Prospectus: Part 10

 Posted by on 19 December 2007 at 8:48 am  Moral Luck, Philosophy, Prospectus
Dec 192007

This post contains Part 10 (“The Dissertation”) of my dissertation prospectus, written in pursuit of my Ph.D in philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder and submitted to my committee in early December 2007. The full prospectus is available in PDF format and as an MS Word file. Comments and questions are welcome. While they won’t change the prospectus, they might be of use as I write the dissertation over the next year.

The Dissertation

As this sketch of my main arguments hopefully shows, Nagel’s problem of moral luck is neither easily solved nor intractable. However, the development and application of the broadly Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility I’ve outlined here promises to unravel and explain the various puzzling cases of moral luck in a way generally consistent with common sense moral judgments.

I plan to use the structure of the prospectus in the dissertation itself. At present, I imagine the following chapters:

  • Chapter One: The Problem of Moral Luck: I will outline the general problem of moral luck and explain the threat it poses to our ordinary practices of moral judgment. I may also consider the support it lends to egalitarianism. I will sketch my proposed solution to the problem of moral luck.
  • Chapter Two: Attempted Solutions: I will examine the most prominent global solutions to the problem of moral luck in the philosophic literature, exploring how and why they fail.
  • Chapter Three: Faulty Foundations: I will argue that a theoretical re-examination of the foundations of moral responsibility is required, particularly in light of Nagel’s operative ideal of noumenal agency.
  • Chapter Four: Moral Judgment: I will examine the purposes served by and demands of normative judgments (in general) and moral judgments (in particular). Moral judgments, I will argue, must be limited to the voluntary aspects of a person. I will also survey the nature and epistemic grounds of various kinds of moral judgments, e.g., of actions, character, and products. I will develop a general account of the purposes and demands of moral redemption and atonement after wrongdoing.
  • Chapter Five: Moral Responsibility: I will identify and defend the basic standards for moral responsibility for actions, i.e., the epistemic and control conditions. In the process, I will offer a basic account of human agency, particularly focusing on the nature and limits of human free will. I will consider the effect of voluntary ignorance and incapacity on claims of moral responsibility. I will examine the various meanings of “responsibility,” particularly whether any common features unify them.
  • Chapter Six: Luck in Life: I will examine the nature of luck and its general role in human life, particularly in morality.
  • Chapter Seven: Resultant Moral Luck: I will present the core cases of resultant luck (i.e., attempt, negligence, and uncertainty), then evaluate the common attempted solutions. I will explain and defend my conditions for moral responsibility for outcomes, then apply those conditions to the cases of resultant moral luck. I will also substantially expand on my account of moral redemption and atonement in relation to the cases of resultant moral luck.
  • Chapter Eight: Circumstantial Moral Luck: I will present the core cases of circumstantial moral luck, i.e., actions in circumstances, moral tests and dilemmas, and interrupted intentions. I will consider the noteworthy attempts to solve this form of moral luck. I will show that actions in circumstances are voluntary and worthy of judgment. I will consider the various ways in which moral judgments must take account of circumstances to be just, including in hard cases like action under duress and moral dilemmas. I will also critically examine the skepticism about global character traits engendered by recent work in empirical psychology to determine whether that lends credible support to the case for circumstantial moral luck.
  • Chapter Nine: Constitutive Moral Luck: I will present the basic forms of constitutive moral luck: entrenched moral feelings, genetic foundations of character, childhood influences on developing character, and accidental influences on adult character. Then, as before, I will consider noteworthy attempted solutions. I will argue that an adult is properly held responsible for his moral character so long as that that character is a voluntary product of his voluntary actions. I will then consider the particular complexities of each of the forms of constitutive moral luck to determine whether they undermine or limit moral responsibility for character. I will also consider the question of responsibility for emotions, including whether some emotions are properly considered part of a person’s moral character.
  • Chapter Ten: Further Applications: I will consider the further implications and applications of my theory of moral responsibility, such as the justice of the felony murder rule, the responsibility of parents for the actions of children, responsibility for long-past actions, etc.

    Although I have touched on many of these topics in the prospectus, I will only be able to consider them in adequate depth in the dissertation.

    Go to Works Cited or the Proposed Bibliography.

    (That’s all, folks! I hope that you found that of interest!)

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