The Monist 101 (2):199-215 (2018)

Patrick Taylor Smith
University of Twente
Questions about dirty hands have often focused on legitimate, secure leaders deciding whether to violate important deontological principles or the rules of interpersonal morality. The purpose of this paper is to show that revolutionaries have dirty hands; revolutionaries do wrong by engaging in unilateral usurpation of the existing system with the hope that latter benefits will justify their actions. Yet, once the revolution securely generates improvements for the common good, the initial usurpation becomes increasingly irrelevant to judgments of the new government’s legitimacy. The paper argues that only retroactive justification—where later success forces opponents and advocates to reinterpret the wrongness of the initial action—can fully capture the complex moral dynamics of revolutions.
Keywords Revolution  Political Philosophy  Dirty Hands  non-ideal
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DOI 10.1093/monist/onx043
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References found in this work BETA

Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands.Michael Walzer - 1973 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (2):160-180.
Reason, Right, and Revolution: Kant and Locke.Katrin Flikschuh - 2008 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 36 (4):375-404.
There is No Dilemma of Dirty Hands.Kai Nielsen - 2007 - In Igor Primoratz (ed.), Politics and Morality. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 1-7.

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