Dirty Hands and Suffering

in Theoria
Author:
Demetris Tillyris Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK Demetris.tillyris@canterbury.ac.uk

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Abstract

Contra the prevalent way of thinking about the dirty-hands problem, this article suggests that dirty hands need not necessarily entail suffering and that a politician who does not suffer for his dirty-handed acts should not be cast as a bad politician. In so doing, the article: (i) argues that the connection between DH and suffering is unsatisfactorily totalising and rests on a contentious conception of conflict as a dysfunction and (ii) develops an alternative account of the good dirty-handed politician, which is associated with what proponents of the prevalent view of the problem find impossible: calm acceptance of – even indulgence in – one's dirt. This recognition has important implications for our contemporary culture of contrition and for the way we evaluate the characters of our politicians.

Contributor Notes

Demetris Tillyris is a Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Undergraduate Programme Director of Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. His research focuses on problems of political morality, moral conflict and public ethics, with a particular focus on problems of dirty hands, judgement and disenchantment in public life. His work has been published in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Contemporary Politics, Res Publica, Philosophia and the Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy. E-mail: Demetris.tillyris@canterbury.ac.uk

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Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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