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Title Metaphysics of luck
Publication Date
Degree PhD
Degree Level doctoral
University/Publisher University of Edinburgh
Abstract Clare, the titular character of The Time Traveller's Wife, reflects that "Everything seems simple until you think about it." (Niffenegger, 2003, 1) This might well be a mantra for the whole of philosophy, but a fair few terms tend to stick out. "Knowledge", "goodness" and "happiness" for example, are all pervasive everyday terms that undergo significant philosophical analysis. "Luck", I think, is another one of these terms. Wishing someone good luck in their projects, and cursing our bad luck when success seems so close to our reach or failure could have so easily been otherwise, happens so often that we rarely stop to reflect on what we really mean. Philosophical reflection on the nature of luck has a rich tradition, that is by no stretch confined to the Western philosophical canon. However, it has only very recently become one of the goals of philosophy to provide a clear account of what luck actually amounts to. This, in part, is the goal of this thesis. The thesis has two primary motivations. The first is to offer and defend a general account of luck that overcomes the problems faced by the current accounts of luck that are available in the current philosophical literature. The second is to apply this general account of luck to the areas of metaethics and epistemology where luck has been a pervasive and problematic concept, and demonstrate how this account of luck may resolve or further illuminate some of the problems that the notion has generated. The thesis is roughly split into two parts. The first half of the thesis focuses on the former objective of offering an account of luck. Chapter 1 offers a selected history of the philosophy of luck that spans from the Ancient Greeks to the present day, so that we might properly situate the current work on luck as part of the broader historical importance of the concept. Chapter 2 will set out the major rival to the theory of luck that I will offer - the lack of control account of luck (LCAL). LCAL has various iterations across the literature, but is most clearly articulated by Wayne Riggs (2009) and E.J. Coffman (2006, 2009). Both Coffman and Riggs add and adapt their own conditions to LCAL specifically so that the account may overcome several problems that have been levied against it. These further conditions are not incompatible so, to provide the strongest lack of control account possible, I have combined them to form a lack of control account I have called Combined LCAL - (c)LCAL. The latter part of the chapter pits (c)LCAL against some of the problems that have been raised against LCAL. However, despite the efforts of both Riggs and Coffman, even (c)LCAL fails to counter some of these objections. For these reasons I have rejected LCAL has a viable candidate for an account of luck. Chapter 3 sets out a modal account of luck (MAL), as argued for by Pritchard (2004, 2005, 2014), where an event is lucky only if it occurs in the actual world, but not in a relevant set of nearby possible worlds. Here I further elaborate on how we should understand the modal distances…
Subjects/Keywords 123; luck ; epistemic luck ; metaphysics ; moral luck
Rights Full text available
Country of Publication uk
Record ID handle:1842/20409
Repository ethos
Date Retrieved
Date Indexed 2018-07-10

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…these problems. Chapter 6, the final chapter, looks at epistemic luck, specifically how the adoption of the modal account I have offered resolves a particular problem targeted at anti-luck epistemology by Ballantyne (2013). The problem…

…demonstrate that any degree of veritic epistemic luck results in the agent failing to know. The second is that through the relativisation of the significance condition, any type of value will not affect an agent's position to know, only the epistemic

…a means of explaining the inexplicable. The first option presents an epistemic challenge to the existence of Polybian understanding of luck. The determinate cause of an event may just be contingently unknown rather than necessarily unknowable…

…Theaetetus is often cited as providing the first cases of epistemic luck – where justified true belief fails to upgrade to knowledge. Yet Plato never mentions the term luck or anything that resembles it. The term “epistemic luck” is a relatively new one. It’s…

…debatable whether Plato is alluding to anything that we would call epistemic luck. Socrates suggests that one might come to a truth belief luckily as a counterexample to Theaetetus’ claim that knowledge is true belief. However, in contemporary philosophical…

…parlance epistemic luck generally refers to lucky justified true belief. 10 bad to the agent (it would be odd to state that one had been lucky yet they had not been affected in a positive or negative manner). If luck comes from beyond the…

…noting that the term epistemic luck to define such cases came much later. A multitude of terms such as “accident” (Unger 1968) or “felicitous coincidence” (Klein 1971) were originally used to mark such cases whereas the term epistemic

…3 [NORMATIVE DOMAIN] function where the relevant normative domain can be inserted depending on the kind of luck. This version of the significance condition will be conjoined with the modal condition as set out in Chapter 3 to form the…