Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Philosophy

Date of Defense

4-23-2010

Graduate Advisor

John Brunero, Ph.D.

Committee

Berit Brogaard, Ph.D.

Eric Wiland, Ph.D.

Abstract

At the beginning of his famous paper “Moral Luck,” Thomas Nagel notes that it is intuitively plausible that people cannot be morally assessed for what is beyond their control. He then argues that most, if not all, of what people do is beyond their control. Thus, Nagel concludes that individuals must deny that people cannot be morally assessed for what is beyond their control, alter the way they think about morality, or abandon the belief that moral assessment is possible. I contend that one’s best option is to alter the way one thinks about morality and therefore draw from the work of Michael J. Zimmerman to construct and defend a counterfactual theory of moral assessment which looks not only at the kind of person one is and the kinds of actions one performs but also at the kind of person one would be and the kinds of actions one would perform in certain counterfactual circumstances. In closing, I explain why one who accepts my counterfactual theory of moral assessment has reason to prefer virtue ethical theories of morality to their consequentialist and deontological counterparts.

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