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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 45, Issue 1, January 2019

Keith Hyams
Pages 21-41
DOI: 10.5840/soctheorpract20191350

Risk, Responsibility, and Choice
Why Should Some Choices Justify Disadvantage While Others Don’t?

Choice-based conceptions of substantive responsibility face a number of powerful counterexamples. In order to avoid some of these counterexamples, it is widely claimed that agents are substantively responsible for disadvantage arising from their choices only when the option set from which they chose satisfied a reasonability criterion. I examine three possible justifications for a reasonability criterion: an agent-responsibility-based motivation, a voluntariness-based motivation, and what I call a ‘denied-claim’-based motivation. In each case, I argue that the putative motivation cannot in fact justify a reasonability condition. I end with some comments on what this result means for choice-based conceptions of substantive responsibility.