After the standard dirty hands thesis: towards a dynamic account of dirty hands in politics

Tillyris, D. (2016) After the standard dirty hands thesis: towards a dynamic account of dirty hands in politics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 19 (1). pp. 161-175. ISSN 1386-2820.

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Abstract

This essay locates the problem of dirty hands (DH) within virtue ethics – specifically Alasdair MacIntyre’s neo-Aristotelian account in After Virtue. It demonstrates that, contra contemporary expositions of this problem, MacIntyre’s account provides us with a more nuanced account of tragedy and DH in ordinary life, in its conventional understanding as a stark, rare and momentary conflict in which moral wrongdoing is inescapable. The essay then utilizes elements from MacIntyre’s account as a theoretical premise for Machiavelli’s thought so as to set the foundations for a nascent but richer account of DH in politics and move beyond the standard, ‘static’ conceptualization of the problem within this context. In developing a dynamic account of DH, I conceive of politics as a distinct practice and way of life, with its own demands and standards of excellence, and draw on Machiavelli’s thought to sketch some of these. The dynamic account uncovers an inexhaustible tension between two ways of life, each with its own demands and standards of excellence: a virtuous politician should become partially vicious and no longer innocent. Understood in dynamic terms, DH in politics involves a paradox of character, not just a paradox of action as the standard ‘static’ thesis prescribes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dirty Hands; Machiavelli; MacIntyre; political ethics; moral conflict.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics > BJ0001 Ethics (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics > BJ0001 Ethics (General) > BJ1518 Individual ethics. Character. Virtue
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics > BJ0001 Ethics (General) > BJ1725 Ethics of social groups, classes, etc. Professional ethics
H Social Sciences
J Political Science
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Depositing User: Demetris Tillyris
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2016 13:35
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2017 05:31
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/15000

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00