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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Unlike considerations of agency and structure, the role of luck in attributions of moral responsibility in international politics has been sorely neglected. This chapter aims to redress this neglect by exploring the idea of “moral luck,” a purposely paradoxical concept introduced by Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel, in relation to institutional agents as the objects of moral responsibility judgements. Specifically, this chapter suggests that luck can affect the nature of agents’ choices, the consequences of their actions, and, perhaps most profoundly, their very character and the way they define themselves, thereby infusing our ethical analyses of practical problems ranging from climate change to protecting vulnerable populations from mass atrocity. The crucial question that accompanies this proposal is whether acknowledging the influence of luck threatens to shift the ground upon which our evaluations of moral responsibility rest, or, instead, simply affords a more nuanced and accurate account of the existing landscape.

Keywords: moral responsibility, duty, blame, justice, luck, moral luck, climate change, responsibility to protect, Bernard Williams, Thomas Nagel

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