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Title: Political morality and the problem of dirty hands : a philosophical critique and re-interpretation
Author: Tillyris, Demetris
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis articulates a new account of political morality by developing a novel critique of the standard dirty hands (DH) thesis and a new interpretation of DH. Taking its cue from Machiavelli the DH thesis postulates that the possibility of harmony between morality and politics is unsatisfactorily idealistic. This thesis endorses Machiavelli's contention, but argues that the DH thesis misconstrues Machiavelli’s insights: it fails to live up to its capacity to capture the complexity of political ethics and collapses into the idealism it seeks to evade. The DH thesis is inadequately ‘static’: it conceives the conflict between morality and politics as a momentary paradox of action - an anomaly disrupting the normality of harmony. As such it misconceives both the extent and the nature of the rupture between morality and politics. For, Machiavelli does not say that one must merely ‘learn how not to act well’. Machiavelli is clear that ‘one must learn how not to be good’. By exploring this discrepancy, I demonstrate that the DH thesis’ overemphasis on action ignores the way moral character enters and jeopardizes politics. I then develop a dynamic account that captures DH in all its complexity. The key insight of that account is that approaching political ethics entails conceiving politics as a practice and a way of life. In short, DH involves a conflict between two incompatible ways of life, each with its own virtues and standards of excellence. Hence, the dynamic account captures a more crucial paradox, the paradox of character: virtuous politicians should become partially vicious and no longer innocent. The thesis then argues that the dynamic account has crucial implications for contemporary politics: democratic politicians operate in a context of perpetual conflict and dependence which renders the cultivation and exhibition of certain moral vices, including hypocrisy and compromise, necessary.
Supervisor: Edyvane, D. ; Schwarzmantel, J. ; Woods, K. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available