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Res Philosophica

Volume 94, Issue 1, January 2017

Jordan MacKenzie
Pages 95-117

Agent-Regret and the Social Practice of Moral Luck

Agent-regret seems to give rise to a philosophical puzzle. If we grant that we are not morally responsible for consequences outside our control (the ‘Standard View’), then agent-regret—which involves self-reproach and a desire to make amends for consequences outside one’s control—appears rationally indefensible. But despite its apparent indefensibility, agent-regret still seems like a reasonable response to bad moral luck. I argue here that the puzzle can be resolved if we appreciate the role that agent-regret plays in a larger social practice that helps us deal with bad moral luck. That agent-regret is a component in a social practice limits the questions that we can reasonably ask about it. While we can ask whether an experience of agent-regret is rational given the norms of this practice, we cannot ask the question that motivates the puzzle of agent-regret, viz. whether agent-regret is rationally defensible according to the Standard View.

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