Concepcion (2002) describes the "standard view of responsibility" whereby "it is unjust to hold a person morally responsible for that which she did not control. Agents deserve to be morally appraised or held liable only for that which they controlled" (455). The problem this poses is that at some level it can always be argued that a situation was outside of a person’s control. There will invariably be some uncontrollable factor that, when joining the confluence of other factors over which a person did have control, it can be argued was the cause of any given scenario.
For example, if a person driving a vehicle strikes a child who suddenly runs into the road, it might be argued that the person could have been paying closer attention and thereby braked sooner, or should have been driving more slowly. On the other hand it could be argued that a reasonable person under the circumstances could not have predicted the child running into the road, and therefore this was just bad luck and the driver should not be held responsible. This epitomizes the concept of moral luck. To what extend does a random, uncontrollable occurrence relieve a person of moral responsibility for a harm done
Concepcion goes on to argue that accepting the standard view of responsibility "is tantamount t…
never morally responsible, show that luck is not ubiquitous or at least that ubiquitous luck is not moral, or show that ascriptions of responsibility can retain justice despite the omnipresence of luck" (455). The implication is that it does not make sense to avoid assigning responsibility simply because luck played a role in the moral dilemma, since luck will virtually always be a factor to some degree. This would logically mean that nobody is ever morally responsible for anything.
Paradox of Moral Luck and Moral Responsibility
The paradox, as Thomas Nagel (1979) describes it, is that individual moral responsibility is possible even though luck is ubiquitous. We hold a person responsible for actions taken within a scenario he/she did not bring about. It is possible for a person to be morally blameworthy even though the bulk of the circumstances bringing about a scenario were entirely outside of that person’s control. Degrees of control are virtually irrelevant, as proximate causation of uncontrollable variables fails to offer any relief from a person’s moral responsibility for actions taken within any given situation.
Consider the case of a soldier who voluntarily enlists in the U.S. Marine Corps in the hopes of being deployed in Iraq to fight in the war on terror. This person, after months of grueling patrols in Baghdad watching his fellow marines get killed by improvised explosive devices, decides to take revenge by entering the nearest civilian residence and shooting up the women and children inside. Then consider the kid who had his sights set on college but was instead drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and becomes so worn down by the war and numbed to killing that he partakes in a massacre of civilians at Mai Lai. The former soldier chose to