purpose of the existence of
    moral rules.

Mills Defining the GHP as the Rules and
Principles to Secure the Manner of Existence
  • Mill According to the Greatest Happiness
    Principle, as above explained, the ultimate end
    is an existence exempt as far as possible from
    pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments, both
    in point of quantity and quality.
  • This, being, according to the utilitarian
    opinion, the end of human action, is necessarily
    also the standard of morality
  • which may accordingly be defined, the rules and
    precepts for human conduct, by the observance of
    which an existence such as has been described
    might be, to the greatest extent possible,
    secured to all mankind and not to them only,
    but, so far as the nature of things admits, to
    the whole sentient creation (my emphasis
    Utilitarianism, II 10).

Mill on Moral Rules as Secondary Principles
  • It is a strange notion that the acknowledgment
    of a first principle is inconsistent with the
    admission of secondary ones. The proposition
    that happiness is the end and aim of morality,
    does not mean that no road ought to be laid down
    to that goal, or that persons going thither
    should not be advised to take one direction
    rather than another. Whatever we adopt as the
    fundamental principle of morality, we require
    subordinate principles to apply it by the
    impossibility of doing without them, being common
    to all systems, can afford no argument against
    any one in particular. (Utilitarianism, II24.)

Mill on Exceptions to Rules
  • We are told than an utilitarian will be apt to
    make his own particular case an exception to
    moral rules, and, when under temptation, will see
    a utility in the breach of a rule, greater than
    he will see in its observance. It is not the
    fault of any creed, but of the complicated nature
    of human affairs, that rules of conduct cannot be
    so framed as to require no exceptions, and that
    hardly any kind of action can safely be laid down
    as either always obligatory or always
    condemnable. There is no ethical creed which does
    not temper the rigidity of its laws, by giving a
    certain latitude, under the moral responsibility
    of the agent, for accommodation to peculiarities
    of circumstances. (Utilitarianism, II25.)

Mill on Moral Rights and Justice, Independent of
  • Mill says this about rights When we call
    anything a persons right, we mean that he has a
    valid claim on society to protect him in the
    possession of it, either by the force of law, or
    by that of education and opinion. If he has what
    we consider a sufficient claim account, to have
    something guaranteed to him by society, we say
    that he has a right to it. (V, 24.)
  • Justice relies on moral rights this feature
    a right in some person, correlative to the
    moral obligationconstitutes the specific
    difference between justice, and generosity or
    beneficence. Justice implies something which it
    is not only right to do but which some
    individual person can claim from us as his moral
    right. No one has a moral right to our generosity
    or beneficence, because we are not morally bound
    to practise those virtues towards any given
    individual. (V,15.)
  • Rawls seems to suggest that this suggests a rule
    utilitarian basis for having a right, which does
    not depend on the utilities in a particular
    case. (Lectures, p. 275.)

One Kind of Rule Utilitarian
  • One sort of utilitarian tries to justify actions
    by their conforming to a specific rule, the
    existence of which is itself justified by its
    maximizing pleasure or happiness.
  • Suppose that one tried to justify keeping a
    specific promise that way
  • One would justify it by its conforming to the
    moral rule that one should keep promises, where
    the justification of the rule itself is that the
    existence of and conformity to that rule produces
    more pleasure or happiness than alternatives to
    having that rule.

Two Ways to Justify Rules
  • An alternative way to justify rules seems closer
    to Mills justification of moral rights at
    Utilitarianism V25
  • To have a right, then, is, I conceive, to have
    something which society ought to defend me in the
    possession of. If the objector goes on to ask why
    it ought, I can give him no other reason than
    general utility.
  • One might try to justify the rules in one of two
  • one by one, or
  • one might try to justify the rules as a whole and
    in the long run.

Another Kind of Rule Utilitarian, Justifying
Rules in the Long Run
  • At the outset of Chapter V, he writes The
    powerful sentiment which that word justice
    recalls with a rapidity and certainty resembling
    an instinct has seemed to the majority of
    thinkers to point to an inherent quality in
    things to show that the Just must have an
    existence in Nature as something
    absolutegenerically distinct from every variety
    of the Expedient, and, in idea, opposed to it,
    though (as is commonly acknowledged) never, in
    the long run, disjoined from it (my emphasis).
  • Rawls writes this way
  • In specifying the rights of justice there is no
    apparent reference to aggregate social
    well-being. When Mill identifies the essentials
    of the groundwork of our existence, he does not
    do so via the idea of maximizing total utility.
    He looks to individuals basic needs and to what
    constitutes the very framework of their
    existence. (Lectures, p. 277.)

Rawlss Dilemma about Mills Account of Rights
and Justice
  • Rawls says at the top of p. 277 of Lectures that
    we can justify a legal right in two ways
  • (1) by appeal to policy, and
  • (2) by appeal to moral rights.
  • These seem to be different ways.
  • The example of price supports nobody has a
    right to price supports, even though they might
    be justifiable by appeal to the general good.
  • Mill, Rawls says, seems to be committed to a
    two-part criterion for identifying the basic
    rights of political and social justice. We look
    to the essentials of human being, to the
    groundwork of our existence.
  • We look to those general rules the enforcement
    of which is productive of social utility in the
    aggregative sense
  • How, Rawls asks (on p. 278) do we get the two
    parts (1) and (2) always to converge?

The Appeal to Utility in On Liberty The
Permanent Interests of Man
  • Likewise, in On Liberty, we find the defense of
    the Principle of Liberty in general, the liberty
    of thought and discussion in particular, and the
    principle of individuality.
  • Our interest in each of these reflects at least
    three things
  • Our modern secular era, which sees the decline of
    monarchical and ecclesiastical power but the
    rise, because of an increase in democracy, of
    tyranny of the majority (as Rawls observes,
    Tocquevilles term but also Mills concern).
  • Our conception of human nature, and in
    particular, aspects of human personality such as
    what Rawls calls the principle of dignity and
    the desire to be in unity with others.
  • Our capacity, Mill thought, to change human
    psychology through education and the advance of
  • The justification of these principles, as with
    the principles of justice, must be grounded in
    utility in the largest sense, grounded on the
    permanent interests of man as a progressive
    being (Troyer, p. 159)

Mills Defense of the Principle of Utility
  • Mill argues in Chapter IV of Utilitarianism that
    the Principle of Utility cannot be given the
    ordinary kind of defense, since the principle
    involves ultimate aims or goals (he calls them
    ends) and questions of ultimate ends do not
    admit of proof, in the ordinary acceptation of
    the term (1).

The Comparison of Desirability to Visibility and
  • He nevertheless offers an argument that is
    supposed to amount to proofs, in some sense of
    that term.
  • First, he makes a comparison to visibility and
    audibility (three paragraph) The only proof
    capable of being given that an object is visible,
    is that people actually see it. The only proof
    that a sound is audible, is that people hear it
    and so of the other sources of our experience.
  • In like manner, he writes, I apprehend, the
    sole evidence it is possible to produce that
    anything is desirable, is that people do actually
    desire it. If the end which the utilitarian
    doctrine proposes to itself were not, in theory
    and in practice, acknowledged to be an end,
    nothing could ever convince any person that it
    was so.
  • Notice that there already is some trouble here,
    since while to be visible or audible is to
    capable of being seen or heard, to be desirable
    isnt to capable of being desired rather, to be
    desirable is to be worthy of being desired.

The Nonproof Proof of the Principle
  • The argument appears in the third paragraph of
    Chapter Four No reason can be given why the
    general happiness is desirable, except that each
    person, so far as he believes it to be
    attainable, desires his own happiness. This,
    however, being a fact, we have not only all the
    proof which the case admits of, but all which it
    is possible to require, that happiness is a good
    that each person's happiness is a good to that
    person, and the general happiness, therefore, a
    good to the aggregate of all persons.

Two Interpretations of the Proof
  • Here the idea seems simply to be captured by
    this single-premise argument
  • (1) Each person's happiness is a good to that
  • -------------------------------------------------
  • (2) Therefore, the general happiness is a good
    to the aggregate of all persons.
  • My objection Either the argument is empty or
    its unproven.

Interpretation One Empty
  • Interpretation One
  • Suppose that what Mill means is that since each
    person aims for his or her happiness society is
    made up of a number of persons, then the
    collective of society aims for the happiness of
    its members.
  • This is true even if each person is selfish and
    only looks after himself or herself. (Consider
    the parallel Each persons sound is audible to
    that person therefore, the general sound is
    audible to the aggregate of persons.)
  • This inference is empty, since on this
    interpretation, the conclusion of the argument is
    either a restatement of the premise of the
    argument or else at least something that isnt
    yet the Principle of Utility, since it merely
    makes reference to approval, disapproval.

Interpretation Two Unproven
  • Interpretation Two
  • An alternative interpretation of the conclusion
    reads it as meaning this that each person has as
    his or her aim the general happiness of society.
  • This is what the Principle of Utility requires,
    and it is not empty, since it is not just a
    restatement of the premise, but its also not
    proven by this argument.
  • The mere fact each person wants the happiness of
    that person does not imply that each person wants
    the happiness of everybody else.
  • As Mill himself says, only under special
    conditions education and widespread sympathy
    is that remotely plausible. I will return to this.

Blackburns Parody of Mills Proof
  • In Section 12 of his book, Simon Blackburn
    parodies Mills argument
  • This is another of those cases where the
    argument is so bad that the conclusion not only
    fails to follow, but actually seems to contradict
    the starting point. It is like arguing that since
    each person ties just his or her own shoelaces,
    everyone ties everyones shoelaces. But alas,
    except in a world one one person, if each person
    ties just his or her own shoelaces, nobody ties
    everyones shoelaces.

Everyones Tying His Shoes, but Not Everyones
Tying Everyones Shoes
Blackburns Proviso
  • Blackburn continues with this proviso
  • Similarly, if we each desire what is pleasant
    to ourselves, then nobody desires what is
    pleasant to others, unless the pleasure of others
    is somehow an equal object of pleasure to each of
    us. This would be a world of indiscriminate
    universal sympathy a nice world, but not quite
    the world we live in. People typically desire
    that they themselves get an enjoyment more than
    they desire that someone else gets it.

Blackburn Misses Mills Point
  • Of course, this is just Mills point, although
    his argument fails to express the sort of
    justification for it he perhaps intends.
  • Each persons happiness will overlap with that of
    others only as much as it does its unclear
    whether Mill believed that the argument proved
    overlap. He never states that it proves the
    Principle of Utility.
  • Mill himself says that only under special
    conditions described in Chapter Three of
    Utilitarianism education, cooperation and
    widespread sympathy is the conclusion remotely
  • In Chapter Five, in connection with our interest
    in justice, Mill discusses our common interest in
    security (Our notion, therefore, of the claim we
    have on our fellow-creatures to join in making
    safe for us the very groundwork of our existence,
    gathers feelings round it so much more intense
    than those concerned in any of the more common
    cases of utility, that the difference in degree
    (as is often the case in psychology) becomes a
    real difference in kind) and other essentials
    of human well-being.

(No Transcript)
Kants Biography vs. Humes
  • Instructive to compare Kant with Hume polar
  • Hume was very precocioushe started the Treatise
    as a teenager
  • Kant didnt write his great works until he was
    well into his fifties
  • They came from different backgrounds
  • Humes family was fairly well-to-do
  • Kant came from what we might now call a
    working-class home

Kant vs. Hume on Skepticism
  • They also differed dramatically in their
    philosophical views
  • Hume was a skeptic
  • Kant had a very different view.
  • he believed in God (though he was not exactly a
    dogmatist about it)
  • his picture of causation was much closer to our
    commonsense realist thoughts about it than was

Kant vs. Hume on Ethics
  • Their ethical systems were very different as well
  • Hume is a utilitarian of a sort
  • Kant is decidedly anti-utilitarian
  • He never mentions utilitarianism as a doctrine
    since he pre-dates Bentham
  • But he explicitly rejects consequentialism
  • But it is important to note that it is not clear
    whether he knew in any detail of Humes views on
    moral philosophy

Kants Admiration for Hume
  • Despite those differences, Kant had the highest
    admiration for Hume, and he expressed his
    feelings in a letter he wrote to Herder in 1768
  • Rawls reproduced a part of the letter and
    commented on it in Lectures on the History of
    Moral Philosophy

(No Transcript)
Reading Groundwork, Chapter One
  • We will focus tonight on paragraphs 1-11
  • Par. 1-3 of Chapter 1 The Good Will
  • Par. 4-7 of Chapter 1 The Function of Reason
  • Par. 8-9 of Chapter 1 The Concept of Duty
  • Par. 10-15 of Chapter 1 The Motive of Duty

The Famous First Sentence
  • 1st sentence of 1 ? It is impossible to
    conceive anything at all in the world, or even
    out of it, which can be taken as good without
    qualification, except a good will.?
  • The differences between Kant and Hume are thus
    evident in the very first sentence of the first
    chapter of the Groundwork
  • A utilitarian, of course, would object
  • A utilitarian like Bentham or Mill would say that
    the only thing that is good without qualification
    intrinsically good is pleasure, not the good

The Good of the Good Will vs. the Good of Other
Good Things Examples
  • In 1, K goes on to defend the 1st sentence by
    contrasting the good of the good will with the
    good of other sorts of things
  • (1) talents of the minds (he lists as examples
    intelligence, wit, judgment)
  • (2) qualities of temperament (courage,
    resolution, and constancy of purpose)
  • (3) gifts of fortune (power, wealth, honor,
    health, happiness)

2 The Aristotelian Virtues
  • 2 Kant mentions (4) the Aristotelian virtues of
    moderation, self-control, sober reflection
  • Theyre not only good in many respects, but they
    seem to constitute the inner worth of a person
  • Yet they are not properly described as good
    without qualification (however unconditionally
    they have been commended by the ancients)?
  • These virtues, says Kant, can become bad in the
    absence of a good will
  • Scoundrels coolness makes him
  • Dangerous
  • Abominable

Two Contrasts
  • 1. By contrast with the good will, which is good
    without qualification, the above goods are
    sometimes bad, says Kant
  • thus, they are not good without qualification.
  • 2. They are good only with one qualification, and
    that is what makes them good if they are goodall
  • That qualification is that they must be employed
    with the good will otherwise, they may be hurtful

  • Even something like happiness is not good without
  • For Mill, happiness plays a central role, but for
    Kant it plays a lesser role
  • For Kant, happiness, when a good will is not
    present, leads to boldness and goes astray
  • On Kants view, one has to be worthy of being
    happy for happiness to be good
  • And only a good will guarantees that kind of

The Notion of the Will
  • The will can be contrasted with character (cf.
    the 2nd sentence of 1)
  • Character seems something broader and more
    constant than the will (volition)
  • Theres an active quality to the will
  • Also, the will is obviously intentional, but the
    will and intention are obviously not

  • In 3, Kant steps back and remarks on the good
  • the good will is good through its willing alone
  • With (1)-(4), they are good when they are good
    not because of the sorts of consequences they
    lead to
  • Kant is an anti-consequentialist
  • The moral worth of an action isnt dependent on
  • Moral worth is tied to the good will
  • Even if you arent able to carry out your
    intentions in some circumstances, there would be
    no difference in the moral worth of your action
    when compared to someone who is successful in
    what he does, provided that you both have a good

Kant on morality and bad luckby some special
disfavor of destiny (Groundwork, Chapter 1, 3rd
par., Paton translation, p. 62)
Does hurtfulness subtract from good wills value?
  • But this raises a question Does hurtfulness
    subtract from good wills value?
  • Suppose good people do bad things and have a good
    will in doing some of those bad things, that is,
    they do not mean to do all of them. Do the bad
    things somehow detract from the goodness of their
    will in doing them?
  • Given the reasons he employs for the cases he
    does provide, Kants answer seems to be no
  • Even hurtfulness does not subtract from the value
    of a good will, since the goodness of the good
    will is independent of its consequences
  • Examples of lying seem to illustrate Kants
    answer being no

Does Usefulness Add?
  • Just as hurtfulness does not subtract, so too
    usefulness does not add either
  • Its usefulness would be merely, as it were, the
    setting which enables us to handle it better in
    our ordinary dealings or to attract the attention
    of those not yet sufficiently expert?
  • Its usefulness does not enable us to commend it
    to experts or to determine its value

Patons Suggestion
  • H.J. Paton, on p. 17, points out that Kant is not
    suggesting that the good will does not aim at
  • A good will that, for instance, helps people in
    need aims at good results, i.e., the benefit of
    those in need
  • The good of willing is distinct from any good
    intended or achieved
  • The former is some further good, once again,
    entirely independent of the latter

Kant Hume
  • We see here another similarity (also a
    difference) with Hume
  • Hume also thought that virtue is independent of
  • For Hume, a person with a virtuous character can
    be viewed as a good utility producer
  • So, his character will create admiration in us
    even if he isnt able to accomplish great things
  • We admire his virtue independently of whether it
    actually does lead to good things.
  • With Kant, theres no mention of accomplishing
    good things. What makes us consider a person
    morally worthy is just that he has a good will
    consequences do not play a role at all

A Challenge to Kant
  • What if we have two people, one of whom has a bad
    will through no (apparent) fault of his own (his
    circumstances or genes have left him with a bad
    character, say), and another who is of good
    character, but who was born with a silver spoon
    in her mouth Is the latter really more morally
    worthy than the former?
  • A potential response if the woman with the good
    character acts in good ways just because she is
    inclined to do so, then her actions still wont
    be morally worthy.
  • They have to be the product of a good will
    i.e., done from duty. In this way, she might be
    no more morally worthy than the man born without
    a good character.

Sam Harris in his Free Will onLuck, Success and
the Self-made Man
Kants Idea
  • Kants idea a will is morally praiseworthy
    whether or not it accomplishes something
  • In Moral Luck Nagel claims the point applies
    equally to the wills moral blameworthiness
  • Nagel illustrates Kants idea with a reckless
    driver who hits a pedestrian depends on the
    pedestrians chance presence
  • For Kant, irrelevant the pedestrian was there by
    bad luck only the drivers will counts

Sam Harris vs. Kant
  • Harriss hard-determinist ideas
  • bad luck hes there a chance event
  • all moral success or failure is the product of
    good or bad luck over which an agent has no
  • Kants libertarianism
  • Kant can agree its bad luck the pedestrian is
    there but deny that such circumstances play any
    role in the drivers blameworthiness
  • Kant carves out a libertarian region of

Moral Luck
  • Bernard Williams coined the phrase moral luck
    said he meant it as an oxymoron
  • An oxymoron combines contradictory terms for
    effect but isnt a contradiction like living
  • Perhaps its paradoxical, though
  • There is something in our conception of
    morality, as Tom Nagel agreed, that arouses
    opposition to the idea that moral responsibility
    or moral merit or moral blame should be subject
    to luck.

Nagels Definition of 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
  • The view that moral luck is paradoxical is not a
    mistake, ethical or logical, but a perception of
    one of the ways in which the intuitively
    acceptable conditions of moral judgment threaten
    to undermine it all.

Nagels Concentration Camp Example
  • Nagels intends to show a case where an agent is
    can be blamed though he lacks control over
    historical contingencies without which the events
    hes blamed for cannot occur
  • Reservation theres no obvious case of luck here
    most people who left for Argentina could not
    ordinarily look back and claim it luck that they
    didnt stay and become camp guards

Nagel Differs from Both Harris Kant
  • Both Harris and Kant are incompatibilists, we
    might say, about the relation between luck and
    moral responsibility
  • Kant would have called moral responsibility
    independent of luck its in the heart
    independent of lifes contingencies
  • Harris says its not thus, no responsibility
  • Nagels compatibilism they coexist but
    paradoxically since we cannot get rid of either

Four Kinds of Moral Luck
  • Nagel four ways in which the natural objects of
    moral assessment are disturbingly subject to
  • Constitutive luck the kind of person you are,
    inclinations, capacities, temperament
  • Circumstantial luck problems situations
  • Resultant luck in the way things turn out
  • Causal luck how one is determined by
    antecedent circumstances

  • Constitutive luck is illustrated by Harriss
    psychopath cases where it is
  • bad luck that the psychopath is that way
  • Nagel still thinks we are assessed for how we are
  • Circumstantial luck concentration camp case
  • Resultant luck the case of the driver and the

Causal Luck and Free Will
  • Causal luck for Nagel raises the problem of free
    will and determinism
  • In Hard Luck, Neil Levy, like Harris, argues
    causal luck robs us of free will since we arent
    in control of causal antecedents of our actions
  • Harris gives scientific arguments but they seem
    to me to be irrelevant we dont need science to
    discover this
  • Nagel sees this as paradoxical it robs us not
    just of free will but of moral responsibility
  • We will return to Kant on free will in the last