International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 22, Issue 1, Spring 2008

A. T. Nuyen
Pages 59-69

Moral Luck, Role-Based Ethics and the Punishment of Attempts

In most countries, failed criminal attempts are punished less severely than those that succeed. Many philosophers, including myself, have argued that differential punishment can be justified. However, in a recent paper, Hanna raises objections to defenses of differential punishment, claiming that such policy goes against our “desert intuitions” and also cannot be justified on utilitarian grounds. I argue in this paper that Hanna’s desert-based and utilitarian objections can be undermined. Further, they are valid only within moral theories that take the agent to be an independent self, whose responsibility rests on his or her intentions and deliberations alone. However, differential punishment can be justified in a different kind of moral theory, in which there are good reasons to give luck a role to play.