Walzer Political Action Analysis

Good Essays
In “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands”, Walzer addresses the conflict between morality and politics, and questions whether or not a moral, political actor is even possible. In light of earlier theorists, such as Machiavelli and Weber, Walzer argues that it is extremely likely for political actors to encounter “dirty hand” problems, in which the actor may have to sacrifice moral principles to make the “right” decision. Walzer argues that, whilst this is an inevitability for politicians, they can still be considered “moral”, meeting both moral-absolutist and consequentialist demands (Litvin, 2011), provided they do what is politically necessary, but understands themselves to be guilty as a result.

To construct this argument, Walzer
…show more content…
Walzer’s overarching argument is founded upon the assumption that the prospective politician is neither a consequentialist nor an absolutist. Instead, they are someone who is “willing to compromise what they recognise as a genuine moral principle for the sake of a sufficiently weighty moral end” (Dovi, 2011, p. 130). Moreover, Walzer confines his argument to this individual decision maker, as seen in his two examples. This is not a realistic assumption, in the political arena, it is likely that there will be various internal forces and pressures that can shape the prospective actor’s choices. Specifically, the presence of absolutists is key (Dovi, 2011), as they can serve as moral exemplars, that through their commitment to moral principles, can reinforce other’s commitment. Walzer’s individualistic approach doesn’t realise the potential bad, cumulative effects that such dirty hand decisions can have on polity (moral corruption). Absolutists are necessary to mitigate such negative effects and preserve the likeliness of moral behaviour in the political arena, by reinforcing existing moral principles. Occasionally, one cannot understand what is at stake morally, until they witness what others are willing to risk. In this way, absolutists can aid in preventing others from sacrificing their moral principles, and from their feeling of guilt being nullified. Walzer does not acknowledge the role that absolutists can play. Consequently, his argument surrounding the dirty hand dilemma, ignores some forces that can ensure moral sensibilities. It is also connected to his idea of guilt. Without absolutists to maintain the moral balance in politics, it can be easy for actors to repeatedly make such decisions, which will in turn, nullify their moral commitments. Actors who continuously dirty their hands, eventually lose touch

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    Devlin and Dworkin agree that not every individual is capable of giving consent and there should be restrictions of what individuals are capable of such, this would allow legal intervention in some of the acts Devlin considers immoral. Public morality is something that comes from justification not from a reasonable man making decisions for society as a whole. Although if a society has an overwhelming opposition to an act that Dworkin would deem as justificatory then there should be a right to overturn such act otherwise it could potentially be more harmful to society than prohibiting…

    • 1204 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Is Revenge Ethical?

    • 1865 Words
    • 8 Pages

    And the fact of the matter is that people do tend to abuse ethics on a small scale; while people obey the larger laws a fair percentage of the population tends to treat people outside their circle of friends relatively poorly. And I think it is fair to say that the fact that ethics has a weaker hold on people when it comes to these smaller matters is because there is no enforcement mechanism, even though we have as much reason to act ethically with respect to these minor matters as we do to act ethically in the situations that the law does consider. Thus I think it is reasonable to say that we should be more open to revenge, at least some of the…

    • 1865 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    She states that if one is to properly persuade anyone, they must do so from a close proximity to their opposition’s beliefs. A small correction to one belief set is still supported by accepting truth, whereas a major paradigm shift is less likely to hold up in from the opposition’s standpoint. This seems to be a pretty basic debate strategy, but suggests a fundamental flaw in the current argumentative tactics. It seems easy to pick a topic wildly different from your own, and shoot holes in it from your perspective, but those on the other side may not accept the arguments that do so, and may fire back in kind, leaving both parties going nowhere, but when one approaches from the same viewpoint, and carefully audits a path, suggesting small adjustments, it is a lot easier to come to a consensus. Here is the major problem with the evolutionary debunkers.…

    • 766 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Brennan, Warren – PHI220 DL01 – Short Paper 1 Utilitarianism, as presented by Shafer-Landau, is an interesting ethical theory in that it presents the idea that at times it is immoral to act in a manner that we’ve been taught is moral. I will argue that Act Utilitarianism is a sound ethical theory and that it’s precepts are utilized in modern society despite many public figures making pronouncements against this behavior. Act Utilitarianism is sound because it allows its supporters to resolve conflicts that other ethical theories struggle with. It also fits within the norms of recognized moral behavior on a day to day basis while being based upon the idea of treating every individual’s well-being equally. In his writings, Shafer-Landau, explains…

    • 825 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    He does not argue that torture should be used casually, rather his argument stems from the premise that nations should not be so quick to ban torture in every single circumstance. His primary rhetorical strategy is to use hypothetical extremes to prove his point, in addition, he also appeals to emotion to evoke a sense towards Utilitarianism to justify torture in certain cases. His primary downfall in his argument was that many of his hypothetical have yet to be seen in real life, in light of this, it may delegitimize his argument in certain people’s…

    • 1246 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    (Railton 795) The Pyrrhonian model is much more plausible attempt at defining moral skepticism because unique individuals possess to distinct worldviews. Arguments arise because people can’t reach compromises on various issues. By using Pyrrhoian skepticism the individuals defines what is moral using their own judgments. People should not be dictated by what they are told is right and just because it is quite plausible that they are being deceived. While one cannot ever assume that any moral claim is a truth, modest justification can be provided by consideration of contrast classes.…

    • 1131 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Last but not least, people should be willing to accept legal consequences. Participants should respect the law by bearing any possible consequences caused by civil disobedience. The core value of civil disobedience is a political act that is out of pubic goods. Violation of law at the first place is out of desperation and positive aim but not malevolent. Willing to submit to punishment is important in showing respect to the legal system.…

    • 912 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Moral relativists such as David Wong and Gilbert Harman have provided a more sophisticated version of moral relativism which mitigated some flaws of the inaugural and naïve form which Rachel argued against. Cultural relativism is also a relevant theory to explain the extreme cases of disagreements in our world. However, there is still invalidity and shortcomings of the cultural relativism argument that hinders moral progress, or deteriorate the view about morality into nihilistic grounds. Hence it is still essential to maintain some moral truths as objective instead of accepting the theory in…

    • 1886 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Moral Agency Theory

    • 2127 Words
    • 9 Pages

    When we work backwards from our political preferences, we tend to rely on some combination of two concepts of agency: we look for entities that are either able to bring about the change we anticipate, or who we feel are responsible for doing so. Defining moral agency as the capacity to act on a given question is perhaps the most common and casual usage. On this view, possession of moral agency is no more delicate than having the ability to take morally-relevant action: moral agents are those who could act to rectify moral deficiencies in the world, whether or not these actors are able to acknowledge the purchase of normative claims on…

    • 2127 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    According to Immanuel Kant, conscientious people strive to preserve their moral integrity. This goal requires their external behavior match with their consciences internal dictates what they perceive to be morally right and feel driven to do. In the morally diverse world, conscientious persons may come into conflict with each other and with society’s moral values. Conflicts of conscience are a standard feature of the moral life except for the amoral sociopath. Resolving these conflicts is a big challenge even for the extreme relativists.…

    • 880 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays