Moral Luck: Part I
Why the difference? Being a bad shot is not a moral virtue.
For a second example of the same puzzle, consider two drunk drivers, one of whom hit and killed a child, one of whom (barely) missed doing so. Again, to both the law and individual moral feelings, the former is worse than the latter. Actual blood stains, potential blood does not--even if the difference is a matter of pure chance. Why?
For a third example, consider our feelings towards someone who was a Nazi concentration camp guard. Suppose you are convinced that most people in his society, offered the job, would have taken it. Does that make him less guilty? Does it mean that most of his contemporaries are, morally speaking, just as guilty—having escaped only through the good luck of not having the opportunity to commit his crime? Suppose you are convinced that most human beings, probably including yourself, if born and brought up in his society and offered the job would have taken it. Does that mean we are all equally guilty? Nobody I know feels that way, and yet the argument looks convincing. Why should someone’s moral status, praise or blame, depend on factors over which he had no control?
That is the puzzle that philosophers refer to as the problem of moral luck. I do not think I can fairly deal with the puzzle, and my answers, in one post of reasonable length, so will stop here, await comments, and return to the topic in a few days.