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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2009
Dirty Hands

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editor’s introduction
1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Eric M. Rovie Editor’s Introduction
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essays
2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
John M. Parrish Defining Dilemmas Down: The Case of 24
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One of the most important concepts in the field of political ethics is the idea of a moral dilemma – understood as a situation in which an agent’s public responsibilities and moral imperatives conflict in such a way that no matter what the agent does she will in some way be committing a moral wrong. In the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, the notion of a moral dilemma has undergone a profound reconceptualization in American political discourse, and there has perhaps been no more important cultural forum for that conceptual revision than the quintessential post-9/11 melodrama, FOX Television’s 24. This paper first describes and then critically evaluates America’s new model moral dilemma as portrayed on 24. Focusing specifically on 24’s Season Five (the year the show won the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series), the paper shows how 24’s creators have substituted in the public mind almost a parody of the standard philosophical account of a moral dilemma in place of the traditional notion. Their methods for this conceptual revision have included both an extravagant, even baroque portrayal of the grand dilemmas which confront Jack Bauer and his fellow patriots, on the one hand, and on the other, a subtle de-valuing of the moral stakes in the more pedestrian variety of moral conflicts Bauer and company must overcome in their quest to keep America safe whatever the cost.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Gabriela Remow A Sentimentalist Approach to Dirty Hands – Hume, Smith, Burke
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This paper explores what the three best-known thinkers in the sentimentalist tradition - David Hume (1711-76), Adam Smith (1723-90), and Edmund Burke (1729-97) – have to say about the topic of “dirty hands” (the view that some forms of power, used properly, lead to guilt and bad actions). Although the views of these philosophers have often been declared inconsistent, my project is to defend and resurrect key elements of their position, which may have value for this debate. I contend that a coherent and unified view about dirty hands may be extracted from their work. By discussing this view, I aim to elucidate a philosophical tradition that may not be familiar to many readers today.On their sentimentalist approach, all jobs or social roles inevitably lead to characteristic varieties of wrongdoing (i.e. dirty hands), due to corruption, increased temptation and opportunity. Such inevitability does not excuse the wrongdoing, but it might diminish the appropriate level of moral blame for those at the bottom, while enhancing blame for persons at the top.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Yves Laberge Review of Columbia Companion to Twentieth-Century Philosophies, ed. Constantin V. Boundas
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5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Kevin DeLapp Les Mains Sales Versus Le Sale Monde: A Metaethical Look at Dirty Hands
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The phenomenon of “dirty hands” is typically framed as an issue for normative or applied ethical consideration—for example, in debates between consequentialism and nonconsequentialism, or in discussions of the morality of torture or political expediency. By contrast, this paper explores the metaethical dimensions of dirty-hands situations. First, empirically-informed arguments based on scenarios of moral dilemmas involving metaethical aspects of dirty hands are marshaled against the view that “ought implies can.” Second, a version of moral realism is conjoined with a version of value-pluralism that charitably accommodates and explains the central features of the phenomenology related to dirty hands. It is not simply that agents are or are not justified in getting their hands dirty (les mains sales); rather, in certain situations, it is the nature of the moral domain itself to be intractably messy (le sale monde), such that dirty hands are unavoidable. The paper concludes by considering some important normative and psychological implications of this view.
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Eric Barnes The Problem of Clean Hands
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The problem of dirty hands concerns the apparently inevitable need for effective politicians to do what is ethically wrong. This essay discusses a related problem in democratic elections of politicians being unwilling to commit themselves to precise positions on controversial policy issues. Given certain plausible assumptions, I demonstrate using a simple game theoretic model that there is an incentive structure for political candidates that is damaging to the public good. I contrast this problem with the classic prisoner’s dilemma and then go on to discuss some possible strategies for overcoming this problem by an improved system of political debates.
book reviews
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Candace L. Shelby Review of Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind, ed. Brian P. McLaughlin and Jonathan Cohen
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8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Eric M. Rovie Review of Ethics and International Relations, Second edition, by Gordon Graham
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9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Steven Ross Review of Thinking How to Live, by Alan Gibbard
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10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Christopher A. Riddle Review of Foucault and the Government of Disability, ed. Shelley Tremain
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11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Peter Murphy Review of Descartes’s Method of Doubt, by Janet Broughton
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12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Kendy M. Hess Review of Neither Brain nor Ghost: A Nondualist Alternative to the Mind-Brain Identity Theory, by Teed W. Rockwell
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13. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Karim Dharamsi Review of In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars, ed. Kevin Scharp and Robert B. Brandom
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14. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Robert J. Deltete Review of Aims: A Brief Metaphysics for Today, by James W. Felt
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15. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 10 > Issue: 1
Gregory Lawrence Bock Review of Living Philosophy: An Introduction to Moral Thought, 3/e, by Ray Billington
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