In Igor Primoratz (ed.), Politics and Morality. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 54-75 (2008)

Garrett Cullity
Australian National University
What is the relation between moral reasons and reasons of “political necessity”? Does the authority of morality extend across political decision-making; or are there “reasons of state” which somehow either stand outside the reach of morality or override it, justifying actions that are morally wrong? This chapter argues that attempts to claim a contra-moral justification for political action typically suffer from a fundamental confusion – a confusion about the nature and expression of practical justification. The author aims to bring two new things to the debate. A first aim is to show how light can be shed on this issue by examining a question that philosophers have discussed in isolation from it: the question of the relationship between moral reasons and reasons pertaining to personal well-being. This gives us a better appreciation of the range of available views about the relation of the moral to the political; more importantly, it helps to explain the fundamental challenge to the idea that there could be contra-moral justification of political action. However, it also provides us with guidance for thinking about the ways in which that challenge might be answered. There is, after all, a case to be made for thinking that some political actions can be justified even though they remain morally wrong. And those actions are of great importance to national and international politics today.
Keywords Political necessity  Dirty hands  Moral reasons
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The Problem of Dirty Hands.C. A. J. Coady - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Dirty Hands and the Complicity of the Democratic Public.David Archard - 2013 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (4):777-790.
Judicial Discretion and the Problem of Dirty Hands.Daniel Tigard - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (1):177-192.

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