Dissolving the puzzle of resultant moral luck

Neil Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


The puzzle of resultant moral luck arises when we are disposed to think that an agent who caused a harm deserves to be blamed more than an otherwise identical agent who did not. One popular (but controversial) perspective on resultant moral luck explains our dispositions to produce different judgments with regard to the agents who feature in these cases as a product not of what they genuinely deserve but of our epistemic situation. On this account, there is no genuine resultant moral luck; there is only luck in what evidence becomes available to observers. In this paper, I develop an evolutionary account of our inclination to take the results of actions as evidence for the mental states of agents, thereby explaining why the resulting intuitions are recalcitrant to correction. The account explains why the puzzle of resultant moral luck arises: because our disposition to take the harms agents cause as evidence of their mental states can produce intuitions which conflict with those that arise when we examine agents’ mental states without reference to the results of their actions. The account also helps to solve the puzzle of resultant moral luck, by providing a strong reason to ignore the intuitions caused by our disposition to regard actual harms as evidence of mental states. Since these intuitions arise using an unreliable proxy for agents’ mental states, they ought to be trumped by more reliable evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-139
Number of pages13
JournalReview of Philosophy and Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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