The Problem of Democratic Dirty Hands: Citizen Complicity, Responsibility, and Guilt

The Monist 101 (2):129-149 (2018)
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Abstract

This paper outlines and explores the problem of democratic dirty hands, the sui generis moral situation where democratic politicians justifiably violate both a cherished moral principle and the fundamental processes of democratic governance. Some recent contributions to the dirty-hands debate have argued that the principles of democratic governance render DDH impossible. The paper rejects this view as based on a misunderstanding of the minimal and necessary conditions for both DH and democratic overnance. However, DDH does raise interesting issues concerning the complicity of citizens with their politicians’ DH. Citizens are accessories to such acts and have a duty to contribute to the reparations for the victims of DDH. Furthermore, as citizens bear some responsibility for the moral violations that were done in their name, they properly ought to feel some of the moral pollution that these actions generated.

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Stephen De Wijze
University of Manchester

Citations of this work

The problem of dirty hands.C. A. J. Coady - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Official apologies as reparations for dirty hands.Christina Nick - forthcoming - Journal of Social Philosophy.
Fighting fire with fire: the ethics of retaliatory gerrymandering.Gianni Sarra - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.
National Security, Self-rule, and Democratic Action.David McCabe - 2021 - The Journal of Ethics 25 (2):181-202.

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Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1958 - In Thomas L. Carson & Paul K. Moser (eds.), Morality and the Good Life. Oup Usa.

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