Enoch “Moral Luck and the Law” Type 3: Critical Engagement

In “Moral Luck and the Law,” David Enoch asks if there is a difference in moral blameworthiness between murder and attempted murder. The moral luck that results in an attempted murder instead of a successful murder can then be applied in a courtroom and is deemed legal luck. Enoch first presents the argument that “someone who attempts to commit a murder and fails is just as morally blameworthy as someone who succeeds in committing a murder,” and that “criminal punishment should be proportionate to the moral blameworthiness of the offender for having committed the crime.” (Enoch 42) This argument concludes that “therefore, attempted murders and murderers should be equally punished.” (Enoch 42) Enoch initially addresses how the first and second premise lack something to “bridge the gap” between moral and legal luck, and searches for such in his journal. (Enoch 42)

Enoch’s first proposition of a potential premise is an inference. He argues “observations about the law can help us to see more clearly what we think about moral luck.” (Enoch 51) He then presents an example, explaining “if, for instance, we find almost a universal acceptance of tort law with intrinsic luck, and indeed if we find ourselves an intuitive objection to abolishing this kind of tort law, perhaps all of this is best explained by there being a relevant kind of moral luck.” (Enoch 51) While this may seem inadequate, Enoch argues, an inference still best explains the possible presence of moral luck.

Enoch’s second proposition of a potential premise is an analogy. He presents an instance where there is “a legal system which would incorporate (too much) legal luck to be unfair. And perhaps we have reason to believe that morality, if it is analogous in this way to any legal system is analogous to a fair one.” (Enoch 51) This premise proposes that there is no moral luck.

Enoch’s two potential premises suggest both possible conclusions: either there is moral luck or there is not. However, Enoch does not endorse either, merely presents and explains them. While both of his possibilities result in sound arguments, any further support behind a certain one is missing.

Enoch, David. “Moral Luck.” International Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2013, doi:10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee185.


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