Columbia Public Law & Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Advancing an account of responsibility which is based on the functioning of our rational capacities, the paper revisits some central aspects of the moral luck puzzle. It proposes a new variant of Williams’ agent-regret, but concludes that its scope does not coincide with cases of moral luck. It then distinguishes different ways in which factors beyond our control feature in our engagement with the world and shows how the guidance principle (we are responsible for actions guided by our rational powers) recognises a narrower range of situations of moral luck than is often supposed, allowing us to distinguish between responsibility for intentions, for (some) attempts and for actions, as well as to assign responsibility for thoughts and emotions. Finally, relying on the fact that for each person some actions are within his or her range of secure competence the paper argues that responsibility extends beyond the guidance principle. It concludes with a brief outline discussion of the relations between responsibility and blame.

Date of Authorship for this Version

Fall 10-12-2009


moral luck, agent-regret, responsibility, blame, rational powers, negligence, Bernard Williams