Advertisement

Philosophia

pp 1–24 | Cite as

Political Realism and Dirty Hands: Value Pluralism, Moral Conflict and Public Ethics

  • Demetris TillyrisEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper draws on the underappreciated realist thought of Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire and Judith Shklar, rehearses their critique of moralism and extends it to a position which seems far from obvious a target: the dirty hands (DH) thesis, which is mostly owed to Michael Walzer, and which a number of contemporary realists (i.e. Mark Philp, Duncan Bell, and Hans-Jörg Sigwart) have recently appealed to in their endeavour to challenge moralism and/or tackle the insufficiently addressed question of what a more affirmative, realist public ethic might involve. In illustrating that the DH thesis is a thinly disguised brand of the moralism which realists reject, I shall not merely put some flesh on the bones of Shklar’s scattered, unsystematic objections to Walzer’s thought – the only realist who explicitly criticized his DH thesis. Rather, I wish to cast doubt on the internal coherence and ‘realism’ of contemporary realist positions which invoke that thesis and to illustrate that the discrepancy between Berlin’s, Shklar’s and Hampshire’s thought and the DH thesis: i) enriches our understanding of how we might wish to distinguish more meaningfully realism from the ideal/non-ideal theory debate; and ii) enables us to pursue a particular direction in which a more positive realist approach to public ethics and integrity might be developed – an approach which we might term Heraclitian realism, and which follows from their idiosyncratic, innovative, and radical account of the place of conflict in human life.

Keywords

Political realism Dirty hands Stuart Hampshire Isaiah Berlin Judith Shklar Public ethics 

Notes

References

  1. Bell, D. (2010). Political realism and the limits of ethics. In D. Bell (Ed.), Ethics and World Politics (pp. 93–105). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bellamy, R. (2010). Dirty hands and clean gloves: Liberal ideals and real politics. European Journal of Political Theory, 9(4), 412–430.Google Scholar
  3. Berlin, I. (1969). Four essays on liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Berlin, I. (1980). The question of Machiavelli. In H. Hardy (Ed.), Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  5. Berlin. (1990a). The pursuit of the ideal, in The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas (pp. 1–19). London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  6. Berlin, I. (1990b). The decline of utopian ideas in the west, in The Crooked Timber of Humanity (pp. 20–50). London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  7. Berlin, I. (1999). Does political theory still exist? In H. Hardy & R. Hausheer (Eds.), The proper study of mankind. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  8. Coady, C. A. J. (2008). Messy morality: The challenge of politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Coady, C. A. J. (2014): The problem of dirty hands, in E.N. Zalta (ed.) Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Available at http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2009/entries/dirty-hands (Accessed: 16 November 2017).
  10. de Wijze, S. (1994). Dirty hands: doing wrong to do right. South African Journal of Philosophy, 13(1), 27–33.Google Scholar
  11. de Wijze, S. (2005). Tragic Remorse: The anguish of dirty hands. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 7(5), 453–471.Google Scholar
  12. de Wijze, S. (2009). Targeted killing: A “Dirty Hands” analysis. Contemporary Politics, 15(3), 305–320.Google Scholar
  13. de Wijze, S. (2012). The challenge of a moral politics: Mendus and Coady on politics, integrity and 'Dirty Hands'. Res Publica, 18(2), 189–200.Google Scholar
  14. de Wijze, S. (2018). The problem of democratic dirty hands: Citizen complicity, responsibility, and guilt. The Monist, 10(2), 129–149.Google Scholar
  15. de Wijze, S., & Goodwin, T. (2009). Bellamy on dirty hands and lesser evils: A response. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 11(2), 529-540.Google Scholar
  16. Forrester, K. (2012). Judith Shklar, Bernard Williams and Political realism. European Journal of Political Theory, 11(3), 247–272.Google Scholar
  17. Dworkin, R. (1983). To each his own. April: New York Review of Books.Google Scholar
  18. Galston, W. (2010). Realism in political theory. European Journal of Political Theory, 9(4), 385–411.Google Scholar
  19. Geuss, R. (2005). Outside ethics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Geuss, R. (2008). Philosophy and real politics. Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Geuss, R. (2015). Realism and the relativity of judgement. International Relations, 29(1), 3–22.Google Scholar
  22. Gowans, C. W. (2001). Innocence Lost. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hall, E. (2015). How to do realistic political theory (and why you might want to). European Journal of Political Theory, 16(3), 283–303.Google Scholar
  24. Hamlin, A., & Stemplowska, S. (2012). Theory, ideal theory and the theory of ideals. Political Studies Review, 10(1), 48–62.Google Scholar
  25. Hampshire, S. (1978). Public and private morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hampshire, S. (1982). Against simplicity: A review of moral luck by Bernard Williams. London Review of Books.Google Scholar
  27. Hampshire, S. (1983). Morality and conflict. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hampshire, S. (1989). Innocence and experience. USA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hampshire, S. (1993). The last charmer. New York Review of Books, 43–47.Google Scholar
  30. Hampshire, S. (1996): Justice is conflict: The soul and the City. Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Harvard Universeity. Available at: https://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/h/Hampshire98.pdf (Accessed 16 Nov 2017).
  31. Hampshire, S. (2000). Justice is conflict. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hess, A. (2014). The political theory of Judith Shklar: Exile from exile. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  33. Hollis, M. (1982). Dirty hands. British Journal of Political Science, 12(4), 385–398.Google Scholar
  34. Honig, B., & Stears, M. (2011). The new realism: From modus vivendi to justice. In J. Floyd & M. Stears (Eds.), Political philosophy versus history? Contextualism and real politics in contemporary political thought (pp. 177–205). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Horton, J. (2010). Realism, liberal moralism and a political theory of modus vivendi, European Journal of. Political Theory, 9(4), 431–448.Google Scholar
  36. Horton, J. (2011). Why the traditional conception of toleration still matters. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 14(3), 289–305.Google Scholar
  37. Horton, J. (2017). What does it mean for a political theory to be more realistic? Philosophia, 45(2), 487–501.Google Scholar
  38. Lazar, S. (2013). War. In H. LaFollette (Ed.), The international Encyclopaedia of ethics (pp. 5379–5393). London: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  39. Luban, D. (1980). The romance of the nation-state. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 9(4), 392–397.Google Scholar
  40. Mizra, S. (2016). Doubt and commitment: Justice and scepticism in Judith Shklar’s thought. European Journal of Political Theory, 15(1), 77–96.Google Scholar
  41. Moliere. (2000). The misanthrope. In John Wood and David Coward (Eds.), The misanthrope and other plays, (pp. 89–142). London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  42. Moliere. (1982). The misanthrope and Tartuffe. New York: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  43. Parrish, J. M. (2008). Paradoxes of political ethics. From dirty hands to the invisible hand. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Philp, M. (2007). Political conduct. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Philp, M. (2012). Realism without illusions. Political Theory, 40(5), 629–649.Google Scholar
  46. Plato (1993) Republic. R. Waterfield (trans). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Rawls, J. (1996). Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Rossi, E., & Sleat, M. (2014). Realism in normative political theory. Philosophy Compass, 9(10), 689–701.Google Scholar
  49. Sabl, A., & Sagar, R. (2017). Introduction. Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy, 20(3), 269–277.Google Scholar
  50. Sangiovanni, A. (2008). Justice and the priority of politics to morality. Journal of Political Philosophy, 16(2), 137–164.Google Scholar
  51. Shklar, J. N. (1964). Legalism: Laws, morals and political trials. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Shklar, J. (1967). Facing up to intellectual pluralism. In D. Spitz (Ed.), Political Theory and Social Change (pp. 275–295). New York: Atherton Press.Google Scholar
  53. Shklar, J. N. (1984). Ordinary vices. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Shklar, J. (1989). The liberalism of fear. In N. Rosenblum (Ed.), Liberalism and the moral life (pp. 21–38). Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Shklar, J. N. (1990). The faces of injustice. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Shklar, J. N. (1998). The political theory of utopia: From melancholy to nostalgia. In S. Hoffmann (Ed.), Political Thought & Political Thinkers (pp. 161–174). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. Shue, H. (2009). Making exceptions. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 26, 307–322.Google Scholar
  58. Sigwart, H.-J. (2013). The logic of legitimacy: Ethics in political realism. The Review of Politics, 75, 407–432.Google Scholar
  59. Sleat, M. (2013). Liberal realism: A realist theory of Liberal politics. New York: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Sleat, M. (2014). Realism, liberalism and non-ideal theory or, are there two ways to do realistic political theory? Political Studies.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9248.12152.
  61. Stocker, M. (1990). Plural and conflicting values. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  62. Thompson, D. (1989). Political ethics and public office. London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Tillyris, D. (2015). Learning how not to be good: Machiavelli and the standard dirty hands thesis. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 18(1), 61–74.Google Scholar
  64. Tillyris, D. (2016a). After the standard dirty hands thesis: Towards a dynamic account of dirty hands in politics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 19(1), 161–175.Google Scholar
  65. Tillyris, D. (2016b). The virtue of vice: A Defence of hypocrisy in democratic politics. Contemporary Politics, 22(1), 1–20.Google Scholar
  66. Tillyris, D. (2017). Political integrity and dirty hands: Compromise and the ambiguities of betrayal. Res Publica.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11158-016-9323-4.
  67. Valentini, L. (2012). Ideal vs. non-ideal theory: A conceptual map. Philosophy Compass, 7(9), 654–664.Google Scholar
  68. Voinea, C. (2016). A realist critique of moralism in politics: The autonomy of Bernard Williams’s basic legitimation demand. Public Reason, 7(1–2), 81–92.Google Scholar
  69. Walzer, M. (1973). Political action: The problem of dirty hands. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2(2), 160–180.Google Scholar
  70. Walzer, M. (1984). Spheres of justice: A Defence of pluralism and equality. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  71. Walzer, M. (1996). On negative politics. In B. Yack (Ed.), Liberalism without illusions (pp. 17–24). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  72. Walzer, M. (2004). Arguing about war. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Walzer, M. (2006). Just and unjust wars. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  74. Williams, B. (1978). Politics and moral character. In S. Hampshire (Ed.), Public and Private Morality (pp. 23–53). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Williams, B. (1981). Moral luck: Philosophical papers 1973–1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Williams, B. (1986). Ethics and the limits of philosophy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Williams, B. (2002). In the beginning was the deed: Realism and moralism in political argument. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politics and International Relations, School of Psychology, Politics, and SociologyCanterbury Christ Church UniversityKentUK

Personalised recommendations