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Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 27, Issue 1/4, 2008

Jeffrey Whitman
Pages 35-54

Moral Luck and the Professions

This paper examines the phenomenon of moral luck and how it can effect professional practice. Using both Thomas Nagel’s and Bernard William’s exposition on moral luck, this paper first demonstrates the close relationship between moral luck and epistemic luck. Then, drawing on some of the lessons one might learn from the epistemologist’s treatment of epistemic luck, particularly in the debate between internalists and externalists in epistemology, strategies are developed that professionals and professional organizations might use to avoid and/or mitigate the problem moral luck presents to professional practice. Examples from various professions—the military, engineering, medicine, journalism, business—are use to illustrate both the problem of moral luck and the strategies useful in avoiding it.

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