Against Resultant Luck in the Legal System

  • Blair MacDonald
Keywords: Resultant luck, Control, Culpability, Responsibility


The legal system frequently holds people accountable for actions that are partially outside the control of the person in question. This essay will examine the particular case in which people are held accountable for the results of the action even though these results were not entirely within the person’s control (this is referred to as resultant luck). Some have argued that resultant luck should not be accepted by the legal system, and instead that people should only be held accountable only for aspects of the act which are within their control. There is however a problem in the literature of proposing an acceptable definition of “control”. It will be argued that a more compelling case can be made against the resultant luck if results are understood in terms of “moral skill” instead of simply “control”. Moral skill requires that the person in question is capable of recognizing the morally right action and the ability for the person to act on this knowledge. The essay will contend that resultant luck lacks the proper relation to moral skill and thus should not be incorporated into the legal system.