Luck, Risk, and Blame
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2005 October; 30(5): 535- 553
In this article, I defend luck at the expense of risk. Or, more precisely, I try to make a distinction that gives both concepts fair treatment. I start by making it clear that luck stands in opposition to control and not to causation. Both luck and risk are related to causal uncertainty. But it is warranted to talk about risk only when the uncertainty involved is brought under control, as it is in some familiar forms of fair gambling such as dicing and roulette. Life is however not a fair gamble. We rarely have the kind of control over the preconditions of life that we have over the preconditions of say dicing. Luck therefore has profound influence on our lives and our health. This means that the standard conception of responsibility-that is, that we stand responsible only for consequences that we control - breaks down far more often than what is usually acknowledged. I therefore end the article by arguing that the standard conception of responsibility ought to be supplemented with a different conception that I have called "responsibility because of social involvement."