Enoch Type 3

Bryn Horner
3 min readOct 13, 2020

David Enoch begins his writing by outlining an argument of moral luck:

(1) Someone who attempts to commit a murder and fails is — other things being equal — just as morally blameworthy as someone who succeeds in committing a murder.

(2) Criminal punishment should be proportionate to the moral blameworthiness of the offender for having committed the crime.

(3) Therefore, attempted murderers and murderers should be equally punished (when all other things are equal) (42).

Enoch begins by questioning if there is a difference between murder and attempted murder, and their moral blameworthiness. He outlines the categories of moral luck and legal luck. In favor of moral luck, Enoch states that there are three ideas: consequential moral luck, circumstantial moral luck, and constitutive moral luck. Consequential luck is “where one’s moral status is determined to an extent by the outcomes of what one does” (43). Circumstantial moral luck “luck in the morally relevant circumstances one finds one- self in, or in the moral tests and opportunities one faces” (43). Constitutive moral luck is “luck in the character traits and dispositions one finds oneself with when arriving at the morally relevant scene” (44). Based on this taxonomy, one can discover ones moral luck.

On the stance against moral luck, Enoch explains the idea that people are not responsible for things that are not under their control. As someone can say that they had no control over something, it tends to lessen their blame in society. For example, if someone hits me, I would be angry. However, if the mens rea was not there, and in fact they tripped, fell, and then hit me, it lessens their moral blameworthiness.

This ties into the main idea- and I believe both arguments that the author gives are very strong. The mens rea is the most important part of a crime. If the criminal fell and shot a gun on accident- they are less blameworthy then someone who shot with malice and bad intention. However, I do not believe that just because someone was lucky enough to miss their victim, they are less blameworthy than the criminal who completed the murder because they had the same intent and malice, and should potentially be held to the same standard.

On the stance of legal luck, Enoch uses the same opening example of attempted murder and murder to explain this difference. From a moral standpoint, we are unsure of if there is a moral difference between the two charges. From a legal standpoint, there is. Although both criminals might be morally blameworthy in an equal sense, one action ended in the death of someone else. This follows to the idea of punishment, “a differential punishment for attempts and full offenses may be justified in one of two ways — either by insisting that there is moral luck and so that the two are not equally morally blameworthy, or by pointing to other considerations that normatively regulate criminal punishment and that distinguish between the two cases” (49). The idea of moral vs legal luck is a prominent idea in this writing.

This idea is definitely interesting and controversial. The author does a good job explaining the transitions between moral and legal luck and explaining both sides of the argument. I believe that moral luck does not necessarily exist, unless in the idea of consequential, circumstantial, and constitutive luck that is merely a situational idea. I would like to hear what you guys think!

Enoch, David. “Moral Luck.” International Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2013, doi:10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee185.