Does the folk concept or hypothesis of "luck" signify anything real?


EXCERPT: . . . If luck is real, a genuine property of persons or events, then there must be an objective fact as to whether Yamaguchi and Moss were truly lucky. Sure, the optimists say that, taken all in, they were lucky, whereas the pessimists insist that they were unlucky. But which is it? Who is right? Likewise, we need a justifiable verdict about Tara Cooper and the residents of the winter-storm town; setting framing aside, are they in fact lucky or not? This is the point where a theory of luck should ride to the rescue. When we have perplexing experiences or inconsistent perceptions, that’s exactly when we want a theoretical explanation to sort everything out and set the world aright. A kayak paddle half in the water looks bent, and out of the water it does not. Parallel train tracks disappearing into the distance appear to converge. A decent theory should (1) tell us that, in fact, the paddle is not really bent and that the tracks do not truly converge, and (2) explain away the competing perceptions. A theory of optics that couldn’t do those things would be rejected as inadequate for that very reason.

Generally, when people think about luck (good or bad), they think of improbable events that have some kind of significance or impact. So winning the lottery is a matter of luck, but losing the lottery is not – winning was very improbable and losing was very probable. Or luck is thought to be a matter of what’s outside of our control, in which case both winning and losing the lottery are due to luck, since neither outcome was within anyone’s control. Unfortunately, neither conception of luck is any help at all with the cases at hand. The improbability and control ideas might distinguish between luck and non-luck, but tell us nothing about good luck vs bad. They are unable to show whether Yamaguchi and Moss were overall lucky or overall unlucky, and explain why the competing intuition is mistaken. Likewise in the framing cases, neither understanding of luck (improbability or lack of control) can tell us which frame prompts the truth and which obscures it.

What all this shows is that our judgments about luck are inconsistent and changeable, the predictable result of framing effects and idiosyncratic personality traits. They raise the serious possibility that ‘luck’ is no more than a subjective point of view taken on certain events, not a genuine property in the world that we discover. It might well be that attributing luck is a mere façon de parler, or turn of phrase, and not something we should take seriously – an outcome that would come as a real surprise to gamblers, athletes, job seekers and stockbrokers, all of whom see their histories as saturated with luck. Their luck might well be, in a very strict psychological sense, entirely of their own making.

Luck is largely a result of expectation meeting coincidence.
The pessimism and optimism precede the feeling of being lucky or unlucky.

Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Taking Gaia Hypothesis seriously + Foucault's work on power matters more than ever C C 3 290 Mar 20, 2017 06:27 PM
Last Post: Magical Realist
  Gourmet's "Eating brains improves immunity" hypothesis C C 0 351 Oct 12, 2015 04:15 PM
Last Post: C C
  The reality conception linked to culture hypothesis C C 0 380 Oct 2, 2015 06:00 PM
Last Post: C C

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)