login about faq

You’re driving down the road and, in a moment of inattention, you run a red light. In one universe a cop pulls you over and gives you a ticket. In another universe you hit a little old lady and kill her.

In the first universe you’re just an ordinary motorist. In the second you’re a shameful monster. But you had no control over the presence of the little old lady; the same (small) list of controllable actions were available to you in both universes.

If our moral responsibility extends only to our voluntary actions, then in both universes your only transgression lies in running the red light. Why then do we assign additional blame for hitting the lady, an outcome over which you had no control?

asked Apr 24 '11 at 18:03

James%20Hughes's gravatar image

James Hughes

edited Apr 24 '11 at 23:51

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

For the same reason that you can stick out your foot to trip someone and she can either fall, hit her head on a rock and die or successfully catch herself before she falls. The morality of your action is the same in both examples. You are responsible for ANY effect caused by you. Should nothing happen, then you are lucky. That luck does not apply to you but to the outcome which you are responsible for.

(Apr 24 '11 at 18:56) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

There is more than one universe?

(Apr 24 '11 at 20:49) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

By writing a doctoral dissertation about it. (The problem of moral luck is the topic of Diana Hsieh's dissertation. I haven't read it, but you can probably order a copy from UMI.)

answered Apr 28 '11 at 21:05

Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

Kyle Haight ♦

Objectivism holds that you are morally responsible for your decisions, not the outcomes. You still have to deal with the consequences of how your decisions turn out, but the specifically moral evaluation only depends upon your choices. In your example, you are morally guilty of allowing yourself to be distracted in a way which potentially could do grave harm to yourself and others: no matter what the outcome. However, the physical consequences you suffer will vary based upon what changes in the world were created by your choice.

answered May 08 '11 at 15:30

Andrew%20Miner's gravatar image

Andrew Miner ♦

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: Apr 24 '11 at 18:03

Seen: 1,726 times

Last updated: May 08 '11 at 15:30