What do you mean I should take responsibility for my own ill health?

Nicole A. Vincent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Luck egalitarians think that considerations of responsibility can excuse departures from strict equality. However critics argue that allowing responsibility to play this role has objectionably harsh consequences. Luck egalitarians usually respond either by explaining why that harshness is not excessive, or by identifying allegedly legitimate exclusions from the default responsibility-tracking rule to tone down that harshness. And in response, critics respectively deny that this harshness is not excessive, or they argue that those exclusions would be ineffective or lacking in justification. Rather than taking sides, after criticizing both positions I also argue that this way of carrying on the debate – i.e. as a debate about whether the harsh demands of responsibility outweigh other considerations, and about whether exclusions to responsibility-tracking would be effective and/or justified – is deeply problematic. On my account, the demands of responsibility do not – in fact, they can not – conflict with the demands of other normative considerations, because responsibility only provides a formal structure within which those other considerations determine how people may be treated, but it does not generate its own practical demands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-51
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of applied ethics and philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • responsibility
  • distributive justice
  • luck egalitarianism
  • public health policy
  • alcoholism
  • smoking


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