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Volume 18 Issue 2 (June 2010), Pages 159-324

Luck and the Domain of Distributive Justice (pages 244-261)

Abstract: The natural lottery is a metaphor about the way luck affects the allocation of personal attributes, talents, skills, and defects. Susan Hurley has argued that it is incoherent to regard individual essential properties (IEPs) as a matter of lottery luck. The reason is that a lottery of identity‐affecting properties generates the ‘non‐identity problem’. For this reason among others she suggests substituting lottery luck with ‘thin luck’, i.e. luck as non‐responsibility, which would allow us to coherently regard IEPs as a matter of luck.

I argue that we are not not‐responsible for our IEPs. Therefore, the coherent range of ‘thin luck’ is not broader than that of lottery luck. Moreover, justice theorists need to be worried about the non‐identity problem only to the extent that IEPs affect life prospects and it is far from evident that they do. After addressing some connected aspects of Hurley's analysis, I discuss the type of reasons that justify seeking to expand domain of justice and the ways of doing this, for instance by abandoning lottery luck. I close by suggesting, however, that if Parfit's view of ‘what matters about identity’ is correct, its application to the case of identity‐affecting lotteries may prove the expansion of the domain of justice superfluous, as IEPs belong to it as it is.

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