As an extension of my interest in Van Gogh’s severed ear from Jeffrey Archer’s “False Impression” that depicted mysterious odyssey of Van Gogh’s self-portrait with bandage on his left ear, I was attracted to read Adam Gopnik’s article titled, Van Gogh’s ear – The Christmas Eve that changed modern art, that appeared in New Yorker magazine (Jan. 4 issue).
In his article, Gopnik introduces Moral Luck (1976), the essay of Bernard Williams on the relationship of Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin and their influence on modern art. Not only the title of William’s book, the words Moral luck are repeated four times in the following sentence:
What Williams didn’t entirely register, though, was that Gauguin isn’t just one artist plucked at random out of time, a desperado in a line stretching back to Pygmalion. He’s not just an instance of moral luck; he is an inventor of moral luck. He is a model modern artist, and modern art is in many ways about moral luck, about the search for it, about raising the stakes to see if it can happen. Modern art makes its own moral luck.
I don’t understand the meaning of Moral luck. I checked the definition of luck with Cambridge Online Dictionary, which defines luck simply as:
- The force that causes things, especially good things, to happen to you by chance and not as a result of your own efforts or abilities. 2. Success.
Oxford Dictionary at hand defines it in the same way as 1. “Good things that happen to you by chance. 2. Chance. Period.”
I cannot even guess the meaning of Moral luck from any of the above definitions. To me, Moral doesn’t seem to sit well with Luck. Can you decode what Moral luck really means?