By Jason Puskar
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Rather than talk about “moral luck” as if two apparently incommensurable kinds of action suddenly were found to overlap, we would do better to say that luck is moral because decisions about what counts as lucky effectively map out the limits of the moral. As Williams says, the determination that some things lie outside the bounds of moral choice is, obviously, a moral determination too, and perhaps the most audacious moral determination of all. Insisting on the existence of amoral chance is not just abject surrender to an insane world of happenstance and relativism; it is, instead, a morally important determination to set some limits on the applications of the moral.
The feminization of chance, as I call it there, refers to the ways in which modern conceptions of chance challenged masculine fantasies of power, self-sufficiency, and control, but also opened the door to important progressive reforms implemented by and for women. Chapter 5 concludes this study by examining two novels that finally confess literature’s own involvement in the production of chance, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (1925) and James Cain’s Double Indemnity (1936). Both writers literalize the production of chance through depictions of criminal accident fraud.
Clearly, pragmatism is closely related to liberal capitalism, but all of the philosophical pragmatists, and some of the legal pragmatists, were also practical progressives as well, generally opposed to wide-open laissez-faire markets, outraged by American imperialism, and highly conscious of the social possibilities in American life. In different ways, all contested the liberal notion that the pursuit of purely private self-interest by all individuals will yield the best possible social arrangement for everybody.