Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moral Responsibility and its Skeptics, Day 2, Part 2

How does Scanlon's view of blame explain moral outcome luck?  Scanlon's view accepts that sometimes we are morally responsible for things that are outside of our control.  Sometimes people are responsible for unlucky consequences if they have negligent or apathetic attitudes towards those consequences.  For example, if a negligent babysitter ignores a child who later drowns in a bathtub, this person is to blame because they are uncaring and negligent.  Scanlon emphasizes that unlucky outcomes can also impact our relationships.  Imagine our careful truck driver who happens to run over a young child in spite of taking all safety precautions.  This driver may have done everything within his control to prevent any accidents, but the girl is still dead.  As a result, his manager may limit or change his work responsibilities.  Also, the family of the young girl may blame the man and shun him.  When we treat the truck driver as being responsible, Scanlon calls this "objective stigma".  When a person's non-negligent actions have unlucky outcomes, this still changes how we relate to this person, which "mimics" blame, although this is not yet a case of true moral luck.

Scanlon thinks that true cases of moral luck require that the lucky or unlucky outcomes result from an action that is negligent or careless.  Imagine a drunk person.  If the drunkie thinks about driving but ends up not, this person is not yet negligent.  This person is not affected by unlucky outcomes.  Now imagine a drunk person who decides to drive.  This drunk driver is acting carelessly.  In one case, this negligence could result with good luck if nobody is harmed by the drunk driver.  In the second case, the drunk driver is negligent and unlucky and kills someone.  In either case, relations to the drunk driver are impaired.  But even though both drunk drivers are equally at fault, we modify our reactions to each driver differently.  The  merely reckless but lucky driver does not have as much blame as the unlucky drunk driver.  How much we blame a person for driving drunk depends on lucky or unlucky outcomes because those outcomes lead to changes in how we relate to that person.

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